Great News' Sexual Harassment Episode Couldn't Have Come At A More Important Time

Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
While every week has felt a bit more like a fight since a certain presidential administration began in January, this week seemed like an especially difficult slog. Last Thursday, the floodgates opened on the disturbing Harvey Weinstein scandal, where multiple outlets published exposés on the Hollywood mega-producer’s alleged history of sexually predatory behavior, which was essentially an open secret in Hollywood for years. Since then, Rose McGowan has definitively said powerful executive Weinstein raped her, as countless other women — from model-actress Cara Delevingne to Oscar-winners Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie — have gone on the record about the producer harassing them. Amid all of this truly haunting information came Thursday night’s Great News episode “Honeypot,” which was officially the week’s most important scripted TV episode. Why? Because the Tina Fey-starring installment ingeniously tackled workplace harassment — and the ways in which powerful men aren't really punished for it — head-on.
The trick of “Honeypot” is a simple one, as it flips the traditional narrative of sexual harassment on its head. While we’re used to seeing, hearing about, or, sadly, experiencing a man use his status as a high-ranking executive to sexually intimidate women, that is not the case on Great News. Instead, the resident pervert is business super woman Diana St. Tropez (Fey), the NBC sitcom’s answer to what would happen if you put Lean In, the spirit of Scandal’s wardrobe department, and a touch of actual St. Tropez tanning lotion in a blender, and promptly poured the results down Liz Lemon’s throat. While Diana has seemed nothing but professional since joining Great News in the season 2 premiere, “Board Room Bitch,” named after one of Diana’s fictional books, it’s revealed in “Honeypot” she has started sexually harassing the male staff of fictional cable news network MMN.
What follows our introductory glimpse at Diana’s creepiness is a perfect, not-so-subtle takedown of the way society as a whole treats women who have been preyed upon by their male superiors. Greg Walsh (Adam Campbell) is the first person to tell his coworker Katie Wendelson (Briga Heelan) of Diana’s inappropriate behavior, after the exec made him pick up her pen… slower, if you get her drift. It’s actually pretty gross to watch Tina Fey go full perv. Yet, Katie is more upset over how a Brit like Greg says the word “harassed” than the actual harassment itself. Rather than showing any concern, Katie accuses the producer of overreacting to whatever went down. She swears a powerful woman like Diana would never play weird games with pens if she were seriously interested in Greg; no, she would be straightforward about her intentions. How many men do you think have told women a similar story about their titans of industry bosses, ignoring the reality harassment and groping is more about exerting power on someone else than being attracted to them?
The satire only gets stronger when more men come out with their stories. Journalist Gene (Brad Morris) was forced to sexually eat a banana in front of Diana and the businesswoman also demanded cameraman Wayne (Sheaun McKinney) dance for her à la Magic Mike if he wants approval for new filming equipment. “So, maybe she was trying to get you to eat healthy?” Katie condescended to Gene. She then tells all the victims, “I refuse believe the future COO of a multi-billion-dollar congromulate would risk her promotion just to molest this.” It’s the most tone-deaf statement ever, and sounds an awful lot like the disturbing way certain people defended Bill Cosby during his own predatory scandal. That’s apropos, since Katie sarcastically invokes the words of the Cosby trial jurors, saying she needs, “Duh, more than 60,’ men to come out against Diana to believe their allegations.
Finally, the multi-layed father of all misconduct minimizers arrives. “Even if Diana made you uncomfortable, what were you doing in her office … alone,” she asks incredulously. “Are you saying we asked for it?” Gene questions with his voice cracking. Katie answers, “No. No, no no. I’m just saying, ‘What were you wearing?’” All together, the exchange pushes viewers to see just how indefensible our treatment of sexual harassment and assault survivors truly is. This is especially true for male fans who are forced, for a rare time, to look at this kind of situation from the perspective of the victim, rather than the perpetrator. Being alone with a male supervisor anywhere is never “asking for it,” and it’s bizarre we often ask women that kind of question.
If you don’t believe we treat women like it’s their “fault” their bosses have treated them in a predatory manner, I guess you haven’t been on Twitter. The site is filled with people saying maybe Vice President Mike Pence was onto something when he revealed he never, ever eats alone with a woman, or attends events where there may be a drop of alcohol present if a single woman will also be in attendance. Certain social media users are claiming if more people followed Pence’s guidelines maybe there would be so much less sexual harassment in the world. Those people are ignoring the fact the simple solution to harassment is respecting people’s right to not being harassed — not monitoring where women are and if they’re alone with men.
While “Honeypot” ended as well as it could for all involved — it was eventually revealed Diana wasn’t a true pervert, she simply wanted the kind of multi-million-dollar golden parachute most white, male executives get for running head-first into a creepy harassment suit — it still brought up some truths we all needed to hear, with some laughs attached. And, for that, I’m truly sad to see Diana St. Tropez (apparently) go.
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