Some of my remaining chump baggage is that I’m unable to watch infidelity depicted in popular dramas without wanting to hang the writers. To wit, “Striking Out” the Irish hit T.V. series about Tara, a plucky solicitor whose lunkheaded fiancé cheats on her with a coworker, the night of Tara’s hen (bachelorette) party.
(Sorry. I’m about to solidify the narrative that chumps are humorless and quick to take offense. Reminds me of that joke that goes: “How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” Answer: “That’s NOT FUNNY.”)
The show begins with Tara’s D-day — she walks in on her fiancé screwing the OW in their bed. Next it cuts to Tara’s horror, disbelief, and smeared mascara, as she roams the streets of Dublin shoeless (having thrown her strappy sandals at Lunkhead).
I thought, hmmm. This seems promisingly sympathetic.
Tell me if this synopsis on Wikipedia doesn’t inspire.
Striking Out follows the tumultuous professional and personal life of Dublin-based solicitor, Tara Rafferty, and her fledgling legal firm. When Tara discovers, on her hen night, that her fiancé and fellow solicitor Eric Dunbar has been cheating on her with a colleague, she breaks up with him, quits her job at the prestigious law firm they worked at together, and sets about making her own way in a new life outside the inner circle of the legal profession. At first unsure how she’ll cope, Tara begins to realize she is more than capable of being on her own – both personally and professionally…. She isn’t alone in the battle, though. With support from her new team, Tara finds that this unexpected road is actually more rewarding.
Awesome! Tara is going to take the “unexpected road”! Visions of Nora Ephron danced in my head. At last a chump protagonist with some witty zingers. Finally, empowerment over reconciliation! Hurrah, the triumph of a smart woman over her idiot love interest! (Can women finally DUMP bad men in rom-coms instead of those men morphing into sensitive unicorns who want to pick out home furnishing with us?)
Oh, I know there has to be dramatic tension. I know the character has to struggle and have personal epiphanies and doesn’t get to gut the feckless fiancé with a fish knife. At least not until the fourth episode, anyway. I expected some wobbles from Tara. Some stupid chumpy mistakes…
I did NOT expect this shit sandwich — immediately after her D-Day, Tara goes to court to defend the sex secrets of “Connor,” caught in flagrante on video at a sex club. The embarrassing videos must be destroyed! Who better to champion the rights of a serial-cheating-married-father-of-three than a new chump?
Tara in court:
“This constitutes a gross infringement of my client’s privacy rights. A man moreover whose personal and professional life is at stake!”
The lawyer on the other side — Holy coincidences, Bat Man! is the OW! arguing that because Mr. Whips-and-Chains is a public figure, it’s of public interest. BAFF! POW! IRONY!
Tara (with feeling):
“NOBODY, whatever their position in life, whatever their errors in taste or judgement, however they may have broken trust or vows of fidelity — NOBODY loses their right to privacy or dignity!”
Isn’t infidelity entertaining? Don’t you just love it when cheater apologists in chump-face write dialogue for chumps? My heartbreak is nuthin’. So long as the confederacy of entitlement is preserved. Watch me perform a little soft shoe number…
What’s more inspiring than a victim of infidelity
bowing and scraping speaking out courageously for the privacy rights of cheaters? And minimizing one’s own abuse to keep cheater entitlement alive! Your honor, it was an error in judgement! The crime was poor taste. Who are YOU to judge another’s double life? It isn’t what cheaters DO that’s the problem, it’s the invasion of their privacy!
(I wonder what RTE has cooked up next? Morty Cohen befriends Holocaust Denier Bob next door? They go on a road trip. Bob realizes he has misjudged latkes. Morty reads The Elders of Zion. Hijinks ensue. Call me, RTE. I’m full of ideas.)
But of course, it’s not enough that poor Tara has to defend kinky sad sausage Connor. No! She has to go coax him off a ledge and explain his foibles to his chumped wife.
If you were expecting Fran, Connor’s wife, to be an angry, avenging chump, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Fran is the sort of woman who cuts her hair with a bowl and kitchen shears. Then parts it in the middle, because… hatred of self? Pathological utilitarianism? Her look says, “I buy my sweaters at Oxfam when I’m not sewing blouses from old picnic tablecloths.”
Why must chump mothers be depicted as drab, sexless, and unadorned? Why do they all look like constipated matrons? Or aging Girl Guides? Well, she seems the right sort of woman to chair the church parsonage committee, but I wouldn’t want to fuck her.
We all know the subtext of this archetype — of course Connor has to wet his wandering dick in sex clubs. Look at her!
But surprise! Fran is a Euro sophisticate. She’s Esther Perel in a frumpy cardigan. No uptight, judgmental church lady is Fran.
Tara: “Fran, if you don’t mind me saying, you don’t seem rattled by any of this.”
Fran: “I knew what he was up to, more or less. He was always a little sexually unconfident perhaps. But we all have different ways of getting our kicks. He’s my husband. (shakes her head) But I don’t own him.“
Oh Fran, you perfect chump you. So understanding. She really knew all along! And was okay with it! Fran’s greatest concern, you see, is Connor — The Real Victim Here. Those bad men are trying to blackmail him! (Tara gets to the bottom of this, because unlike other lawyers and their billable hours, Tara has time to solve mysteries.) Tara and Fran, two chumps united, will save Connor! Fran, so selfless and understanding. So asexual.
Fran, the model chump, does not OWN her husband. She presumes no commitment after 20-plus years and three children. She suffers no shattering betrayal. In Fran’s world, the sex clubs are free and never detract from family time or finances. And the affair partners are devoid of STDs and never desire more than no-strings-attached sex. They never wind up pregnant or expecting further commitments like monogamy. Which is captivity. Those who expect fidelity are just jailers. Now be a good Fran and vacuum the carpets before I get home, and if you’re a really good girl, I’ll buy you a new pair of kitchen scissors and acknowledge my children over the dinner you cook me.
Tara, perhaps you’ll learn from Fran. Lunkhead is just guilty of bad taste and poor judgement. You don’t own him.
Tappity, tappity, tappity, tap…. shuffle, shuffle, shuffle….
Photo credits: IMBD and video stills.