by Randall Allen Dunn
One of the most hilarious episodes of “psych” contains a disturbing subplot that makesa sad commentary on the society we live in. In “Lights, Camera, Homicidio”, while Shawn Spencer (James Roday), tries to solve a murder on the set of a Spanish soap opera, Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson) is dealing with a tamer problem back at the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Or so it would seem.
When she notices a new woman joining the police force, she decides to welcome her. She walks up with a smile and introduces herself to Penny (Dena Ashbaugh), and tells the newbie that if she needs anything at all, to just ask.
“Do I look like I need help writing my name and badge number?” Penny replies.
Wow. That was cold and completely uncalled for.
Juliet is discouraged, but makes another attempt to befriend Penny soon afterward. She presents her with a cupcake on her desk.
Penny seems instantly offended. “What is that?”
Juliet explains it’s a cupcake she bought for her, because she noticed Penny didn’t get a chance to eat lunch so figured she might need something to eat. She also noticed that this was her favorite cupcake so she picked one up for her.
Penny asked what else Juliet noticed about her. Juliet said she noticed Penny usually eats alone and can come off a bit abrasive, but figured that’s probably just because she’s new to the routines and people there.
The next day, Juliet was called into the office of Chief Vick (Kirsten Nelson), who asked Juliet to give her side of the story regarding Penny, who was pressing charges for harassment. Juliet is stunned. “I gave her a cupcake. Sue me.”
“She is!” Chief Vick tells her. She goes on to tell her that with “this new evidence”, Penny’s suit against the department holds a lot of weight.
She explains to Juliet that women on the police force must be very cautious about how they form friendships, and advises her not to buy any more pastries while she tries to get the charges dropped.
This part of the episode always annoys me. It seems we live in a society that rewards people for being abrasive, hateful and self-absorbed while punishing friendliness and kindness.
Did Juliet go overboard? Yes.
Should she have read Penny’s rude signals that she didn’t want to be bothered? Yes.
Should she be sued, along with her department, for her actions? Well, obviously! She should be sued for every last penny, and so should her workforce and everyone she knows or has ever met! After all, she gave poor Penny a cupcake!
How much more invasive could she be? Imagine the millions Penny could have gotten in court if Juliet had baked her a birthday cake when Penny didn’t feel like celebrating.
Years ago, as I was entering the front corridor of my apartment house, a middle-aged woman was hurrying up the stairs and asked me if I could hold the door for her. I didn’t know her but there were only eight total apartments in the building and she didn’t look like a dangerous intruder, so I let her in. To be cautious, I watched to make sure she entered an apartment, which was right there on the first floor.
Before she reached her door, I introduced myself. She gave me a tolerant smile, as if I had asked for her bank account password. “And what did you say your name was?” I prodded.
“I didn’t,” she stated flatly as she entered her apartment.
I said goodbye, making my irritation clear. (I’m a little more mature these days.) This woman had no problem expecting me to let her into a secure building, but she wasn’t about to trust a stranger like me with something so private as her first name.
We live in a suspicious culture, made more dangerous by these people who use their protective instincts as an excuse for their rudeness. These abrasive, hateful, self-absorbed people are ready and willing to take whatever you give them, but if you look at them sideways or say the wrong thing or bump into them by mistake, they’ll sue you into the poorhouse. Because they believe that’s fair. And because, in today’s society, they can.
In days gone by, the word “neighbor” always referred to someone who could be expected to support you in times of need. Even if you didn’t spend much time together, those people who lived close to you would be ready to loan you their lawn equipment or a cup of sugar if you needed it, because they wanted to help people. That was considered normal for a community.
I believe it still is. But today, the word “neighbor” might just as often mean the person who hosts loud parties long into the night or shoots off firecrackers in the middle of your street. Or the person who judges you with a snooty look without ever bothering to say “hello”. Or the person who’s just itching for you to slip up in some way so they can get rich off of you in a frivolous lawsuit. These days, our neighbors can also be our worst enemies. The word “neighbor” no longer refers to an acquaintance that can be counted on in a crisis. Now it just refers to someone who lives near you.
But take heart, those of you who believe in reaching out to strangers, in giving help by picking up a hitchhiker or giving away money to a homeless person. Those of you who shrug off other people’s minor offenses against you, showing the wisdom and maturity of forgiveness. Those of you who, like Juliet, just want to welcome someone who might otherwise feel lonely and left out. Though the warped views of others and the current laws work against you, we can take some comfort in this: showing kindness and friendliness is its own reward.
As for those abrasive, hateful, self-absorbed people, they might win a few frivolous lawsuits and force their employers to jump through hoop after hoop every time they stub their toe or get their feelings hurt. But they will likely remain abrasive, hateful and self-absorbed.
They might have a hardtime making friends.
Find more reviews of “psych Season 2” at amazon.com!
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012