We open on quick cuts of a crowded Los Angeles street packed with women in low-rise
Abercrombie & Fitch jeans and skimpy halter-tops. There are no men on the street—like, not even one. Each shopping bag–toting woman is transfixed on one thing: Turtle, the round and fluffy dirtbag catcalling women and grazing their midriffs with his slimy hands. One car full of girls slows down to watch this majestic creature float into a restaurant with the grace of a sewer rat.
Played by Jerry Ferrara, Turtle is one of the four charming protagonists in HBO’s hit show
Entourage. The show debuted in 2004 and churned out eight seasons, as well as a nostalgia-filled feature film in 2015. For years, the show was the pinnacle of bro life and masculinity, and was hailed as must-see television for men. As a 2000s kid, I admittedly felt a twinge of sentimentality watching digital cameras and flip-phones flourish in the pilot. But as a gay woman breathing air in 2017, I found the toxic masculinity, homophobia, blatant misogyny, and aggressive rape culture to be gutting.
In the show’s first episode, there isn’t one fully dressed woman who speaks of anything besides insisting on being undressed further. This is the story of Entourage: While we loosely follow protagonist Vincent Chase (played by Adrian Grenier) pursuing fame and fortune, we’re mostly just watching four men hit on girls and “live the life.” In this show, the actual “business” is as unimportant as the women.
Turtle swaggers into a restaurant and joins Vince, Vince’s brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), and Vince’s best friend Eric, or “E” (Kevin Connolly). Two model-like women strut by and ask why they’re not invited to Vince’s movie premiere. Turtle quips, “Because you’re not hot enough.” Instead of being offended or disgusted by this crown jewel, they smile and effusively coo, “Good luck! Call us!”
They call E’s ex-girlfriend a “bitch.” They talk about Warren Beatty’s dick size (but not in a gay way). At Vince’s red carpet premiere, Turtle yelps, “Check out the tits on the girl from Extra.” Women are constantly and obsequiously begging our protagonists to grace them with their four-inch dicks. After Turtle serves his duty on “ass patrol,” the bros take a group of women back to Vince’s mansion to swim in lingerie.
Each man secures his takedown, but Turtle pleads with his girl, “C’mon, what I gotta do to get a little?” He reminds her that Vince has already disappeared with two other women and adds, “C’mon, let’s make out a little, and I’ll show you where Vince eats breakfast.” Given the current deluge of women outing predators, harassers, and rapists, it felt especially harrowing to watch our four “lovable” dudes freely coerce women into performing sexual favors that they don’t feel comfortable doing. In this show, not only are women objects robbed of personalities, they’re also prizes meant to be won or conquered. (Sexual assault is sometimes even reduced to a punchline: The next morning, while the dudes compare war stories, Turtle jokes about juggling his girl’s “speed bags” while she told him about the time her uncle touched her in the shower.)
Outside of treating women like garbage, the catalyst of this show is coolness. “Cool” is a currency in Entourage, and everyone’s trying to siphon it off one another. They hit golf balls off the roof, play basketball together, dress Turtle up in hockey gear and sic a foaming-at-the-mouth Rottweiler at him. There’s no shortage of evidence that these are cool, tough men. Vince is so noncommittal and chill that he doesn’t even care about his life or career. He demands that E make his decisions so he won’t have to (and later in the season, E becomes his manager).
There are real repercussions to television that brandish rape culture like a war medal—just ask Jeremy Piven, who played Vince’s vulgar and predatory agent, Ari Gold. For years, Piven and Entourage’s millions of male viewers were told this behavior was not only kosher—it was something to strive for. Late last year, Piven was accused of several alleged sexual assaults. If you’re still scratching your head as to why so many men think they can get away with serially harassing and assaulting women, Entourage is one of many examples to look toward.