And it kind of makes all of Ron's quirks less funny and more heartbreaking. Of course he's anti-government and fiercely isolationist -- he was taken advantage of by an authority figure in his life, and no one, not his family or his teachers or law enforcement, helped him. Not to mention his attraction to Tammy 2, who is an epically destructive partner. Victims are conditioned to think they're not worthy of being treated kindly in romantic relationships.
All of this is played for laughs for one reason only: because Ron is male.
Now Imagine If You Switched The Genders ...
Let's say they'd decided to do this bit with a female character, like Ann or April. Imagine Ann's ex-husband comes into town, he's significantly older than her, and it comes out that he was there when she was born, was a constant part of her childhood as an authority figure, and also started having sex with her at age 15. Imagine that storyline played off as a joke about how tough Ann is, and what a crazy life she'd led, and how this guy who groomed and molested her is now her wacky nemesis.
Not only does that not make it out of a writer's room in 2011, but I'm also not sure that'd fly in any era. But even now, the fact that the victim is a gruff man who drinks hard liquor and carves canoes means it's all good comedy fun. Tough guys don't experience trauma, right? "This guy's so badass that he didn't need a childhood!"
Now, when I go back and watch those episodes, I can't unsee it -- especially the fact that in this office full of friends, some of them specifically written to be kind, supportive, and big-hearted, nobody sees this situation for what it is. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to "5,000 Candles In The Wind" on repeat as I remind myself that Ron ended the show by having a beautiful baby boy with his new wife Xena: Warrior Princess and lived happily ever after.
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