Everybody Loves Raymond – nobody loves his women

I am still seething from Monday’s episode. Yes, while the rest of the civilized world was watching NFL, and suddenly got a glimpse of women’s breasts (and while we’re on this topic – how long are we going to keep witnessing wardrobe malfunctions that are nothing but awkward ploys to promote shows?), I tuned in to CBS, and figured what could go wrong with a safe, family-friendly Listen Up, followed by Raymond, and finished off with creepy but sensitive Horatio and CSI: Miami? Well, if you’ve seen this week’s episode, you’ll agree that plenty wrong can be hidden in a seemingly politically correct show that tries very hard to offend only its cast members.

Yes, I’m talking about the “Boys’ Therapy” episode, a 23 minute romp that I almost turned off in the first 2 minutes when I heard the glee with which the women (Debra, Marie and Amy) uttered to word “therapy”and pounded it into the men (Ray, Frank, Robert). Yes, what better way to instill insecurity and inadequacy in your audience than by declaring that “therapy will solve all our (and YOUR) problems”? I actually expected to see flashing 1-800 numbers during the show to encourage people to “start dialing”, and put their lives in order. But that didn’t happen.

Initially, I was disgusted with the presentation of “therapy”, but I cooled off during the commercial break, and thought to myself – that’s just a plot device, nothing else – the boys are probably going to refute the culture of therapy, and things in Barone universe will come back to normalcy. And for most of the episode, this was true. I relaxed, watched with a childish smile how the boys skipped their therapy sessions, went to the track, got to talking about their issues, and actually worked things out. That was fun, and I felt like I was back in the “Raymond” world, where a simple communication, or what you would call a “talk” will resolve any deep problems you may have.

I thought: “kudos to the writers – to bring up a heavy subject of mandatory family therapy, and take it apart with a simple, direct chat”. But I was wrong. When the boys came home one night, after yet another “therapy at the track” (btw, I hope nobody minds if I’m spoiling the episode), the women just got into their hair about the lies and the made-up “breakthroughs”. Funny stuff, fish-outta-water situation, Robert bugging his eyes with terror, Marie throwing her hands in the air, Ray trying to find a compromise, Frank dismissing the entire episode. Sure, a typical “resolution” scene in the sitcom. But the original message is brought back – why would you skip your therapy session, don’t you know it’s good for you?

Think about it for a second. Why would you spend time and considerable amounts of money to have a stranger guess what’s wrong with your family relations, if your family, under right circumstances, will assist you with that – freely, openly, and on your own terms? I can understand Frasier Crane and Woody Allen requiring therapy, and requiring specialists for that. But the Barones? All their problems are because of lack of communications, so what do you think will happen when these lines are opened up and encouraged? Misunderstandings get resolved, hurt is forgiven, and pettiness is forgotten. Sure it will be awkward, but it will work out.

So why this insistence on a therapist? If the idea was to discredit today’s culture of “everyone needs therapy”, they have succeeded very well with the scene at the track. But if the idea was to encourage the viewers even more that there’s something wrong with them, and instead of just turning to each other in bed (or at a dinner table) and talking things out with your partner, you both should run to a shrink – then why the scene at the track? In one episode they managed to give polar resolutions to the same problem – so polar it wasn’t funny anymore. And it didn’t belong to this sitcom.

Who really needs these hidden messages about our non-existent weaknesses, or about our easily-conquered fears? Especially with a family that’s so down-to-earth? I was frustrated with these ideas that were forced into me, and with the advice that was out-of-place, and unwanted to begin with.

Oh yes, and while we’re talking about therapy, why not turn the tables on Debra, Amy and Marie? Are they well-balanced? Do they get their messages across to their men? But I digress – the show consistently makes fun of women, but belittles men, pretending that the two are the same. And I feel truly sorry about the men out there who are convinced their problems are their responsibility, and can be solved by a shrink.

It’s all much easier, people, and it usually takes two. As someone who studied psychology and therapy (and I’m not just talking about the 101 course), I can assure you – most of your problems are due to communications, so just open that up – either by a frank discussion, or by a long look in the mirror, and see where it takes you.

As for the show – they tried to tackle a serious topic, and failed miserably, delivering the wrong message, to the wrong audience. Don’t insult our intelligence – we’re smarter than that. But, I may be speaking just for myself. Who knows how many wives turned to their husbands after Monday night and decided to go see a shrink.

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