Here's How SMILF Dealt With Bridgette's Sexual Assault

Photo: Courtesy of Lacey Terrell/SHOWTIME.
Since the dawn of television, sexual assault has rarely been handled well. Usually, it’s a flash in the pan tool used to create drama that’s immediately dropped by the next episode. Just look at the fact that Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) sexually preys on both Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) and Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen) in the premiere of Gossip Girl. By the next episode, all is forgotten. At the end of the series, Chuck is our romantic hero. Like Riverdale before it, Showtime’s SMILF isn’t making that mistake. Instead, following last week’s “pussy grab” assault, “Deep-Dish Pizza & A Shot of Holy Water” explores the actual aftermath heroine Bridgette Bird (Frankie Shaw) experiences from sexual violence. The answer is living with the “confidence of a mediocre white guy” for a day.
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Lots of shows toy with the idea of their women characters testing out life as “one of the boys” for an episode. Usually, that means something cliched like trying to play football or eating a metric ton of junk food, because ladies don’t get sports and only eat salads, amirite? This is not how SMILF handles Bridgette’s big decision to crib the lifestyle of a privileged white guy for a few hours. Rather, she leans into the darker parts of certain men’s blind confidence, which means walking bulge-first and objectifying her sexual conquests in a way women rarely do, or even think of. This is how Bridge, a sexual assault survivor since childhood, can feel safe and powerful in a world where men have tried to rip that security away from her for decades.
To understand Bridgette’s new mantra, you only have to look at her seduction of a cute young grocery store employee named Ken (Matt Shively) and the duo’s subsequent sex scene. Before the single mom approaches Ken, she stops by the garbage bag display and stuffs a roll of them down her pants, creating a confidence-boosting bulge; a bulge she will continuously grab for a jolt of self-assurance throughout “A Shot of Holy Water.” When Bridgette finally starts talking to Ken, she uses the usual aggressive pick-up lines many women are tired of hearing from unwanted men. She asks Ken to explain how he “got the most goddamn beautiful eyes” she’s ever seen and then shushes him when he actually shares his thoughts on the matter.
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Bridgette even tells him, “You are prettier than you know,” which is a repurposed quote, word-for-word, of what last week’s predator Craig (Jeremy Shamos) told her. Now, Bridgette is changing the history of the so-called compliment that led to her assault. Rather than allowing the phrase to stay tied to a moment that tried to take her autonomy, it’s sexually empowering her.
We see just how empowered Bridge is when she all but demands Ken takes her in the back of the store and “teaches” her a thing or too. Yet, it’s not Ken who’s in charge, but Bridgette, who’s very much on top. She’s so in charge, a stunned Ken says, looking up at his surprise hookup, “Jesus, you are strong.” Bridgette keeps up the dude-like dirty talk by comparing herself to a stallion, “like a Clydesdale. Like the Budweiser horse, you know?!”
If anyone is the passive mare in this situation, it’s the submissive Ken, who can only watch Bridgette in excited amazement, agreeing to being a “little bitch whore” with a “tight little dick.” He even finishes on command as Bridgette screams, “Come for me, bitch,” and wraps a hand around Ken’s neck for a moment. SMILF clearly recognizes how ridiculously misogynistic some men’s dirty talk can be, and uses it against them. Ken doesn't care though, since he’s simply happy to be along for the ride.
The empowerment theme continues to run through “Deep-Dish Pizza & A Shot of Holy Water” as Bridge competes in a tough mudder, a competition she only joins because a “dude-bro” left women out of a conversation about the obstacle race. Before heading to the event, Bridgette fashions a new bulge out of a baby diaper, later explaining it makes her feel as confident as the white guy screaming about protein, testosterone, and “big balls” to hype up the competitors. In fact, Bridgette is so pumped with her diaper-made package she shouts she has those aforementioned “big balls” before heading into the obstacle course. While Bridgette, in the midst of her dude-bro cosplay, tells her hesitant friend Eliza (Raven Goodwin) to “man the fuck up,” her other pal Nelson Rose Taylor (Samara Weaving) shares a more feminine solution, deadpanning, “Or, we could encourage each other.”
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That little piece of advice is how Bridgette realizes drowning in toxic masculinity might be fun sometimes, yet it won’t always help her either. The final obstacle in the race is the Electric Gazebo, a space made entirely of mud and hanging live wires. As we see, there are countless man electrocuting themselves all in the name of finishing the race and proving their masculinity. Bridgette, who already tossed her in-the-way faux confidence bulge, attempts to run through the gazebo for “little girls everywhere” in a Wonder Woman costumed fantasy, but in reality succumbs to the literal power and passes out. She only gets through Electric Gazebo because Nelson picks her up and carries her friend to the other side, following through on that recommendation of women supporting women.
So, Bridgette may be as strong as a beer commercial draught horse following her assault, but she doesn't need to act like a man to tap into that power. As Bridge realizes by the end of “Holy Water,” women are already a force to be reckoned with.
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