A man's role in sitcoms


I think this question relates to a question I’ve been asking myself since I’ve, (seriously), been old enough to watch sitcoms.

I’m sure this topic has come up before, but I’m haveing a hard time searching the boards.

Why are the men always retarded? The women are almost always the levelheaded ones of the TV sitcom duo. Even the “Cosby Show” was like this. This wasn’t always the case, (“I Love Lucy”). I used to bitch about it a lot, and no one seemed to care. Now I’m glad to see SOME people speaking out about it as an annoyance.

Bill Maher, (who I’m not really even a fan of), was talking about this on his HBO standup show. He was also sick of hearing people say that men couldn’t deal with the pain of childbirth. I agree with this as well… why are we feeding our children this bullshit!? It’s not good for ether gender in my opinion.

Does this piss anyone else off? Anyone thing it’s getting better, or worse?

I think it’s about the same as it ever was. We’re talking about comedy, and comedy often has a preponderance towards the grotesque.

You think Al Bundy is a new character? (Or new in the eighties, anyway?) His character is a total imitation of William Bendix’ portayal of Chester A. Riley in *The Life of Riley*. (Actually the whole formula for the show is pretty much a slightly updated Life of Riley.)

I don’t think it’s symptomatic of any creeping misandry-- it’s just that buffoons are the foundation of the bulk of comedy.

If anything, the formula exists because it’s the product of a time when the idea that women could be intellectually dominant in a relationship was a dissonant one, by and large, and dissonance makes for funny.

Our Miss Brooks, The Bickersons, The Honeymooners, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, they all played that way. If you’re going to base a show around zany situations that a fool character gets themselves into, it’s helpful to have another character play the straight role for contrast and to work in barbed commentary – and who better than a spouse?

You can swap the genders around, as in I Love Lucy, or set up the same dynamic with same-gendered characters, such as Abbott and Costello or any number of comedy duos, but you’re going to keep seeing the fool/wiseacre pair again and again. The fool is often the main character with the more sensible character being a mere appendage.

I wouldn’t get worked up about it. Comedies featuring perfectly intelligent, well-adjusted couples tend to be bland as hell, which is probably why they’re so scarce.

Because sitcoms are an accurate reflection of life? :wink:

Seriously - it may have something to do with the higher demographics of women watching. Also that men are - generally - perceived as money funny and clownish, easier to send up. There are vastly more male comedians than female ones, maybe society finds it easier to laugh a stupid/silly man than a woman?

That’s not to say this is always the case. Lucille Ball was an amazingly funny clown, ditto the actress playing Peg Bundy (plus daughter Christina Applegate). There are plenty of “dim lightbulb” female parts. Lisa Kudrow in Friends (though she’s well balanced out by Joey).

And maybe there is some truth that in life, women do end up having to be the levelheaded ones more often. This is not necessarily a good thing. I know several married couples where the wife amost acts like the husband’s mother.

After a while, my mother refused to buy me Berenstein Bears books because the Papa bear was, if anything, dumber and more immature than the pups – so it’s not just sitcoms.

I think men do tend to get the shorter end of the stick in comedies of all sorts, because it’s funny to see those on top taken down a notch. Just a guess.

It’s because men are more comfortable projecting a bad image of themselves. Thus the “women aren’t funny” quote by <I forget who.>

It is nice to see that changing. There’s a bunch of funny women nowadays, though the funniest are doing standup, not sitcoms.

On second thought, let me amend my opening paragraph to “society is more comfortable with men representing themselves in a bad light.” When women become truly equal, we may see a plethora of shows where the woman’s shortcomings are the primary fare.

In shows where the star is also one of the writers, it may be easier for the comic to have the jokes center around him or herself, with the other characters (primarily the spouse) playing the straight roles. Since there are currently more male comedians with their own shows than female, it kind of makes sense that the husband characters are more frequently the ones to be laughed at, while the wife characters are typically the levelheaded ones.

At least with sitcoms, the stars can sometimes have some input into how the characters are presented and developed. What really tick me off are the endless commercials featuring a superwoman married to a retarded ape. But that’s already been pitted elsewhere.

I’m glad someone else noticed that - my son mentioned that when he was 6.
“Now Papa, you know Sister can’t take that handgun to school…”

Is it getting better? There’s Scrubs, where Elliot (Sarah Chalke) is plainly the stupidest, most dopey, ditzy, and self-centred.

Also, on one of the Futurama DVD commentaries, someone (I think Matt Groening) mentions that when they created the show they designed Amy Wong on the basis that it was normally the male characters who were stupid and klutzy, but they thought they’d try to make a female in that role.

Even in the Simpsons Marge seems to have become less sensible over the years, frequently changing into either a tubthumping moralist or an obsessive weirdo.

As has already been said, traditionally sitcoms were based around men, which meant the men had more jokes and got into more funny situations, which typically involved stupidity, and the women were reduced to supporting roles (in conjunction with the feeling that women are less funny than men, this meant they often played straight).

The few old shows based around women (I Love Lucy, Bewitched) went against that, often making the woman more crazy and demented than the man, and the newer woman-centred and girl-centred shows frequently show women in a less positive light. (And there have always been plenty of derogatory female stereotypes in sitcoms, like the slutty next-door neighbour or the battle-axe mother-in-law.)

I’m a woman and those offend me sometimes. Has anyone seen the new one for some type of flu vaccine where the mom is sick in bed and the dad proceeds to send the kids out into a blizzard in summer clothes, burns the food, destroys a couple appliances, and generally acts like a poorly-trained baboon? It’s so ridiculous–not only for portraying men in that light but also because it preys on women’s guilt over “making” the man be responsible for this stuff. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Basically, it should end with a big printed message on a black screen reading

“The inclusion of a penis has rendered the male body non-functional! All women must be forever vigilant against letting men do anything.”

Tue story - years ago my mom had the flu, my dad offered to do the laundry. He came back to her bed of pain 1/2 hour later and asked, “Which one’s the washer?”
On a daily basis, she wouldn’t even let him change lightbulbs.

And what these commercials fail to recognize is the fact that, because people are generally waiting longer to get married (wedding in their mid-20s or later, as opposed to getting married right out of high school), more and more men of post-Baby-Boomer generations are perfectly capable of taking care of their own household work. Guys aren’t going straight from Mommy doing it all to Wife doing it all. They have a few years in between to learn how to do it themselves.

Not to hear my apartment tell it.

It doesn’t seem this way with people my age (late teens to mid twenties). If you’ve ever seen the reality show on MTV with Jessica Simpson and her husband (who is also famous, but I’m not really even sure if he’s an actor or what), this is EXACTLY the type of relationship my guy friends get into. She’s the goofball, messy, ditzy one of the two. There was a time, (judging from what my parrents and their friends tell me), where women, not only wanted to be treated equaly, but took responsibilities to BE an equal part of a relationship (paying for herself on dates or paying for the date just as often, in charge of her own finances, opening the door for their SO).

Of course, there are many bright, strong and independent women out there now, they are VERY hard to find. A lot of the problem may lie in what my male friends (and many guys of my generation) find attractive in women. Maybe it has to do with the parents of my generation. Maybe it’s just the company I keep. It’s just doesn’t seem to be about equal rights anymore, even though that should still be important to both men and women. It’s more of a competition (mostly for females… there are so many women I know who are utterly sexist with their remarks towards men. It sickens me that they feel that it’s ok for them to talk down to guys, but not the other way around). Perhaps what I’m seeing is an effect of this competitiveness? Like I said, it may just be the company I keep. It seems to me like it’s been getting better as far as TV goes. I’m really happy to see women are comfortable making a funny face, or talking about their funny, private, and unattractive life situations.

Any ideas on this? If anyone disagrees with any of it, please, tell me.

I agree with belladonna wholeheartedly. If a man has that many problems when mom is incapacitated, perhaps he should have thought twice about being a father. Or maybe learned about childcare before having children. Why should a mother bare so much responsibility where she can’t afford to ever be sick!?!?

They were talking about violence. They said that they wanted to see if they could make a female character who is always the receptor of humorous violence (like Wile E. Coyote) and have it be funny rather than uncomfortable. Maybe they’ve never seen Elmyra on Tiny Toons.

I’ve not seen that one. The ones that annoy be are the JC Penny ones where the kids are making messes while the slobby looking dad just looks v. annoyed and asks “Where is your mother?” Meanwhile the mom is shopping while a voiceover tells the mope not to worry because it’s only for one weekend.

They manage to be doubley sexist. One in showing the woman as being the only one who should be working at caring for children on a weekend (the dad doesn’t appear faintly interested in cleaning up the mess). The second is in showing the men as being lazy, incompetent and disturbingly disinterested in their children’s well being.

To be honest, the sit-com thing bugs me too. It seems there a lot of sitcoms with goodlooking, smart wives married to unattractive, dopey men. It kind of implies that even a homely dolt deserves an amazing woman while women should be happy to get whatever’s out there.

One caveat: About the sitcoms, I’m basing my opinion on the ads I’ve seen. I don’t actually watch the Jim Belushi Show, King of Queens or any of the dolt/gorgeous woman shows so maybe I’m missing some point. Maybe the men aren’t as doltish & slobby as the ads let on…

I refer to this as “Disney Dad” syndrome. Where the kids and wife all have 200 IQ’s and several Doctorates, while Dad is a beer bellyed, rebel flag waving, IQ of 20 possessing, truck driving idiot.

I hate TV.

Not only does this problem exist in sitcoms and commercials, but in other shows too.

It struck me while watching “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” over the weekend. It was my first time, and I managed to catch a sort of mini-marathon, and watched three episodes in a row. In each one, the guy was portrayed as something of a loser, and his “friends” and family were given ample screen time deriding his various faults. The “Fab 5” themselves were pretty nice to the guy, for the most part (at least to his face), and the process itself seemed to be fun. But, putting myself in the guy’s shoes and thinking of what it would feel like to watch the show later, I really would have been hurt by some of the things my “friends” were saying about me… many of those people no prize themselves, mind you!

It occurred to me, later, that a show like that would never fly if focused on women. Makeovers for women (on Oprah and such) are always portrayed as women empowering themselves, women improving their self-image, etc. And yet, when a guy gets a makeover (as on “Queer Eye”) it’s because he’s essentially an oaf and isn’t able to take care of himself. A show portraying women in the same light would be hounded off the airwaves, if it ever got there in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong… I actually got a kick out of “Queer Eye.” But it is somewhat indicative of the the idea that men are more “safe” to make fun of than women are, and it bothers me a little.

Gosh, I don’t know, the only sitcoms I watch on a regular basis are “Dharma and Greg” (which plays on a regular basis on reruns in my neck of the woods, I didn’t know until recently it’d been cancelled, sniff), and “Frasier”.

On Frasier, everyone seems pretty silly men and women alike, except perhaps for Daphne and Martin. And even they get ditzy from time to time.

Other than those two, I really am not into sitcoms. I’m a horrendously boring TV watcher, I like the building/decorating shows on TLC, detective/crime/forensics shows (both real cases and the Law and Order types), and History (as long as it’s not war/nazis too overdone) or Discovery.

Aw, man! I was going to start this thread. I was going to name it The Inept Male. In fact, it was the commercial belladonna mentioned that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Why don’t you people check with me before starting threads?

Ah wuz gonna check with you, Juanitur, but Ah didn’ knoe which buton to push on thisyere COMputer to ask yew.

‘Course, Ah’m one o’ them-thar stewpid males yew see own thuh TEE-vee.

Y’all 'scuse me while Ah scratch m’self.

Hey, whut duz thisyere “OFF” button d–