‘Murphy Brown’ 11×03: ‘#MurphyToo’

The saddest thing about the #MeToo movement is the vast number of us who can say those words. In “#MurphyToo,” Murphy Brown joins that army of women… and men… who have been victims of those more powerful than us.

I say “us” because… #MeToo. Although perhaps I should put that in small letters. I only experienced verbal harassment, and never faced any kind of unwelcome physical contact. But still – like Murphy, and like Phyllis, I tacitly accepted that harassment as The Way Things Were.

No one ever bothered to tell any of us that The Way Things Were was The Way They Should Never Be. This realization is one of the things that makes “#MurphyToo” a powerful episode, and the best of this revival so far.

“We’re From The Same Era”

I really connected with Murphy and Phyllis as they talked about the attitudes of their youth. While both are 17 years older than me, I knew exactly what Phyllis meant when she said, “We flattered egos, laughed at lousy jokes and if something happened, we didn’t talk about it. In those days, it wasn’t sexual harassment. It was a bad date.”

And there wasn’t anyone to talk to about those bad dates. Certainly not for Phyllis and Murphy, who would have been 19 in the mid-60s. The first rape crisis centers weren’t established until 1972. But even then, there were no resources for young women like me who were subjected to hearing crude suggestions in the workplace. Especially if those crude suggestions were made in a foreign language, by a man in a supervisory position who would have just passed it off as a joke.

Anita Hill was still a few years in the future.


Faith Ford, Candice Bergen, Grant Shaud
“Murphy Brown” Episode 11×03 “#MurphyToo.” Source: Facebook/MurphyBrownCBS

“Don’t Be A Creep. End Of Seminar.”

The catalyst for Murphy’s confession is a mandatory sexual harassment seminar. As a manager in California, I am required to take two hours of training every couple of years, and I truly do understand Murphy’s irritation with it. You would think most people know not to be a creep. Especially college professors.

A journalism professor is the offender in Murphy’s #MeToo story. He’d tried to assault her when she was 19, just after she’d won her first award. Now years later, she confronts him, in the same room where he’d tried to push her onto the sofa that still sits in the same spot. It’s striking to note that like the sofa, the professor’s attitude has not changed in all those decades. And you can’t help but cheer when Murphy calls her former idol a “weak miserable excuse for a man,” before taking back her trophy and going home.

That moment is both catharsis and closure for Murphy. But I have to say, it wasn’t my favorite scene of the show.

A Son To Be Proud Of

Every week, I get more reasons to love Avery Brown. This week, he is incredibly empathetic as Murphy tells him what no mother ever wants to tell her son. “I put it in a drawer in the back of my mind and moved on,” she said. Just as so many of us have done.

Avery’s not having any of that, though. “Whatever he did, you didn’t want it,” he tells her. And he says, “I would never want to make someone feel the way you do right now.”

Again we see the warm, close relationship these two share. It is so refreshing to see a comedy where parents and adult children are allies rather than adversaries, who enrich rather than embarrass each other. These mother/son scenes have been my favorites in every episode, and this one is no exception.

Other Notes

  • Can someone please make sure Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has had her flu shots and is well-supplied with chicken soup?
  • “It was so easy to know what was right and wrong… if it was bad your father slapped you. If it was REALLY bad the priest slapped you.” – Frank Fontana reflecting on the sexual harassment training of his youth.
  • Corky’s long list of harassment experiences is both funny and horrifying.
  • The story of Miles and the research assistant was, in my experience, a realistic counterpoint to the harassment training. I’ve known many couples who met in newsrooms, and it was a difficult situation even in the days before workplaces instituted no-dating policies like the one at “Murphy In The Morning.”
  • Pat is getting a little irritating. His “APPropriate Behavior” app was a funny running gag, but I wasn’t too keen on his puppy-dog eagerness over his first sexual harassment seminar. Yes, you’re woke, Pat. Good for you.
  • No guest secretary this week, though there was a mention of past secretaries. That was the right choice for this episode.
  • Phyllis, bless you and your Technicolor hair. Your secret is safe with us, you old softie!

This is the Murphy Brown I always loved.

Murphy Brown airs Thursday nights at 9:30/8:30 Central on CBS.

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