Congratulations, Television! You Are Even Worse At Masculinity Than Femininity
Linda Holmes, again:
I cannot help asking, even more than I usually do when I watch scripted comedies: Where, on television, are the men who both like football and remember birthdays? Where are the men who can have a highly insightful drink-and-talk with friends? Where are the men who are great dads, great husbands, great boyfriends? Where are the men who are dedicated to important jobs? Where are the men who aren’t seeking reassurance about what it means to be men? Where are, in short, all the men I rely on in my day-to-day life?
I’m glad to hear her say this, because there’s a lot of gender talk going on these days – what with DC’s confusing and misguided reboot, shows like The Playboy Club and Pan Am, Mindy Kaling’s piece about Hollywood’s character stereotypes, and I guess maybe it’s just been on my mind personally after seeing the just terrible female protagonists in recent rom-coms 1 – and one thing that I’ve been thinking about is what all these commentators would say to some of the male stereotypes that are popping up, often accompanying these women.
I think that the playing field – economically, culturally, etc – is still tilted in favor of men, without a doubt (though Hanna Rosin will tell you how that’s changing). The pay gap is still there, and there are still a number of politicians – female politicians, even – who think it’s OK to suggest that a woman should be subservient to her husband above all else.
But I do think a lot of these discussions that address negative stereotypes neglect the fact that everyone involved in a lot of these movies, and sitcoms, is a negative caricature. Across from the weepy mess that is Zooey Deschanel in the pilot of New Girl, there are three men who I think are even bigger stereotypes. Zooey’s character is understandably weak, as she’s just caught her long-time boyfriend cheating. She’s not necessarily a caricature of the weak female, because we haven’t been given time to see how she acts in less-taxing circumstances. Her new roommates, however, have no such excuse. None of them seem to have encountered women before, despite their supposed dating histories. They make multiple remarks about “fixing” the problem that is Zooey. In general, they just appear to be idiots. I actually enjoyed the show – it’s kind of a fun cartoon. But I couldn’t get it out of my head that I was being told that this was how men are, even if it was exaggerated.
The problem isn’t new – I never could stand Everybody Loves Raymond for this same reason. And I think that there are bigger issues, right now. But I am glad to hear a woman acknowledge it – I sometimes wonder if maybe I’m turning into that white, middle-class American male who turns every civil rights discussion into a discussion about his own “diminishing” rights. I hope I’m not.
- Epitomized in Amy Adams’ character in Leap Year, which I would never recommend anybody ever watch, ever, I’m serious guys, don’t do it. ↩