On My Problematic Fave TV Shows
WORDS BY MONIQUE NEWBERRY
I watch a lot of TV. I watch sitcoms from the 80s to now and I love them. What I don’t love however, is the seriously problematic jokes that are in quite a few episodes. Something that becomes apparent, is that what we would interpret as creepy or predatory behaviour in real life becomes a punchline on these shows.
Ross Geller, main character from the sitcom Friends, is a great example of this. Don’t get me wrong, I love Friends, but I hate Ross. He regularly screams at women in public, tries to attack two female characters to prove that they can’t really defend themselves after a defence class, and he dates one of his students and follows her on spring break because he is so jealous of people he’s never even met. All through the show we hear what a nice guy he is and while the other characters regularly make jokes about his character, his behaviour is never truly addressed.
Maybe I am taking this too seriously, but I always wonder if treating these microaggressions as jokes has any real impact to the world around me. Would I see these jokes any differently if instead of everyone laughing at Ross or Marshall and Ted’s ridiculous and sexist double standards in HIMYM if a character called out their behaviour?
Can you imagine If instead of laughing at Chandler for having a gay father or treating his father’s chosen career as a drag queen like a running joke, someone said “Chandler. Your father is gay and there’s nothing wrong with that?” Gay characters are treated as a punchline, or something to laugh at, with stereotypical tropes taking up more air time then character development.
Why do gay main characters never get to properly have a developed story regarding their love life? Writers and producers seem to think it’s enough to have an LGBT+ character, that we are simply graced with basic representation on screen is enough. But I am yet to see a TV show where a gay character’s love life has the same development and respect as a straight character. Will & Grace, a show with two gay and straight main characters, but spends almost all the focus on relationships around Grace.
We see a brief mention of Will’s love life in the first season when he becomes single (and Grace gets to spend more time with him) and in the final season (when Grace and Will have a falling out), but never enough focus on his relationships alone. Almost every discussion of LGBT+ relationships in Will & Grace is discussed in regards to straight characters and how it impacts them.
What about Scream? A Netflix horror show inspired by the cult classic films. In the first few episodes a bisexual character loses her girlfriend, but she is expected to care for all other characters and given no development or grief as a character. It’s frustrating that we see everyone else grieve and develop from this grief, but absolutely none for LGBT+ characters.
I know it’s a TV show, but I experience enough sexism, homophobia and transphobia in my everyday life. It would be nice to see a character on TV have a little win for once… but I guess that’s why these shows are called problematic faves?