Beverly Hills, 90210″ has a spotty record on dealing with major issues. Some, such as alcoholism, teen sex, and pregnancy, have been dealt with responsibly and fully. Others, such as incest, compulsive gambling, and diet-pill abuse, have not been handled well. In this episode, date rape falls into the latter category.
Overall, however, producers have done a fine job this season with the characters’ transition from high school to college, making good use of the more varied, mature situations afforded by the new locale.
In this episode, party boy Steve (Ian Ziering) has a one-night fling with fellow frosh Laura Kingman (Tracy Middendorf), who goes ga-ga. She pursues Steve , but he tells her he has a girlfriend. Furious at having been jilted, Laura accuses him of having pressured her into sex, and storms off.
Caught up in the date-rape fever that is sweeping the campus during “Take Back the Night Week,” she decides that she will publicly accuse Steve of rape.
Steve’s reputation is protected only by the intervention of Kelly (Jennie Garth), in whom Laura has confided. Kelly believes Steve, and at the big rally, she talks about how Steve once saved her from being raped at a party.
Laura and Steve’s versions are told to Kelly in a “He Said/She Said” fashion. But this presentation does not give the air of ambiguity that colors many such cases. (The subject has been looked at more completely this season on other shows, including “Picket Fences” and “Sisters.”)
Unfortunately, the “90210” producers and scripter Chip Johannessen show the accusation of date rape as the refuge of a scorned woman.
Certainly there are women who use rape accusations for revenge, and consent between sexually involved people is important.
But by presenting a false claim of rape, the episode sends the message that women who say they were raped aren’t to be believed.
It is a good idea to present more than one point of view about an issue, but using the same scenario and manipulating it unreasonably is not the way to do so.
The seg occasionally gives lip service to various points of view about rape, such as that women need to be responsible for their own behavior, and that pressured sex even within the confines of a relationship can be construed as rape.
The script really strains when Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Dylan (Luke Perry) debate whether Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” is about date rape. (Neither the poem nor the poet is indentified; clearly Fox has a lot of faith in its audience’s knowledge of 17th century Romantic poetry.)
James Whitmore Jr.’s direction is fine, as are other tech credits.