Warning: Spoilers ahead for Will & Grace Season 2, Episode 5.
Will & Grace has been opening numerous hot-button issues using its humorous platform over the years, tackling things like immigration and LGBT representation.
Their #MeToo episode is a skilled installment that still carries the spirit of the show, but with an important reminder – that women have been trying to speak out about their s*xual assaults for decades. However, it’s only in the most recent years that the world has begun to listen.
In the named episode, Grace goes on a road trip with her father to visit the grave sites of people they were close to. She’s hesitant to spend so much time with her dad at first, saying that “they don’t talk”. “The minute anything gets real, he gets uncomfortable.” – she tells Will.
However, he encourages her to use the trip as an opportunity to start those “real” conversations he’s been avoiding for so long, and it ends up revealing some truly painful truths.
Grace eventually tells Martin, her dad, that she doesn’t want to visit the grave of his friend Harry. She reveals in an argument that he s*xually assaulted her one summer when she was working for him, in his office. She was just 15 years old at the time, and when her dad asked her why she never told him the story before, she told him that she was worried he wouldn’t believe her. The reality is that she tried to do so many times, but failed. All her dad ever heard was that ‘she stole money from his friend Harry’.
Grace explains that she kept telling her dad that Harry was creepy the whole summer she was working for him, and it is one of the most subtly powerful moments in the episode. When a woman says that a man is a creep, or when she tells other women to avoid him or that ‘he gives off a bad vibe, they usually know exactly what it implies.
Men, however, need it spelled out for them to understand. We can take, for example, the number of otherwise nice and supportive men who have said that they had no idea or never would have suspected in the wake of #MeToo.
However, we would have been able to create open discourse much sooner if someone asked “why” or “how so” anytime a woman said “I don’t like that guy” or “he’s a creep”. Victims find it very hard to come forward about s*xual assaults, and that’s the case in most cases because they’re afraid, ashamed, and simply cannot process such a traumatic experience. And having to worry about how others will react to it, like in Grace’s case, makes it so much harder.
Will & Grace also addresses what happens when victims get out the words, but only to have their experiences dismissed or downplayed. Grace criticized her dad for calling a waitress “sweetheart” and flirting with her at the beginning of the episode, and the conversation that follows covers a lot of bullet points.
Martin says that “they like it”, and that he sometimes feels like men can’t be men anymore. After his daughter told him about Harry, he says: “That doesn’t sound like Harry,” “maybe you’re misremembering what happened,” “calm down,” “it was a different time.”
Grace doesn’t hold back, however. She says that that is not an excuse and that the fact that it was a different time doesn’t make it any less bad. It only means that people got away with it.
Grace’s story explains exactly why whisper networks started. Women gave up wasting energy trying to be heard by men at some point, and they devoted themselves to protecting other women instead. However, it shouldn’t be up to women, or s*xual assault victims, to fight this battle on their own. The next time someone tells you that a person they know is a creep, ask them why. And more importantly, listen!