The CBS cop show Tommy regularly relies on left-wing feminist tropes to forward its narratives. But this week, in the episode "Free to Go," on April 16, it surprisingly did something western feminists rarely have the courage to do. It criticized Saudi Arabia's treatment of women and Islamic sharia law.
In the episode, a young female student from a rich and prominent Saudi family, Norah Fayed, wants to gain political asylum to escape the Saudi restrictions on women. To prevent her parents from putting her on a plane to Saudi Arabia, Norah deliberately swipes an expensive ring from the hotel jeweler so she will be arrested.
"I needed to slow things down," she tells Tommy, the Los Angeles police chief. "If they take me back home, I'll be locked away, maybe killed." She claims her sister remains under a kind of house arrest in Saudi Arabia. With the permission of Norah's father, Tommy is able to communicate with Norah's sister, Areen.
Tommy: Uh, thank you for calling, Ms. Fayed.
Areen: Please call me Areen.
Tommy: Okay. I'm Tommy. So, Norah tells me that your father is holding you prisoner. Is that true?
Areen: I haven't left this wing of my father's house in almost two years.
Tommy: What exactly did you write?
Areen: I proposed that the male guardian system is outdated and unnecessary. Women here are considered legal minors from birth until death. A 50-year-old widow can't go to the market without her teenage son's permission.
Tommy: So, Norah's guardian, uh, Gamal, I guess, uh, he accompanies her everywhere?
Areen: Yes. There's also an app called Absher that lets him track her and alerts him if she tries to use her passport.
Tommy: Which must be how he figured out she applied for asylum. So, this article upset your father?
Areen: No. He agrees with me. But many Saudis, men and women, called for my beheading.
Tommy: So your father saved you?
Areen: Yes. The only way that he could.
Tommy: Do you think he would do the same thing to Norah if she returned home?
Areen: It's complicated. By applying for asylum, Norah is demonizing our way of life. The more press coverage that her arrest gets, the more people learn of her rebellion and call for her death.
Tommy: So by detaining her as she asked, we are actually making things worse for her?
Areen: You asked if my father would lock her up. He would...to save her life.
Later on, a professor who was going to help Norah with her asylum claim turns up dead. Tommy interviews Norah's father in regards to the professor's death after security cameras reveal he met with the teacher shortly before his disappearance. During the interrogation, the father at one point admits concerns that the professor was trying to seduce his daughter. As the father leaves the interrogation room, Tommy asks him what would have happened to Norah if she had had sex with the man. "Sharia law calls for 100 lashes," he replies. He seems troubled by that admission.
As it turns out, it was Norah's mother, not her father who arranged for the professor's murder in order to protect her daughter's honor. This twist surprisingly acknowledges the role mothers in hardline Islamist societies sometimes play in enforcing female oppression. The episode's dialogue, like most network cops shows, feels forced, preachy and inauthentic. But it is unusual nonetheless to see a network television show use its preachy writing style in the service of criticizing a hardline Islamist society. Rarely does contemporary Hollywood call out misogynistic aspects of shariah law. So we here at NewsBusters will give credit where it is due.
Not that the writers went an entire episode without attacking favorite targets of the left. In fact, the show took a dig at Trump during the first five minutes. After an official in Tommy's department tells her the federal government may cut a seven million dollar community policing grant to the L.A.P.D., he remarks: "I don't know if you've noticed, but it's not business as usual in D.C. People at Justice are like abused kids, scared to do anything that makes Dad angry." At the end of the day, you can only hope for so much from Hollywood.