Oh, "Grimm," I'm Having Mixed Thoughts About You

There’s a lot of violence against women in the show, and it’s specifically violence against helpless, hapless women who need to be rescued by the nice police officers. I get quite enough of that sort of thing in my pop culture, thank you.
Publish date:
November 22, 2011
television, I am a crochety curmudgeon, pop culture, violence, Grimm

I was really excited about NBC’s "Grimm" when the show first started airing. Dare I say it? I thought the show might be a replacement in my life for the hole left after "Buffy" and "Angel" went off the air, which turned out to be a great frame of reference for talking about the show in general. I could tell people:

“If you liked 'Buffy'...”

And that would give them an idea of whether this was the show for them. "Grimm" has a certain shared aesthetic with Whedon’s shows, probably due to sharing some creative talent as well as inspiration. It’s dark and murky with a hint of camp, just enough to make it clear that everyone is having fun. Yes, the big bads are people lurching around in animal suits, and we’re supposed to see that and enjoy it and appreciate it.

It was also hitting the classic monster show formula of giving us a monster of the week to sink our teeth into, along with a longer plot to keep us coming back. Heck, it even shared the commonality of the idea of a chosen one; poor Nick finds out in the first episode that far from being an ordinary police detective, he’s actually a Grimm, tasked with finding and killing mythical beasties. As in "Buffy," the Slayer the Grimm learns that there are good and bad beasties and that you can even work with some of them.

Check out this adorable face. The self-deprecating, wry, entertaining reformed Big Bad Wolf who overcomes his urges by working out and playing the violin. He’s there to help his pal Nick out with supernatural investigations, seeing as how Nick is seriously lacking in the mentor department1. And here’s where "Grimm" starts to run into trouble.

Because the show is an unavoidable sausagefest. Our main characters are all men and it’s primarily about Nick’s manpain and his journey, which makes it a far departure from "Buffy," though no doubt familiar to "Angel" fans2. Oh, Nick has a girlfriend, but she doesn’t really do anything, and it’s clear that she’s going to be shunted aside at some point because she’s too wholesome and normal for all this freaky supernatural stuff.

Nick doesn’t even have a token female detective to partner him. While Russell Hornsby as Hank Griffin is an awesome partner, he’s not really doing much for the gender balance of the show, which is overwhelmingly male. And overwhelmingly, it puts Nick in the white knight mode. He’s just a little bit too much of a Nice Guy™ for my tastes, you know?

Here’s where "Grimm" starts to transition from the territory of being a show I could really love and get into for the sheer fun of it all and into a show I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable with as a viewer. There’s a lot of violence against women in the show, and it’s specifically violence against helpless, hapless women who need to be rescued by the nice police officers. I get quite enough of that sort of thing in my pop culture, thank you, and while I don’t need every single television show I watch to match with impossible ideals3 in every episode, this has become a trend in "Grimm."

I was willing to cut some slack for the premiere, which was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. It would be have been fun to have some gender switcharoos there, but I get why the show went with women and girls. The most recent episode, though, “Lonelyhearts,” was all about a creepy goatdude who kidnaps women to mate with and keeps them trapped in his basement in cages while gassing them. And, of course, they were rescued by Nick.

Which means that 50 percent of episodes so far have revolved around violence against women and a very specific framework where women are brutalized and turned into objects to be saved by the hero.

Now, we’re only four episodes in! "Grimm" could totally turn around and I really hope it does, because it’s a show with a lot of potential and I really want it to succeed. But I’m getting nervous, in that way you do when the pop culture you aren’t super-invested in looks like it might turn out to be a chip off the old block and you start thinking it might be time to walk away.

I still think "Grimm" is worth watching, and it’s better than "Once Upon A Time" because it doesn’t have that same self-conscious, serious air going on. It has an entertaining cast who seem to be enjoying themselves and I have to confess it’s nice to see a show set in the Pacific Northwest instead of, you know, Los Angeles or New York City.

But, "Grimm," you’re on notice when it comes to your handling of the ladies. Get it together, folks.

1. Apparently his aunt thought showing up with a creepy trailer filled with reference materials was sufficient. Everyone knows you need a watcher librarian to help with this stuff, jeeze.

2. "Angel" sometimes felt like one long iteration of “look at my furrowed forehead! Dude, you have no idea how much pain I’ve lived!”

3. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a fun-ruiner who is out to destroy all the pop culture everyone loves. I just like viewing it critically and talking about it, and I tend to be hardest on the things I love most. Except for "Pan Am," which is an inexplicable guilty pleasure. But let’s pretend I didn’t say that.