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EVERYTHING PROBLEMATIC WITH TV SITCOMS

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Over the past few years, there have been a growing number of television shows and sitcoms that are written, directed, and produced by women as well as star them. This is a welcome change, and it's exciting to see so many talented women contributing to the industry. However, even some of the most-favoured series of all have had a few moments of missing the cultural mark — Gender Inequality to name one, like degrading women, stereotyping men, and producing some scenes that are hard to watch in retrospect.

In this article, I highlight some of the misogynist and sexist tropes instilled in a few of the famous web series and sitcoms and how these shows perpetuate the cycle of male violence and patriarchy.

Friends — a captivating world of humour or just another portal to misogyny, sexism and body shaming? 

Friends is always there for us on our unpleasant days and binge-watching moods, but there are a lot of moments that do not fit into the present cultural landscape quite so well. Homophobia, latent racism, bad parenting, body shaming, and misogyny can be seen in the sitcom, with several examples of the latter. 

Joey Tribbiani's remarks on women outside of his buddy circle (and sometimes even inside it) are almost always flavoured with chauvinism and misogyny. 

For instance: When Ross feels disappointed that he may have just lost his one chance at true love as a result of his divorce, Joey starts a long metaphor about how women are like ice cream and all Ross has to do is “take a spoon,” equating women with food items that are ready to be dined on. 

The classic joey's line — " I look a woman up and down and say, "Hey, how you doin'?" is definitely one of the most hilarious and popular pick-up lines ever made in history. However, when you dig deeper, you'll realise just how sick it actually is!

And remember when Ross did not allow his son to play with a doll!? I think the worst thing was his fragile masculinity being so intense that he spends an entire day with his son trying to take Ben's Barbie doll away.

The idea that bisexuality is “IS MADE UP” in Sex and the City

In Sex and the City, there's an episode “Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl,” in which Carrie learns that the younger guy she's seeing is bisexual. Not only is Carrie put off by this, but the girls have a full-fledged argument in which every stereotypical cliche is played out from “Can't they simply pick a side?” to “I don't think they're genuine!”. Miranda, Carrie's tough friend, encourages her to drop him right at once, while Samantha dismisses the entire situation as the younger generation being more 'adventurous' and 'fluid'. Carrie's Bi partner eventually brings her to a party where she is forced to have a bisexual encounter. She leaves, thinking she is too old-fashioned (calls herself 'mature') for these things.

When Ryder admitted he was sexually assaulted and his friends “laughed it off” in Glee

Ryder (a guy) confesses to his buddies (other guys) in a Season 4 episode of Glee that he was sexually raped by his (female) babysitter when he was 11 years old. His two pals begin patting him on the back, telling him that he “lived out a fantasy.” He was wounded and saddened by this truth. They couldn't understand why their brother was unhappy when a female sexually assaulted him. They simply laughed and enjoyed at his expense. It was never referenced again and the show ended without resolving that issue.

Even though these series came out in the 90s, there's still a hint of shock and denial on people's faces today when anyone asserts that women can be predators and men are raped too! 

Casual use of rape jokes, racist jokes, and objectifying female (and male) bodies in 2 Broke Girls

Rape jokes are always a topic of discussion when it comes to political correctness and this show doesn’t help prove that rape jokes can be funny. Now it's another thing to use sarcasm to highlight complex and disturbing societal issues, but the way these jokes are presented to the audience, especially young viewers, seems much more problematic.

The program eventually became reliant on the attractiveness of the two main actresses. We all know that sex sells, so it's no surprise that they switch boyfriends every four episodes. It's also not unexpected that young adult males primarily viewed the show. I'm not sure why... to their credit, Max's trashiness is extremely amusing and laughs at most of her jokes.

In one scene, Caroline points toward Max's dress and says, "Find something business-y with less cleavage." To which Max replies, "Oh, these are all business," referring to the age-old idea that women will never be appreciated for their talents but only for their looks and assets.

One thing which really got to me was that Asian stereotyping gets bland after a certain point. There was an instance where Max says, "Oh, I thought we already had an ATM." Here ATM stands for "Asian Transgender Machine" referring to Han (her Asian boss). Such representation alienates a particular race and makes them feel like they don’t belong, that they're not "American" enough (or in some cases not Asian enough), and that they're non-distinguishable from the mass of other faces that resemble their own and they really don't have any individuality of their own.

Believe me when I say that a large part of me just wants to sit back and enjoy the experience and vibe of this super chill show. The very existence of this program is a defining moment for women since it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that women can be hilarious, engaging and entertaining without the need for romantic drama. But racism and sexual harassment jokes, on the other hand, are regrettably beyond my intellect. Humour is an absolutely necessary element in sitcoms, but we need to draw the line somewhere. If I were in charge, I'd tone down the prejudice and concentrate on what makes the show wonderful in the first place: Max, Caroline and their smashing business!

What do you think?

The whole womanizing trope and the problematic treatment of women in How I Met Your Mother

The entire concept of How I Met Your Mother is terrific, but the idea of sharing certain details with kids is a little concerning. 

Ted is telling his children how bad Barney is, a person who has a significant presence in their life and is also bombarding them with intimate information, including numerous hookup tales.

For e.g. Barney casually stated, "I have slept with over 200 women, I have a list."

Another instance is when Barney says, "The only reason to wait a month for sex is that girl is 17 years 11 months old." Think about what sort of values are being inculcated in children and young adults watching them speak about degrading girls with such audacity.

The disparity of jobs between male and female characters is one of the many things that bothers me about the show. The three male characters were an architect, a lawyer and a wealthy businessman, respectively, while the two female characters were a struggling journalist and a kindergarten teacher. It was never going to be a revolutionary series from the start.

The treatment of women, of course, is the most obvious manner in which How I Met Your Mother is objectionable and it falls to the bottom of the list only because it is so evident.

The series has a major issue, whether it's with Barney and his conquests, the playbook, the hunt for who is destroying Barney's connections, how Ted treats practically everyone yet seems compassionate or even how Robin and Lily are represented.

And how can we forget 'The Hot/Crazy Scale' according to which a girl is allowed to be crazy as long as she is equally hot? It's sexist, offensive and reinforces the stereotype of women as hysterical or mentally ill to keep them in their place.

Similar to how the show tended to be homophobic, it had a severe and more clear problem with shaming people, particularly slut-shaming and fat-shaming.

For e.g. Lily and Robin constantly slut-shaming other women.

P.S. This is NOT how girl besties sound like!

Now obviously you have to take some of it with a grain of salt because it is just a show, but when Barney talks about sleeping with drunk girls and tricking drunk girls into sex, that's where we need to draw the line. If it's not consensual, it's not sex. And also if it's not consensual, it's not funny.

When Barney says, "I'm pretty sure I once sold a woman, I didn't speak the language, but I shook a guy's hand, he gave me the keys to a Mercedes, and I left her there." It just gets glossed over like that's OK. It's a comedy and most things Barney says I can look past, but that one always gets me.

As much as we might love to watch '90s TV reruns of these shows and others, it's still hard to overlook these moments of misogyny because they echo some troubling trends that have since been exposed and explored in the decades that followed.

By pointing out these problematic instances of otherwise beloved shows, it might help ensure that the modern landscape of shows doesn't leave future generations of nostalgic binge-watchers cringing as well. 

KENISHA ASWAL

Delhi North '24

An Economics Major from Hindu College, DU. Captivated from life, showing it here.
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