“About a Girl”
September 21, 2017
This goddamned episode right here.
So Bortus and Klyden were alarmed to discover they had a daughter — an exceptionally rare occurrence for their race. In fact, a female is only born once to Moclans every 75 years or so, according to them. And so while the rest of the crew is like, “AWWWW, THIS IS AMAZING, SHE’S SO SPECIAL,” Bortus and Klyden are like, “How quickly can we arrange a sex-change operation?”
Since they are on a spaceship nowhere near their home planet, Bortus appeals to Dr. Claire to perform the procedure, but she refuses on obvious ethical grounds which are obvious. Bortus then appeals to Captain Seth MacFarlane to force Dr. Claire to perform the procedure, but Captain Seth MacFarlane refuses on even more obvious ethical grounds which are even more obvious.
So Bortus appeals to his home planet. The Moclans ring up Captain Seth MacFarlane to inform him they are sending a ship to rendezvous with The Orville so that they can take Bortus, Klyden, and baby back to Moclus where the baby will have the surgery.
Captain Seth MacFarlane and Ex-Wife decide that the problem here is that Bortus doesn’t realize that females can be strong, so they arrange for him to box Alana. When that doesn’t change his mind, Gordon and John show up to his quarters with some beer and a copy of the old Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special, which Bortus watches and takes to heart.
You read that correctly, a 55-minute Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation special about a popular Christmas song is what changes this parent’s mind on not having his infant endure gender-reassignment surgery.
However, because Klyden didn’t receive the gospel of Rankin/Bass, he still wants the gender reassignment surgery, and oh, by the way, he forgot to tell Bortus that he was also born a female and had the procedure when he was an infant.
When the Moclus ship arrives, Bortus requests a tribunal to settle this argument with his husband, with Ex-Wife serving as his advocate.
Then everyone, for some reason, goes to Moclus where the tribunal gets underway. The Moclan advocate’s argument is that the baby should have the surgery because otherwise, she may never go on a first date. Ex-Wife counters by proving that females can be physically and intellectually superior to males by having Alana crush a metal cube into a ball, and asking Gordon to answer some basic questions, to which he’s all, “UH DURRR….”.
BUT CONSIDERING NEITHER OF ALANA NOR GORDON ARE MOCLAN, THESE ARE KINDA MOOT POINTS.
Just very good lawyering, everyone.
Meanwhile, Captain Seth MacFarlane has Sassy Robot to scan the planet for … something. When Sassy Robot finds it, Captain Seth MacFarlane, John, and Alara head out to the mountains to collect it: a female Moclan who is living in a cave.
As the tribunal comes to a close, the group returns with her so that she can submit her testimony. Born a female, her parents moved her out into a cave rather than have her undergo the surgery. She has lived a happy albeit isolated life, the end. The Moclan advocate mocks her for being a weirdo living in the wilderness. In response, she quotes some quasi-poetic bullshit at him that he recognizes as being the words of some wise writer, and she’s is like, “THAT’S RIGHT, SON: ME.”
But then the tribunal comes back and rules that the baby has to undergo the surgery. And then she does. And then the end.
I do not even know where to begin with this train wreck of an episode. What appeared to start off as an episode about gender identity turned into an argument about cultural values, briefly making a pit stop in the controversy over circumcision before taking a hard turn and deciding that what it was REALLY about this whole time was misogyny.
Is the biggest problem with this episode that it treats gender as a binary condition? That it works on the presumption that you either have female genitalia and therefore are a girl, or have male genitalia and are therefore a boy? There is no real discussion about whether or not performing the surgery on the baby will also make her identify as male. No one suggests, “hey, you can slap a penis on her, but she may never feel like she’s a boy, have you thought of that?”
Or is the biggest problem with this episode that Klyden revealing that he was born female kinda undercuts the whole “female Moculans are impossibly rare, occurring only once every 75 years” thing? I was expecting this revelation to play more of a part in the resolution of the story, that more Moculans would reveal that they, too, had been born female and that this whole idea that they were a predominantly male species would be thrown into question. Instead, Klyden being born female but identifying as male now because of a surgery that he had when he was an infant just reinforces the idea that one’s gender is wholly determined by what they have in their pants.
Or is the biggest problem with this episode the way it tried to compare gender reassignment surgery to repairing a cleft palate or circumcising an infant?
Or is the biggest problem with this episode their ham-fisted approach to misogyny? Hey, did you know that girls can be smart and strong, too, you guys? No, really! As smart and strong as boys! Sometimes!
Or is the biggest problem with this episode that Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, creator of this particular scene in Family Guy in which Brian (the dog — yes, the dog) realizes that he’s slept with a transgender woman and vomits for nearly 40 seconds, that maybe that guy isn’t the right person to tackle the nuance and complications of gender issues?
And this is the problem with this show: The Orville could have been an all-out Star Trek spoof using MacFarlane’s brand of humor (which, again, not for me), and it probably should have been that. I wouldn’t have watched, but it would be a success with the people who think Family Guy is the height of comedy. But instead, MacFarlane clearly believes that he is the heir apparent to Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek, wants to make something that will be taken seriously and probably genuinely believes that this episode handled a difficult social issue in a sensitive and thought-provoking way.
This show, y’all, it’s terrible.
The Orville airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Fox and I’ll never forgive you guys for this.