This past weekend, I saw a show at a theatre I’ve worked with in the past. The show was, for the most part, really fantastic. Funny, engaging, great set and costume pieces, good sound design, well acted; I have lots of nice things to say about this show. It also had a problematic gendered interaction I’ve been giving a lot of thought. Briefly, there was a main female character and two male characters who were trying to woo her. She was responding to one of them, and clearly rejecting the other. It culminated in a comedic confrontation where she was physically passed back and forth between the two men.
Now, I don’t inherently object to plot lines where a man pursues a woman who isn’t interested. Likewise, this was a show with a lot of clowning, so the physical confrontation was not violent or objectionable in the way it could have been in a more traditional straight play (a term which has nothing to do with sexuality). Likewise, the rejected man was shamed for his overbearing nature, and kicked out of the show as a result of his behavior. The other guy, the good guy, got the girl and all was right with the world.
At the same time, the way the female lead’s rejection of this man – and, more specifically, the way he responded – made me really uncomfortable. For me, it boiled down to frustration that this production used a character’s belief that “No means yes” for comedic value.