Tuesday, June 28, 2011

VIDEO: So It Turns Out Monroe Really Was Raped on 'Too Close for Comfort'

With thanks to Chip: So we still may not know the truth about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster or the Bermuda Triangle, but here's one thing we can finally check off the list of unsolved mysteries. Monroe Ficus was indeed raped on an episode of "Too Close for Comfort." (This news may come too close for comfort to those who were haunted by the memory of it all and thought they'd imagine the whole nightmare.) I just watched it and at the risk of sounding glib, I have to say it was the most sensitive sitcom episode about the rape of a gay flamboyant man that I have ever seen in my life. ("For Every Man, There's Two Women" first aired July 20, 1985, but has a 1985 copyright date at the end.)

Although it begins with a played-for-chuckles bit when his adopted family first discovers his attackers were women -- "What was it Monroe, a street gang? How many were there, four, five?" Mr. Rush (Ted Knight) asks. "Two women," the effete tenant responds, to uproarious (canned) laughter, from there the episode takes on a serious and thoughtful tone -- with the requisite sitcom touch -- with Mr. Rush treating Monroe with utmost respect and sensitivity. The shock for me was that it was the women rather than Mr. Rush who are so skeptical of the crime, and don't believe it's even possible. "It's the same crime whether the victim is a man or a woman," Henry tells Muriel, who replies, "You know a woman is helpless in that situation. But a man? I just don't see how it could happen without his cooperation." Daughters Jackie (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) and Sara (Lydia Cornell) concur. Mrs. Rush (the lovely Nancy Dussault, whom I grew up watching on "Good Morning America") later says that it "just doesn't seem as serious when it happens to a man," to which Henry indignantly states: "You three are always talking about equal rights and now suddenly only women are attacked? When it happens to a man he's a willing participant." (Nicely played, Mr. Rush!)

What surprised me most is that after a few minutes of funny faces and euphemisms about what "happened," the word "rape" is used for the duration of the show, first by Monroe -- when he tells Mr. Rush he's afraid of going to the authorities because he's seen what happens to "all those rape victims in movies" -- and later by Mr. Rush and a detective.

Although I can see why it was pulled out of syndication and left off the DVDs -- this was seven or eight years after the chilling episode of "All in the Family" in which a man tried to rape Edith on her 50th birthday, yet even after finally seeing it last night the idea of a sitcom doing an episode about male rape still seems inconceivable today -- for what it was (a mediocre sitcom to begin with), this Very Special Episode holds up remarkably well, and offers some true insights into the largely misunderstood topic of the sexual abuse of men. (I won't even touch on the fact that when we finally meet Monroe's attackers -- it's a sitcom, of course Laverne & Shirley Monroe & Henry have to track down the attackers -- one of them is clearly a man in drag!)

I have reached out to several of the show's principals and am hoping to update this post with their comments.

Watch and let me know what you think:




6 comments:

Adam said...

This is the greatest episode of television ever. Why didn't I write my thesis on this?

jason said...

wow...what a great post! I had no idea this even existed.

Anonymous said...

that was really disturbing. Monroe had such childlike innocence I couldn't laugh at anything in this episode. It was just so creepy.

JJ said...

If it had been two hot women then I wouldn't have had a problem...Attack me all night...But those two behemoths? Yeah I would have reported them.

JediBilly said...

Monroe was so Gay! He would've enjoyed if it were two guys instead. I'm not making a homophobic comment. I'm gay. I'm just saying...

Anonymous said...

I think I have seen that tall woman in other shows (one of Mimi's dock worker friends on Drew Carey, possibly?). She always wore rouge and a perm and played female strongarm bit parts in the 90s.

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