For the most part, television is doing very well. On the major cable networks, there have been a number of moving, well-made, super successful dramas (Lost, 24, Mad Men) and a nice line up of comedies as well (The Office, 30 Rock, Modern Family, etc.) But there exists an omnipresent splinter in my brain when I think about television, and it’s because the shows that aren’t as great REALLY, REALLY suck. Like, not Battlefield Earth bad, but they’re certainly trying. People will credit this to the fact that the writing in great shows is smarter, quicker, and doesn’t bother with the idiocy that is a laugh track, adding the element of awkward realism. Or perhaps they just have better acting. But when it comes to the modern sitcom, I’m here to tell you exactly what separates the men from the boys, and it’s got nothing to do with the aforementioned characteristics.
My biggest pet peeve about the shitty modern sitcom is its construction of gender dynamics. Take ANY sitcom that is widely considered to be shitty (Two and a Half Men, According to Jim) and you will see what I am talking about. Apparently, in the worlds of these characters, men are lazy, stupid, ignorant buttholes running around with 24/7 power boners. They’d be hopeless if it weren’t for the help of their unrealistcally beautiful wives, who seem to possess an infinite amount of wisdom when it comes to life, love and happiness. This is how sitcoms portray the average American couple, and I’ve got one simple statement to make about it:
Women are stupid, too.
Remember the old black and white movies from the 50’s where men used to hit women? There was a reason for that. Remember how we don’t have any female presidents? There’s a reason for that. Notice how no one takes Lifetime Original movies and Oxygen channel seriously? There’s a reason for that.
Television shows cannot simply portray a marriage accurately if the woman is always right and the man is always a bafoon. That’s like calling Glenn Beck an idiot but then giving the Pulitzer Prize to Ann Coulter. You can’t have your cake and eat it too on this issue*. Both sexes make terrible mistakes, and neither is bound to have all the answers. If you illustrate a world that doesn’t abide by these rules, then you shouldn’t be producing or writing for a major network. I’m suspending too much of my disbelief in the Suspension of Disbelief here. This is why 30 Rock and The Office are the shit. Their female characters are needy, confused, desperate attention whores, and this is the portrait of American woman I have come to know in my own experience. Just tell it like it is.
*I have no idea what that phrase actually means.