Okay, Eureka’s gender troubles are seriously starting to interfere with my enjoyment of the show. In the last two episodes I saw, Zoe started dating a loser named Lucas in the ultimate geek fantasy and Jo starts dating the previously-seen loser felon Zane in the ultimate misogynist fantasy.
Okay, first Zoe and Lucas, which I’m really really hoping will be only a one-time thing. In the episode “Sight Unseen”, Zoe has had a crush on Cute Popular Guy (name unimportant) for a while but when people are picking partners for a science project, Cute Guy totally ignores Zoe.
“Guess he thinks you’re cute enough to date, but not smart enough to be your partner,” says Lucas. “He’s an idiot.”
This is a great way for a character to start. Cute Guy is an idiot! Zoe can do much better, and should focus on guys who are actually interested in her as a person. Unfortunately, Lucas peaks early. He talks glumly about what a loser he is. Zoe is surprised to learn they have three classes together– “Yeah, that’s my life,” he says. Later, when he awkwardly introduces sexual tension into their relationship (his words) Zoe tells him, “Sorry, you’re not my type.”
“That’s what they all say,” he replies, glum as ever, his hair obscuring his face as he hangs his head.
“What, and then they all fall madly in love with you?” asks Zoe, annoyed.
“No. That’s what they all actually say.”
Listen, Eureka is a school where being smart makes you popular. This guy is not a so-called “loser” because he’s more academically-minded than his peers. He’s an actual loser. Throughout his conversations with Zoe, he expresses no interests, no goals, no talents. He just talks about what a loser he is. And it’s funny, and we laugh at him, and that’s fine.
But then he gives some rubbish speech about how Zoe is overlooking the good things that are right in front of her (after he’s known her for, like, five hours) and they start making out. For real! I couldn’t believe it!
My only explanation is that the writer for this episode was a loser in high school and still has deep-seated issues about it. I’ve been there, and it’s rough, so I can sympathize…but that’s no excuse to subject everyone else to this rubbish story. In anywhere but Eureka, I’d be okay (but not thrilled) with this storyline because anywhere but Eureka, it would be revealed that the so-called “loser” was only an outcast because he built Tesla coils, or taught himself Klingon, or something like that. But it doesn’t work like that here. So when I was scratching my head, asking myself, “Why? Why could she possibly be interested in him?” all I could think was, some dude thought it was more important to live out his beauty-and-the-geek high school fantasy than to tell a decent story. Which sucks.
So anyway, I was in a bad mood about Zoe and Lucas, so I watched the next episode, “God is in the Details”, which was awkwardly religious in tone and featured a return of the odious Zane.
Jo and Zane have a brunch date at Cafe Diem, where Zane continues to use odious, smarmy lines that made me feel dirty just hearing them, and Jo continues to take it, and the show continues to act as if they’re flirting and there’s some kind of real attraction between them, but then they get into a little fight. Zane talks about how great it was to spend weeks isolating just one variable at MIT, and Jo say, “Oh yes, that sounds like how I felt when I was putting together my new grenade launcher,” and Zane totally disses the grenade launcher, implying that practical applications of physics are unimportant and smart people are interested in coming up with the ideas, rather than implementing them. Jo leaves, rightfully angry.
Zane shows at places she’s working throughout the episode, asking her to explain why she’s angry, and continuing to be a whiny, sexist jerk about it– he literally threatens to hold his breath until he passes out, and then actually holds his breath, until Jo says something like, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Turns out, she’s not pissed because he’s dismissive of her life’s passion or because he’s self-centered and childish. No, she confides to Zoe, it’s because he’s just too brilliant! She feels inadequate, and thinks that he’ll only get sick of her eventually, and leave for someone who can keep up.
Jo! Have a little more self-respect! Guys, Jo is a strong, capable woman, and I mean that in a very literal way. She can probably kill people with her hands. She is also quite clever, putting information together from a wide range of sources and figuring out what’s going wrong today in Eureka. She should feel confident about holding her own among the “geniuses” of Eureka– she’s a genius in her own field. It just happens not the be a field that requires a Ph.D. so everyone treats her like an idiot, and it’s sad.
But it also makes no sense for her to be all moon-eyed for this kid. Like Zoe and Lucas, Jo and Zane feels forced, like the screenwriters are trying to make it happen against Jo’s character. Maybe they’ve got a “misunderstood” “nice guy” on the screenwriting staff, too, who doesn’t understand why women aren’t attracted to his natural brilliance. He buys them presents! (the lingerie) He does romantic things! (Zane likes to give Jo single roses) He compliments her! (There are lots of comments about Jo’s appearance). Maybe it’s a subconscious self-insert, but it really does feel like a self-insert.
Maybe I’m being too rough on the screenwriters, but really, two episodes in a row with rubbish “romances” like these and I would really like an answer besides “our society expects women to settle for men who don’t respect them.” So I’m going to cling to my “screenwriters happened to have woman issues” theory because at least that one has a solution– get some better screenwriters.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’d be wise for me too have too much hope. The next episode is “Maneater” — “The women of Eureka become infatuated with Sheriff Carter, who they find irresistible,” according to the website. Great.