“Nip/Tuck”: Sharon Gless succumbs to the sexism

Have you been watching Nip/Tuck, even though Portia de Rossi has been AWOL for so long? I have, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the recent psycho stalker story line, with special guest star Sharon Gless. [Warning: Spoilers]

When Gless first showed up on the show, I was thrilled. Her character, Colleen Rose, was sassy, smart and funny — just like I like Gless, and like I’m used to seeing her. But things soon took a turn for the criminally insane. We learned that Colleen wasn’t really a talent agent; she was just trying to get close to Dr. Sean. And when an actual agent interfered, teddy-bear-collecting Colleen decided to stuff him. It was one of the most gruesome murder scenes — not to mention one of the trippiest — I’ve ever seen on TV.

Last week, it looked like Colleen met an untimely death at her own hands. I’m not sure whether she’ll be back for one last gasp tonight, or will even be mentioned again. But I do know one thing: I don’t understand why Gless took the role. (I’m not the only one.) I guess maybe she thought it would be fun to play crazy. But the story line was just plain misogynist — Colleen the capable professional soon became Colleen the desperate, menopausal, lonely, diabolical crone. It seems very far beneath Gless.

I might be overreacting. But most of the women on Nip/Tuck are appallingly two-dimensional, and not just because they’re vain moneyed types seeking plastic surgery. Creator Ryan Murphy (who is gay, not that that means anything at all in terms of his attitude toward women) seems to want to destroy his female characters and erase their humanity. Whether it’s Kimber (or Eden) the slut — don’t even get me started on their violent sex scene last week — or Colleen the psycho or Julia the meat-seeking rag doll or Liz the barely there prudish lesbian or Kate the fat actress, they’re easy to sum up and difficult to care about.

It’s not just that they’re stereotypes: They’re receptacles for all the easy, knee-jerk, hateful responses men have to women who don’t need them or have some kind of power over them. It’s getting to be downright disgusting. (Oddly enough, Rosie O’Donnell actually fared pretty well in her recent apperances as Dawn Budge, the blowsy lottery winner. I even liked her.)

So I’m sorry Gless took the role. But at least she wasn’t as scary as Joan Van Ark in last week’s episode — that was beyond freaky.

And at least Gless didn’t have to poop in a hot tub. Poor Paula Marshall.

Why am I still watching? I honestly don’t know. Probably because in its first couple of seasons, Nip/Tuck seemed to show the humanity in even the most vile of characters. But now it just goes right for the slime, without suggesting we’ll ever evolve up onto the land. Again, Dawn Budge was an exception — she seemed to have a heart underneath all that yelling. But that may have more to do with Rosie than the writing or directing.

I think I finally have a response to “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself”: The fact that I watch Nip/Tuck. Luckily, I don’t have to fork over hundreds of thousands to correct that particular flaw.