3 cringeworthy #MeToo storylines on TV – and the ones that worked
- TV’s most successful #MeToo storylines centered on survivors, while the least successful ones centered on the accused.
- Two shows killed alleged abusers before making them face real consequences.
- Insider looks back on the way TV writers handled the movement on its fifth anniversary.
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ killed off a character just to hop on the trend of #MeToo on TV.
At the beginning of the #MeToo movement in October 2017, “Grey’s Anatomy” aired an episode called “Go Big Or Go Home.”
In one of the plotlines, Jackson Avery’s (Jesse Williams) grandfather Harper Avery (Chelcie Ross) visits Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital to check on its status (he owned a majority of the hospital through the Harper Avery Foundation).
While visiting, Harper died and after his death, multiple women came forward with sexual harassment allegations against him. In subsequent episodes, Jackson and his mother Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen) pay off his alleged victims, who viewers never meet.
Harper only appeared on one previous episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” season six’s “Perfect Little Accident,” in which he was introduced as a tough but ultimately loving man who is responsible for creating the most prestigious award in medicine, the Harper Avery award.
After his death and the accusations against him in season 14, his foundation is renamed the Catherine Fox Foundation for his former daughter-in-law. Characters then begin talking about what an awful man he was.
In real life, many of the high-profile men who faced consequences because of the #MeToo movement fooled the public. But on a TV show, it makes very little sense to bring a character back to tell a #MeToo story just to kill him off and fail to center the victims’ experiences in the narrative.
On “The Morning Show” Mitch Kessler might have chosen death.
After allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse caused morning show co-anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carrell) to lose his job and family on season one of Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show,” he isolated himself in Italy on season two.
He went out to get cigarettes for his lover Paola (Valeria Golino) on season two episode seven, “La Amara Vita,” and was blinded by a pair of headlights, which sends his car in the direction of a cliff. He didn’t attempt to pivot, instead taking his hands off the wheel and allowing the deadly crash.
Showrunner Kerry Ehrin told Variety in October 2021 after the episode aired that she made the decision to kill Mitch off because his story had ended — she didn’t think he could ever redeem himself and earn back a job in media.
“When he is alone in the car, his dark thoughts take over. There is nowhere for him to go. He is trapped in the consequences of his actions. They will never go away,” Ehrin said.
“The Morning Show” is heavily inspired by the #MeToo movement. On season one, the show thoroughly explored its consequences via the death of one of Mitch’s victims — Hannah Shoenfeld (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).
Mitch never entered a courtroom or a therapist’s office. It’s still jarring to think that the only ending deemed fit for an alleged abuser was presumably death by choice.
“Younger” treated #MeToo like a joke.
On the season five premiere of “Younger,” titled #LizaToo, Empirical Press dealt with accusations that one of its biggest authors, Edward LL Moore (Richard Musar), engaged in sexual harassment behavior online.
“Younger” is a comedy, but from the start, the joke went too far. The whole premise of the show revolved around the potentially (and eventually) sexual relationship between Liza (Sutton Foster) and her boss Charles (Peter Hermann).
Instead of addressing that issue, “Younger” took down Edward in a ridiculous fashion, with a number of women alleging that he made inappropriate advances toward them in the made-up language of Cronish.
Moore lost his career and didn’t die, but it’s hard to understand why the storyline was necessary at all.
The episode aired in June 2018.
“The Bold Type” told a powerful #MeToo story through a metaphor.
Freeform’s “The Bold Type” explored sexual harassment and the emotional impact of a victim’s quest for justice on the season one finale titled “Carry the Weight,” which aired in September 2017.
Mia Lawrence (Ana Kayne) was an artist who put the weight of her trauma on display in a live art installment in Central Park. She stood holding weights that represented the pain she felt after she was sexually harassed and her quest for justice failed. She invited other victims to come visit her spot and take the weights from her if they, too, had been sexually harassed. The action was meant to represent shared, collective pain.
When the attention on Mia died down Jane (Katie Stevens) set out to do a story on her for the fictional Scarlet Magazine. Jane couldn’t carry the weight for Mia because she wasn’t a victim of sexual assault. But in a powerful scene at the end of the episode, Jane and her colleagues Sutton (Meghann Fahy) and Kat (Aisha Dee) visited Mia to keep her company. Eventually, they were joined by their boss Jaqueline (Melora Hardin) who revealed she was a survivor of sexual assault by taking the weights from Mia.
It’s one of the most emotional moments on the entire series — the impact of a victim’s pain and power was conveyed in a wordless scene.
After carrying the weight in front of her employees, Jaqueline sat down for an interview with Jane to tell her story.
We never see any of the alleged abusers on “The Bold Type” — they don’t even have names. Instead, the episode is centered around the victims and their stories. The overall message is empowering: sexual harassment survivors aren’t alone in their pain and they can move forward and find a new normal together.
“Jane The Virgin” examined #MeToo from a unique perspective.
On “Jane the Virgin” season four episode 11, Jane (Gina Rodriguez) interviewed for a teaching job at her former university. The episode aired on March 2, 2018.
While there, she noticed an old professor (Jonathan Chavez, played by Adam Rodriguez) — whom she had an intimate relationship with and almost lost her virginity to — kissing a current student (Marissa, played by Bayley Corman).
Seeing Marissa and Johnathan’s inappropriate encounter made Jane re-examine her own experience. When she was Johnathan’s student and had a relationship with him she felt special (and even pursued him). Once she realized he had a pattern, Jane saw Johnathan’s behavior for what it was — abuse of power.
Jane didn’t report Jonathan, but she was able to speak her mind to him in a powerful speech, indirectly letting him know that his behavior was wrong. She also passed information about her relationship with him on to Marissa, just in case she wanted to report him.
Though Jonathan wasn’t punished on the episode, “Jane the Virgin” made sure to center women in its storytelling. The message also made clear that it’s okay to see abusive behavior through a different lens with age and report it in your own time.
Also, Jonathan remained alive to face consequences if Marissa wished to report him.
Bertie confronts past trauma on “The Jelly Lakes.”
On “Tuca and Bertie” season one, which aired on Netflix in May 2019, Bertie (voiced by Ali Wong) was hesitant to go to her family’s cabin at The Jelly Lakes, even though Tuca (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) was eager.
They made it there and ran into Bertie’s old swimming coach Maple (Jane Lynch) who kept asking Bertie why she quit. Bertie avoided the question until she eventually broke down and told Tuca she was sexually assaulted by a lifeguard before swimming practice one day when she was 12.
When Bertie told her story, the normally bright color palette of the cartoon turned somber and dark, and the drawings in the scene lost detail.
After she told her story, Bertie decided to swim to Peanut Butter island, confronting her fear. While on her quest, she sank to the bottom of the lake and met her 12-year-old self, comforting her before letting her go.
“Tuca and Bertie” told one of the most powerful sexual assault stories of the time using animation. Aesthetics aside, it also centered the narrative on the survivor, which most successful #MeToo stories on TV did.
Bertie went on a journey to release shame and heal.