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The Diplomat - Why I don't think it's Emmy Worthy

Couple intimidation

Recently I watched a show I should not have. I wanted to watch something and didn’t have the time to scroll through Netflix to find a show. The trailer for a new show, the Diplomat, caught my eye, the lead character is played by Kerri Russell. I remembered her as the lead in Felicity. And although I had never watched it, I thought it was a wholesome show, so I decided to watch this new show she was in.


In the first three minutes of The Diplomat, the two main characters say the F* word twice and I thought about turning off the show. Unfortunately, I decided to watch a little more.


As the story unfolded, I learned the husband, Hal, has been an ambassador and his wife, Kathryn (Kate) has recently been assigned to be an Ambassador in Kabul. A London air carrier was bombed in the beginning of the episode and Kate is reassigned to be an Ambassador in London, where, we learn the White House lead staff will also determine if she’s a viable option to step up to be Vice President when needed. I was curious to know more and continued to watch the show.


I’m disappointed with myself for watching all eight episodes. Several themes were unsettling and made me feel disgusted over the next few days.


  • Cussing continued to be prevalent throughout the season. I could never find a reason why the cussing was necessary. Maybe it was to demonstrate intensity? I’m not sure, but I realized if I had to work with or associate with people who talked to others that way, I wouldn’t respect them. To me, the cussing did little to build respectful relationships, partnerships, or collaboration.  

  • As the episodes progress, we learn Kate and Hal have decided to get a divorce and witness several occurrences of a dysfunctional relationship – he seems to support her, but he lies and is manipulative. She states the marriage is “killing me” but is dependent on him.

  • Relationship abuse – near the end of episode three Kate is angry with Hal. During their argument, she asks him a question, he answers, and she responds by punching him in the face. Then she hits him, tackles him, and continues to scuffle with him in the bushes. Season four begins with a scene from the next morning. A staff member enters a room where Hal is having breakfast and after a short exchange, comments that Hal is chipper. Hal responds, “for a guy that got a shiner from his wife”. Note: Physical abuse is never okay. 

  • Sexual occurrences – These were probably the most difficult. Kate and Hal show very little affection for one another.  The few times they are affectionate are in the second episode, on the night Hal returns from being kidnapped, Kate goes to the room he’s sleeping in. She’s worried about him, and lays next to him on the bed, embracing him, but also questions his role in the kidnapping, then leaves the room. Another time they hold hands when Hal takes her to raid the refrigerator. Other times Hal makes a breakfast plate that Kate shares with him. But otherwise, they don’t hold hands, hug or kiss. Their marriage is troubled, but even when they decide to try and stay together, the sexual occurrences between them are transactional – in one scene the viewer sees her begin a sexual act to get him to give a speech in her place. Honestly, the way the show portrays sex in such demeaning ways and void of true emotional intimacy, made me feel sick. * Please note: sex scenes are usually something I turn away from or fast forward through. And I did fast-forward through some in this series. But the disturbing nature and lack of other kinds of affection caught my attention.

  • Dysfunctional relationships - one of Kate’s peers from London, a widower who brought his sister to live with him after a suicide attempt, is forthcoming in wanting a personal relationship with Kate (even though she’s married). At first, she responds by redirecting him to the work at hand, but later conveys she is also interested in him. In another episode, he comments on one of Kate’s traits sharing that when she disagrees with another person her response is rapid-fire dissent, but when she agrees with you, she’s silent. He says once you figure it out, it’s endearing. But the trait is unhealthy. I can’t figure out why an intelligent, seemingly emotionally healthy man finds her unhealthy traits “endearing”.


This show was one of Netflix’s top shows the week I came across it. A quick Google search showed numerous outlets promoting the show, interviewing the cast, and talking about what a great show this is. What?!? It was so FULL of unhealthy traits I was surprised others were talking positively about it.


The theme of Madam Secretary, another political show with a female lead, is in stark contrast to the ones in The Diplomat. Madam Secretary shows a supportive family unit, the husband and wife are affectionate and supportive of one another. I can’t think of a single sex scene with them (and we don’t need them). Instead, intimacy is shown by spending time together, supporting each other, concern for one another, laughing, holding hands, hugging, and brief kissing. A common line in the show is “for the greater good”.


I’m dismayed by the thought of others watching the Diplomat. Especially our youth who are learning about and forming beliefs about relationships – working, marriage, peers, etc. Nothing in this show portrayed what I would want any of my relationships to be like.


For a list of shows with healthier messages, see our post about Friends.


These two Bible verses show us a better way:


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2


Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11





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