Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Everybody Loves Retarded Man-Child

Just a random thought I had while writing the previous two posts, something I want to express but keep separate from the previous for tidyness' sake...

If I were to be offended as a man and on behalf of my gender by any depiction in modern mass media, it'd probably be the trend where, whenever a common "nuclear family" domestic situation is displayed, say in sitcoms or TV commercials, the "man of the family", the husband, the father, that man, he is portrayed as a complete dumbass.

God knows that formula has been popular enough to drive shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and Home Improvement to the highest ratings, and they quit doing those shows just because they got sick of doing them, not because the viewing public was calling for them to just stop it already.

This is a far cry from Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best where the man of the family was considered the font of all wisdom and the economic powerhouse, and granted, that paternalistic vision deserved to be broken down a bit, but if I was a conspiracy nut, I could make a case that modern sitcoms of this type are feminism's way to sneak in the message that men are incompetents who need smart kickass women to prop them up. Men who are smart, clever? They usually fill the role of dateless loser-geek. Any man with self-confidence and an assurance in his own worth is often the creepy self-absorbed womanizer who gets shot down by any woman with an IQ higher than her belt size.

Is there any show made any more where the man is the primary breadwinner of the house, and he's a clever, intelligent, successful sort of guy? Even on commercials it all rings about the same.

"Honey, what was that noise? What happened?"

"Aw, nothin, I just was fixing the chandelier and it dropped on my head."

(Smiles knowingly, nods head like the wisest hermit sage) "Yeah, that's my retarded man-child."

Cue either the laugh track or a blurb for Home Depot.


James Meeley said...

Is there any show made any more where the man is the primary breadwinner of the house, and he's a clever, intelligent, successful sort of guy?

Well, until a few years ago, there was "My Wife and Kids", starring Damon Wayans as the father who always seem to outsmart his kids and wife (at least MOST of the time).

Other than that, though, I can't think of a single tv show that's shown the father as the "compotent leader" figure recently.

Chad said...

Actually, if you go back and view many of the sitcoms from the 1940s and 1950s, there are jokes involving the housewives chiding their husbands for not doing their chores or for being a bad influence to the children. While the father was always the authority figure, the mother was, in a sense, idealized even more and it was understood that the June Cleavers were really the ones running the household.

In Western literature, comedy has always drawn on the motif of the underdog having the upper hand over the "proper" authority figures. Ancient Greek and Roman comedies had slaves outwit their masters while many European and American comedies from all periods have the poor, the social outcasts, and the women outwit or at least dance sarcastic circles around the entrenched authorities.

Why the roles of Homer and Marge Simpson aren't reversed has nothing to do with feminism. It has everything to do with the fact that it just wouldn't be funny.

Anon, A Mouse said...


Some good points there. I hope nobody thought I was saying that there were ONLY pro-male sitcoms back in the day; but it is my impression that there are far fewer today than in the past.

With a dearth of competent husband/father figures, though, doesn't that kind of make "today's modern dad" kind of an underdog in his own right? Unless there's some kind of unspoken assumption that the man of the house still is generally the top dog everywhere else EXCEPT in the home of the sitcom characters... Otherwise, if "doofus dad" is the baseline standard, how can that be a real authority figure for the "underdog" to triumph over...?