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No means no: The problem with 'Nashville's' Gunnar and Scarlett

Nashville‘s Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett (Clare Bowen) have a long and complicated history. They were first drawn together as a songwriting duo, but their feelings for each other were obvious throughout the first season. The pair finally get together romantically after Gunnar’s brother dies unexpectedly. He finds comfort in Scarlett’s arms, but unfortunately for them, that isn’t enough to keep him from spiraling out of control. Gunnar lashes out against the world, and Scarlett is collateral damage. Though there was real love there and the union was a long time coming, Gunnar’s fragile state makes it impossible for them to sustain their relationship. When Gunnar realizes he’s losing Scarlett, he attempts to fix things with a marriage proposal, but it is too late.

There have been moments in the years since where it seemed that there was still something between them, but each of them has moved on to other partners. Gunnar dated Scarlett’s best friend, Zoey (Chaley Rose); Scarlett reunited briefly with her ex-boyfriend, Avery (Jonathan Jackson). Scarlett and Gunnar have maintained a friendship (one that Zoey felt insecure about, on occasion) and are now performing in a band together with Avery (appropriately called The Triple Exes). Scarlett has recently met a new man, Caleb (Nick Jandl), and their relationship is progressing beautifully.

For the first time in a long time, Scarlett seems happy. Seeing her happy has awakened something in Gunnar, who now realizes that he loves her. He decides to tell her how he feels one night after their band performs, but a trip to her hotel room reveals that she has left the hotel. When she arrives by cab the next morning to catch the tour bus, Gunnar knows she’s been with Caleb. He deals with his hurt feelings by being rude, insulting, and sulky, and belittling the relationship that Scarlett is forming.

This trope is an old one in television. Couple gets together; couple breaks up; one person realizes the error and has to fight to make it right. The problem is that Gunnar isn’t listening. Scarlett has made it very clear that she isn’t interested. Gunnar isn’t hearing her. As a fan, it feels like I am supposed to be rooting for Gunnar. They have a shared history, and the show has been teasing a reunion since they broke up. I can’t root for Gunnar, though. Not like this.

To be fair, as of right now, Gunnar and Scarlett haven’t reunited, and it’s possible that they won’t. My fear, however, is that Gunnar is going to be “persistent.” He is going to continue manipulating situations so that he and Scarlett sing romantic duets together. He is going to tell her over and over again that he knows she feels their connection. He is going to ignore her protestations and her new relationship, and wear her down until she finally comes to the conclusion that she loves him and wants to be with him.

There is nothing romantic about this. Gunnar is being overly aggressive and inappropriate; he is refusing to hear Scarlett’s no. He needs to back the hell off. This whole idea that it is acceptable to continue bothering a woman after she has made her position clear needs to be removed from our collective storytelling. Furthermore, the notion that this kind of harassment is attractive or desirable, or a legitimate way to express love, needs to be vehemently combated. Scarlett is not confused. She has not said she doesn’t know what she feels or needs to figure out her feelings. She hasn’t asked to be convinced. She’s asked—several times—to be left alone.

The only way a Scarlett/Gunnar reunion can work at this point is if he retreats completely. If Gunnar tells Scarlett that he respects her and understands that she’s moved on; if he apologizes for being a jerk and disrespecting her choices; if he truly steps off and gives her room to live her life, then maybe Gunnar can be redeemed. If once she has this space, Scarlett comes to the conclusion that Gunnar is, in fact, the man she wants to be with, then I will embrace them wholeheartedly (well, maybe not wholeheartedly; I do really like Caleb).

Gunnar has been depicted as a decent man since the start of Nashville. His feelings for Scarlett don’t give him the right to bulldoze his way into her life. It is a disservice to the character (and a frustrating use of the talented Palladio) to have him behave this way. Here’s hoping this storyline plays out differently from how it’s looking. I’m always happy to be pleasantly surprised.

Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10/9C on ABC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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