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  • Writer's pictureJ. L. Day

Mr. Monk Perpetuates Sexual Stereotypes

Two episodes of Monk illustrate the differences in how male and female perpetrators are displayed on TV: "Mr. Monk Makes a Friend" and "Mr. Monk and the Paperboy". In the first episode, Monk unknowingly becomes friends with perpetrator Hal. In the second, Monk's paper delivery person is murdered and his upstairs neighbor almost becomes a victim himself when he marries the perpetrator. In both episodes, the perpetrators attempt to get close to others in order to cover up their prior crimes or benefit themselves. Monk and the SFPD's approach to these perpetrators, however, is very different.

 
Sex and Pizza

Vicki - Source: Female Villians Wiki, https://femalevillains.fandom.com/wiki/Vicki_Salinas_(Monk)

The first and most notable difference between these perpetrators is how the show's writers decided the perpetrators would get to know those who would benefit them. The female perpetrator, Vicki, easily starts

dating Monk's dorky upstairs neighbor, Kevin. In order to keep Kevin ignorant about a winning lottery ticket he unknowingly had, she unplugs all of his TVs and cuts off almost all communication from the outside world by sleeping with him time and again over several days. Near the end of the episode, it is revealed that Vicki and Kevin will be getting married that day in the courthouse. For the female character, it is about her using sex in order to distract and lure a man, cover up a crime, and attempt another. This is especially noticeable when considering her alternatives, which included just stealing the lottery ticket. In short, Vicki uses sex to commit crime. This is different from how Hal was able to do it.


The male perpetrator, Hal, befriends Monk in order to ensure an incriminating postcard sent to Monk is not received. Hal's demeanor is as overly chipper and innocent, the perfect example of a best friend. For Hal, attempts to get close to someone are much simpler. He just brings pizza and kung fu movies or takes Monk to a hockey game. Despite the fact that Monk has a female assistant who is constantly around him, straight, and single, the show felt no need for Hal to just sleep with Monk's assistant continually until an opportunity arose to get the postcard. Instead, Hal's attempts to cover his crime required no sex or use of his body at all beyond a winning smile. For him, crime could be committed simply by appearing friendly and scheming his way into getting what he wants.

 
Dress for Success

Hal - Source: Monk Wiki, https://monk.fandom.com/wiki/Hal_Tucker

How appearances are discussed also highlights the differences in how these perpetrators are shown. In watching the episode, I counted three instances in Hal's episode where his appearance was discussed. The only statements about his appearance is about how he used to have a beard and now doesn't. For Vicki, on the other hand, about fifteen statements were made or implied by members of the Captain and Lieutenant of the SFPD, Monk's female assistant, and several other characters about Vicki's attractiveness.


This is seen as well in how the characters were dressed. Vicki is continually wearing either revealing clothes or a half-buttoned men's button-up while she is in bed with Kevin. All of her clothes are clearly intended to highlight her sexual role, even in scenes when she is not with Kevin committing the ruse. Hal, however, simply wears your basic white guy clothes. Some sort of button-up or polo shirt, khaki pants, and maybe a tan-ish colored jacket in just about every scene.

 
Cop Talk

Another interesting distinction between these characters is how the SFPD approaches them throughout the episodes. As mentioned for Vicki, the SFPD's concern with her does not extend beyond commenting on her appearance. Despite Kevin's clear awkwardness, Vicki's insistence on staying in his home, the lack of commonalities between Kevin and Vicki, the rapid pace of the relationship, and the time proximity between their fast relationship and the murder just downstairs from Kevin's apartment, Monk and the SFPD suspect her not at all until near the end of the episode. This shows the invisibility of women in the eyes of law enforcement (and TV writers). Her final notice by Monk and detectives was not do to anything she did but just a luck chance at Monk learning Kevin's lottery numbers for them to finally determine something must be up with Vicki.


For Hal, suspicion is swift and dogs him for most of the episode. Everyone except Monk suspects Hal from the beginning. His quick friendship with Monk has the SFPD and Monk's assistant instantly concerned about his motives given Monk's status as famous private detective. This provides an interesting comparison to Vicki. While she was invisible, Hal was instantly visible and under suspicion. For the characters this episode become most about making figuring what Hal did, rather than finding the criminal.

 

All these point illustrate how the show intends to show male and female perpetrators to their audience. Male (white) perpetrators are cunning, intelligent, friendly, but deserving of suspicion if they are too close to a recent crime. Female (white) perpetrators are sexually manipulative, items for male observation, and largely out of suspicion unless it becomes abundantly clear that they committed a crime.

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