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Friday, July 16, 2010

What a Manly Man He Is!!

Meagan Laurie

July 16, 2010

Many people say that males and females are very different from each other. Besides our apparent sexual differences, there are many differences in how we act and go on living each day in our everyday lives. We categorize these differences as masculine and feminine traits. These traits vary from dichotomy words, to language differences and even body language. Living our lives based on these traits allows us to categorize other people based on what we think and not what is truly a characteristic of the other person. These opinions about how one should lead their lives by following these normative traits makes it easy for one to take notice to those who either support these character traits or venture out of the character traits. In the media, these traits are now varying amongst the sexes but many shows make sure that their characters stick to the normative rules of feminine and masculine traits. One show in particular depicts a certain character as the epitome of a masculine charcter.

When it comes to the characters Goren and Eames on the popular show, “Law and Order Criminal Intent,” many of the show’s viewers would say that the two are a perfect team for solving, what sometimes seems like impossible, cases. With strategic planning and excellent cop work, Goren and Eames seem to be an unstoppable partnership for solving many ‘whodunit’ cases. But if you take Eames, the female character, out of the picture, it is very clear that she is very expendable and that her hand in many of the cases, partnered with Goren, is next to invisible. This is due to the fact that Goren is clearly the mastermind and the brains behind many if not all of their investigations.

The character of Goren is depicted as the logically witty and the detective who has the stroke of genius when it comes to catching the bad guys. In the episode, “Silencer,” one would see these characteristics in Goren as he goes through solving the case. He takes action and is the leader to many of the clues to solve this murder investigation. Eames has little or no input as far as actually solving the case, but she does tag along with Goren to confirm that his excellent detective skills are correct. Logic is something seen as a word that is automatically assumed to be a male characteristic or a masculine trait. Indeed, Goren possesses this quality and shows it off, if you will, in the process of solving the investigation. The mere fact that he is a detective is indicative of him being automatically perceived as male being that the word detective is processed to many as a masculine job. One may assume that patriarchy is to blame for this clear gender oppression but according to Johnson, “race, gender, and class oppression are actually not oppression at all, but merely the sum of individual failings on the part of blacks, women, and the poor, who lack the right stuff to compete successfully with whites, men, and others who know how to make something of themselves”(92).

Although that statement may seem very harsh, it is indeed very true of the character of Eames. She could easily say what she feels would be the right way of solving the case but is never really allowed that opportunity. If Goren is solving the case then that allows little or no room for other’s input and therefore Eames stands no contest to that of the intellect of Goren. Speaking up or over the boisterous Goren, she would be seen in a bitchy and very negative way. Thus, the vicious cycle of patriarchy continues. Goren does not act as though he could do without his female partner but the way the show depicts his character is very indicative of how much he could do without the female counterpart. Furthermore, Goren is always the first at the scene and the front-most person in every scene. He is excellent at being the “in your face” detective and it is because of the attention he demands when solving this investigation according to Newman known as “Linguistic tendencies” (84).

Linguistics tendencies are what Newman defines as, “gender-typed conversational behaviors that actually reflect power differences rather than gender differences” (84). What this suggests is that language can establish power in everyday conversation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be male and female conversations but it also suggests that it happens more with the male being the power force in the conversation. This is evident in the character Goren. He not only demands attention, but spares no expense in interrupting people with his intellectual explanations. When he is close to actually solving a case and the prime suspect is in his grasp in the interrogation room, he controls the topics of conversations. There are clear power imbalances between the two detectives who solved the case because Goren takes over the interrogation leaving Eames to merely read the suspect his/her rights. This leaves viewers to assume that Goren has solved another case with the help of the female counterpart but rarely do the viewers see that it took both detectives to solve the case. But the viewers also feed into the fact that Goren is a brilliant detective. What they don’t see is that without his female partner, many of the cases probably would be harder to solve. Goren is sometimes very abrasive in questioning witnesses at times, and when those times arise, Eames acts as the mediator and the woman figure that is the comforting agent when in a pressuring situation such as questioning.

Goren is a very brilliant character on the show “Law and Order Criminal Intent”. He is automatically known to be not only extravagantly intelligent, but the powerful figure in his partnership and virtually the entire show. Suspects answer to him, his commander answers to him and even his partner answers to him. His masculine traits are what sets him apart form his partner and anyone else for that matter. But are all masculine traits so abrasive, aggressive, and so power seeking? Goren’s character leaves very little room for debate on that issue but as long as we assume that certain words are assumed to be masculine due to dichotomy of our vocabulary, then these masculine trait words will always be seen in the powerful light, well, just as long as Goren’s a detective!

Newman, David M.. Identities and Inequalities Exploring the Intersections of Race Class Gender and Sexuality. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

Johnson, Allan G. "Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them or an Us." Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2003. 91-98. Print.

“Silencer.” Law and Order Criminal Intent. USA. TV-14, Australia. 3 Apr. 2007. Television.

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