The misandry of romance television.

Posted: July 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’ve been faffing around with this particular blog entry for months. Months and months. Every time I sit down to write it I suddenly lose focus on what the main issue is, suddenly seem to forget exactly what it is I’m so pissed about. It’s strange, every time I sit down to watch a film I get a tornado of ideas blasting through my brain, then as soon as I sit down at the PC to write about it my brain is a barren wasteland with not even a piece of tumbleweed to break up the drudgery.

Ok, all (rather shit) poetic metaphors aside, this is one of the hardest blog entries I’ve written, not because the subject matter is dark or controversial or anything, simply because I don’t know how to approach it. I can’t make up my mind if it’s a valid entry to write or if it’s going to come off as little more than incessant whingeing. I don’t know if I want to take a serious tone or a more light-hearted one, unable to decide which tone best fits the content. In short – I don’t even know if this is worth my time to write about.

Then, a few days ago I had a brainwave. There’s an article I first saw about a year ago that links in perfectly with the blog I’ve spent so long trying to figure out. Why haven’t I written about that article sooner? Well, I e-mailed the link to myself (as I often do when I’m at work and can’t favourite it) and then promptly forgot about it. Every time I remembered I couldn’t muster up the energy to search through months of emails to find it. When I email myself links I don’t title the emails, for no reason other than it’s quicker, so I couldn’t even search for it. It never crossed my mind to simply go to Google and search for it. I know, I’m a twat.

Then, another brainwave. I realised I’d waited so long to actually start this blog entry that it would quite nicely tie into two other blog entries I’d been planning to write. I know, talk about buses!

This could easily become a complete whinge-fest so I will explicitly state right now that this entry is simply to highlight. It is not meant to be taken as me thinking all television is evil or anything like that, it’s simply a way for me to highlight some of the things I find wrong with modern television. That doesn’t make them inherently bad, it’s just a different perspective to how we watch television.

So what exactly is this blog about, the one that’s been causing me so many headaches over the last few months? Well, it all starts with this:

http://www.theonion.com/article/woman-takes-short-half-hour-break-from-being-femin-35026

I’m well aware that this has been published on The Onion, a well-known satire site. However, the fact is that this is actually pretty accurate in terms of how feminists view modern television programmes so I’m going to use it as a starting point, I’m not going to analyse the actual article.

I’ll admit right now that I don’t intend this particular blog entry to be a steadfast denial of any of the points raised in the above article. I’ve no doubt they’re valid points, they’re just one on a spectrum of ideas and opinions that can be furthered by using television as a starting point.

It’s funny because I’ve seen feminists applaud this article as a bastion of feminism, as an example of how even one half an hour programme furthers the damaging stereotypes of women on television. Again, it’s not my intention to dispute that. I’m not a woman and I have no real idea of the impact television has on a woman’s self-esteem. I do have an idea of what impact television has on a man’s self-esteem though. Mine specifically.

I do find it a curious choice of programme though. Again, I know this is satire, but ‘Say yes to the dress’ is quite obviously low-brow entertainment designed for us to laugh at the women on it, a way of us going ‘haha, look at the degenerates on television, I’m glad I don’t allow myself to stoop to that level of degradation, what with me being morally superior and cultured and all that.” It’s not rocket science that this TV show is going to be full of archetypes and car-crash moments to make people laugh.

If you’re really going to use Say yes to the dress as an example of how TV is damaging to women then I will also pick a deliberately outlandish TV show that denigrates and humiliates all males – Tool Academy. Tool Academy is a TV show in which ‘tools’ are ‘taught’ how to be ‘good boyfriends’. Yeah, sounds horrendous. And before everyone starts complaining, I know that series 3 involved women, but the first 2 series were solely focusing on men and just how shit they were. It’s easy to be offended if you pick the right show.

What I do want to use this blog to highlight is the wider issues of how masculinity is represented on television. It’s hardly a secret that men occupy pretty much the entire spectrum of idiocy when it comes to how they are portrayed on TV. I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel, just add my own perspective and share some of the effects that people don’t realise these TV shows have.

I’m well aware that there are heroic, positive male characters on TV. This blog is not to try and gloss over that, or try to deny their existence. It’s simply a counter to the idea that those are the only portrayals of men on television. For every brave, heroic male character on television there are 10 absolute morons, incapable of looking after themselves. These monolithic cavemen often rely on women to sort their lives out for them and, when no women are available, simply bumble through life with no real purpose or lasting achievement.

That doesn’t mean these characters aren’t likeable or well regarded, it just means that the spectrum of male characters is by no means always heroic. There are any number of idiotic but loveable characters. The point is that, no matter how likeable, they still occupy that spectrum of idiocy.

What I want to do is, initially, pick the TV programmes and films that aren’t big hitters. By that, I mean I’m picking programmes that aren’t huge ratings winners or generally lauded by critics and audiences, at least for the most part. So, in essence, that means I’m going to skip over things like 2 And A Half Men, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens and Rules of Engagement. It’s not because I don’t think those shows are worthy of focus, just that the one-dimensional characters on those shows have largely been recognised and, perhaps more importantly, I personally haven’t watched a great deal aside from Friends and 2 and a half men. Maybe I’ll touch on them later on but, for now, I want to stick to the less popular stuff.

Why am I sticking with the less popular shows, what impact could that possibly have? Well, the point is simple; these TV shows are neither huge ratings winners nor massive critical successes which simply illustrates the point that these one-dimensional portrayals permeate all aspects of television, not just the big hitters. In my opinion, as I’ll discuss here, that makes them possibly more damaging than the more successful shows. Yeah, they won’t be seen by as many people, but the stereotypes and one dimensional characters are presented as the norm and not challenged by anyone.

I’m talking about shows like Brotherhood, a new comedy made by Comedy Central. There are 3 main male characters, all brothers, that live together and get up to all sorts of hijinks. Can you guess how all three are presented? Yep, none of them are particularly positive, they occupy a very limited scale of development:

Jamie – he’s the teenager and is mute. Before the series starts it’s been 6 months since he’s spoken in response to his mother’s death. He puts up with the utter banality of his two brothers and is seen as kind of a nothing character, only there as a pawn to help accentuate the stupidity of his two brothers.

Toby – the utter moron of the three, obsessed with parties and women. Doesn’t have a job, is a slacker who expects everyone else to clean up his messes. Is obsessed with telling Dan to ‘lighten up’ while not displaying any sense of responsibility at all. Has a one night stand with Jamie’s teacher and then pines after her.

Dan – Nerdy, clean freak, awkward older brother. Rubbish with women and often tries, unsuccessfully, to stand up to Toby. Is seen as a party pooper and general thorn in everyone’s side.

That’s not to say they aren’t likeable, Dan is actually quite witty and will reply to Toby with sarcasm and thinly hidden frustration. But that’s the 3 main (and only) male characters in this one sitcom. The whole programme is about Toby and Dan’s efforts to look after Jamie now their mum has died. They are shown to be virtually unable to look after themselves, let alone a 14 year old boy. They eat baked beans, play video games all day and live in a messy flat. Even at work Dan is constantly upstaged and belittled by his boss.

In one episode, Dan’s boss moves in with them for a few days. The quickest way to get rid of her? Toby tells her Dan’s in love with her. Her response is to leave immediately, because nothing can be quite as repulsive as this particular man being in love with you.

Again, that’s not to say they aren’t likeable, or that the female characters don’t occupy some place on the stereotype line. The point is that we are always being told about how nice it is to see shows like Girls that finally show female characters in a different light, a non-stereotyped, more realistic light. That makes it sound like men are these perfect specimens – they aren’t, they occupy a very thin wedge of character development for the most part. One well developed male character does not make up for the plethora of absolute morons.

One interesting thing to note about the feminist argument on stereotypes is that these women seem unable to be seen as ‘whole’ without a man in their lives. They’re seen as ‘tools’ to further the male characters’ development, a pawn in the game of ‘who’s the most masculine’.

What they don’t realise is that a huge portion of male characters are shown to be utterly worthless when women are absent. If they aren’t worthless without women then they are utterly inept at getting women. Men are either idiots who need their wives to guide them through life, idiots who make mistakes and need their wives to explain to them why what they did was bad, socially inept weirdos who only get women because of some sort of social pity or creepy sleazeballs who don’t get women because they’re presented as borderline sex offenders.

Let’s take Mike and Molly. Melissa McCarthy is being lauded as an actor who is breaking down boundaries not just for female actors but for overweight actors too. It’s a shame she got her big break on a sitcom that treats men so badly. Her husband is an overweight policeman, a beer guzzling, overeating caveman stereotype who is constantly messing up and needs to be ‘educated’ on how to be a better husband. His partner, Carl, is a borderline sex pest whose ideas of romance are stuck firmly in the cave he so obviously crawled out of. Their friend who owns a small café (I’m not sure what Americans would call it) is an overly sarcastic foreigner who constantly wonders why he’s friends with them.

What about See Dad Run, a comedy about an actor who gives up work to look after the kids so his wife can go back to work. Seems noble, right? You’d think, that is until it’s revealed he’s a completely inept father figure who fails at the most basic tasks and has to grovel and apologise to Mrs. Wonderful before she’ll treat him like a human again!

As I’ve said, I’m ignoring the female characters for the simple reason that this blog entry isn’t about them, it’s about the men. So please understand, I’m not dismissing stereotyped portrayals of women, just sidelining them for this blog.

But I want to move away from Television programmes and focus on television films. Before that, though, I want to present the misandry of Hollywood. I’ve written a couple of blogs on how some of the major releases by Marvel are ‘not feminist films’ due to the treatment of female characters. Well, as a response to that, here’s a major motion picture trailer that contains that one, sex-obsessed, borderline creepy ‘comedy relief’ character who is unable to function in a socially acceptable way when around women:

https://www.facebook.com/antman/videos/1183473531679785/

Yeah, it’s only one example, but I’m pretty sure I could find more if I was that obsessed. As it stands I think the MCU is, for the most part, thoroughly entertaining, so I’m willing to let it slide. For now.

It’s a funny thing, originally I was going to title this blog entry ‘the misandry of Hallmark’ and focus on Hallmark films that further stupid and unoriginal stereotypes of male characters. However, I thought that title was quite limiting and, to a certain degree, unfair. That’s not because I really love Hallmark or anything, more because it would be unfair to single them out when it’s pretty much all romantic films that contain these stereotypes and one dimensional portrayals. To single out Hallmark would be untrue and would narrow the focus too much.

The truth is, while Hallmark does churn out the type of romanticised dross that I want to criticise, they are by no means the only ones who do.

There’s a TV channel over here in England called Movies 24. Around November time they rebrand themselves as Christmas 24 and only show Christmas themed films. These Christmas films are, for the most part, romantic dramas. The other 10 months of the year there’s a selection of action, drama, romance and comedy films. I only tend to watch the romantic films. There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. They are pretty easy to watch and are often more enjoyable than the big Hollywood rom coms.
  2. I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

As I’ve watched these films over the last couple of years I’ve come to the conclusion that the male characters are, to be blunt, fucking pathetic. Absolute morons who are only redeemed once the female characters get their hands on them. Stupid, unaware, arrogant, egotistical, idiotic, cowardly, commitment-phobic and generally all round losers who suck at life until they are reshaped into something more socially acceptable.

On the flipside, there’s the unattainable ideal, the perfect man who is presented in equally ridiculous ways. Both of them occupy opposite ends of the stereotype spectrum. There’s no room for the ‘real’ man, they are cast aside in order to portray either perfection of downright idiocy.

I have a rather large list of Christmas and non-Christmas films that treat men badly. I don’t want to go through the list one by one, so I’ll simply focus on the worst hitters and explain why I think they are so damaging.

Again, I should point out that, for the most part, I do enjoy these films. There is a certain charm about them and they do have happy endings so I’m not completely against watching them. I’m just bored of seeing the numerous articles about how sexist television and film is towards women when a cursory glance at these types of films show that the men are hardly presented that much better.

It’s also worth pointing out that these films, romantic comedies that, probably, present ‘problematic’ ideals of heteronormativity and all that bollocks, are predominantly aimed at and consumed by women. So when it comes to damaging portrayals of men it’s actually women who are the equally as affected. It’s women who internalise these negative portrayals and then apply them to the real world. It’s women who internalise the overly, and unrealistic, positive portrayals of men and apply that to the real world. It’s women who internalise these portrayals and then moan like fuck because their men either, on the negative side, behave just like the slovenly morons in these films or, on the positive side, don’t match up to the idealistic and overly brilliant Prince Charming figures.

So, shall we start?

Another Christmas Kiss – sequel to A Christmas Kiss (which had its own rather shitty portrayal of its only main male character). There are 4 male characters who could be considered ‘main’ characters and they are all morons. There’s the best friend, who is clueless when it comes to women and cannot sort out his own love life. Then there’s the father: spineless fuckwit who constantly disappoints his daughter because he cannot stand up to his new wife and family. Then there’s Cooper, the main character who is a degenerate playboy whose eyes are constantly wandering and who is always looking for the next big thrill. That is until he meets the main female character, Jenna, whose desire not to get her heart broken, again, and whose desire to avoid being another ‘notch’ on Cooper’s bedpost means she’s unwilling to trust him.

How does this all end? In a lovely full-circle moment when, buoyed by the very idea of being with Jenna, Cooper manages to convince her Dad to make amends with his daughter. Also, the flatmate finally takes the advice of Jenna and stops being a coward, calling his ex-girlfriend and finally admitting he needs to be with her.

See, without the intervention of a woman the three male characters are fucking clueless. They go around hurting the people they love simply because they’re too Neolithic to actually know any better. It’s only once Jenna starts to ‘teach’ Cooper how to be a better man that everything else falls into place.

What about the 4th man? Well, he’s actually pretty cool and has some nice lines. So why my beef with him? Well, he works in fashion, is foreign and comes across as quite camp. We are led to believe through most of the film that he’s probably gay, yet the surprise comes at the end when it’s revealed that he’s in a loving relationship. Yeah, the only way this film can present a positive male character is by leading the audience to assume he’s gay. That way, people are more likely to believe he’s genuine, because, for some reason, hetero men are just untrustworthy douchebags.

Nine Lives of Christmas – I actually really like this one and there are numerous positive examples of male characters overall, but they still all fall onto the stereotype scope. The main character is a firefighter (I forget his name), a ‘lone wolf’ who dates an endless stream of beautiful women and isn’t one to settle down. The other firefighters are presented quite well, though they still, to a man, have trouble breaking through the ‘jealous of all the women the main character gets’ trope. In the end, the main character meets a gorgeous young woman and has to make the terrible decision to stop womanising and admit he feels like this girl could be the one. Of course, that doesn’t happen because men are fucking idiots. He nearly ruins the whole thing, preferring to close down and not admit his feelings to himself because it might just mean admitting he’s in love. He manages to make amends with a grand gesture to the love of his life, begging her to take him back and be with him forever. Yeah, it’s the love of a good woman that makes him realise his life is unfulfilling and not what he wants. His stream of girlfriends is shown to be a negative thing. Isn’t that what we call slut-shaming?

Finding Christmas – a story about a Christmas house swap (almost like a cheap version of The Holiday) where the two male characters are presented as complete opposites. There’s the ‘musician’ type, a bit of a layabout, not into settling down, waiting for his music career to take off, wants to ‘live life’ and all that guff; then there’s the overly studious, ‘I have everything planned out for the next 10 years’ type guy. He wants to propose to his girlfriend but she says no, simply because she’s sick to death of his lack of fun. They both end up falling for women once undergoing their house swap. The ‘muso’ type even gets lectured on ‘you don’t deserve a woman’s time’ or some such bullshit. Seriously, I can’t even bring myself to re-watch that scene even for this blog? Why? Well, for the simple reason that the ‘you deserve a proper man’ line is spoken to female characters in nearly every single one of these films.

The main point of contention is the ending to the business man’s story. His girlfriend comes back into the story, admitting she’s realised her mistake (you know, because now he’s not a boring bastard anymore she suddenly changes her mind) and wants to be with him. Of course, his new girlfriend doesn’t like this and makes a really big scene about how he hurt her and all that overly emotional bollocks. I don’t suppose it’s a bad storyline, just that, not 5 minutes before this happens his new girlfriend reveals she’s got a young son. Yeah, he’s supposed to just accept that she lied to him, but she’s allowed to get all upset that his lie, despite not being anywhere near as severe, is the more damaging. Fuck off.

Bride By Christmas – ah, possible the most misogynistic of all the Christmas films I’ve watched. In this one, two friends literally bet each other that one of them can make a girl fall in love and marry him before Christmas. Yeah, it immediately sets up these two main male characters as absolute cunts. They see women as trophies to be won, prizes to be gained at the end of each challenge. They have no qualms about the fact this particular bout of Christmas merriment is bordering on emotional abuse. The premise is simple – make a woman fall in love with you, by any means necessary, and get her to marry you before Christmas. If he loses? He has to trade his cosy office for a cubicle next to a male colleague. A male colleague, by the way, who is another muppety cunt. Yeah, toying with a woman’s emotions for a fucking spot in the office.

So how does this film go about redeeming this utterly loathsome cunt? Yep, with the love of a good woman. Over the course of the film he realises what an utter moron he is, he tries to break off the deal and he finally admits that he loves this woman, eventually proposing, for real, at her house on Christmas Day. See, all he needed was to fall in love with a woman and his life up to that point would be revealed for the sham that it is.

Oh yeah, there’s also the ridiculously needy ex-fiancé who won’t just fuck off, but I’m not going to get into that.

Moving away from Christmas films now, I want to highlight just two of the worst romantic comedy films I’ve seen in the last couple of years:

Nearlyweds – A bubbly comedy about three close friends who, due to an admin error, find out their marriages were not finalised. Cue 80 minutes of men being portrayed as idiotic, clueless, snivelling, arrogant, out-of-touch, controlling morons. Constantly making mistakes, constantly ignoring their girlfriend’s needs, constantly doing the wrong thing, constantly saying the wrong thing, being spineless, cowardly, juvenile morons.

In one scene towards the end, one of the boyfriends comes grovelling to speak to his girlfriend, begging to be taken back, only to be intercepted by the two best friends. What does he do? He begs them to help him, to tell him what he’s done so wrong, because he’s so fucking clueless that he can’t simply figure it out himself. He’s such a caveman that he’s unable to figure out why his girlfriend is angry at him and needs the help of three oh-so-intelligent women to give him the tips required to convince his girl that he is actually capable of being a fully functional human being.

I detest this film for numerous reasons, but there’s one line that very nearly made me switch it off. In the aforementioned scene where said stupid boyfriend appeals to the best friends, the conversation somehow moves on to dogs, at which point one of the best friends says “and speaking of dogs…” and turns to look at the boyfriend, a gleeful hint of malice in her eye. Yep, call a woman a dog in a film and you can guarantee the world loses its collective mind, call a man a dog in a film and, well, he’s a pathetic fucking manchild so probably deserves it for being so clueless.

 

Her Minor Thing – without doubt the absolute worst film I’ve ever seen. Absolutely dripping with misandry, it’s about a news reporter who, on live TV, accidentally reveals his girlfriend is a virgin. Cue 80 minutes of the worst portrayal of men I think can ever have been committed to celluloid. The woman is actually portrayed really well, she owns her virginity and doesn’t let anyone shame her for her choices. She comes out of this in a very positive place.

The men, on the other hand, Christ do the men get shafted! There is not one positive portrayal of a male character, not a single goddamn one. Every single last male character turns into a drooling, pathetic, shambles of a man whose only desire is to be ‘the one’ to take her virginity. Every single goddam one of them. The boyfriend, the one who accidentally let the secret slip, becomes an utter moron, refusing to believe he did anything wrong and somehow failing to do anything right over the course of the rest of the film.

The best friend of said male character is also some uppity cunt who dispenses bad advice and is generally an all-round despicable human being. What’s his comeuppance? He gets beaten up by the lesbian friend of the main female character. It’s not shown on screen but the entire bar they’re in thinks it’s fucking hilarious. Why wouldn’t they? I mean, it’s only a man and he was being an utter cunt so he probably deserved it, right?

Not only do the visible male characters get slammed, the invisible male characters get slammed too. Once her ‘minor thing’ gets revealed, it becomes a big news item, leading numerous other women to phone in with their tales of contemptible men. Not a single goddamn positive portrayal of men.

Even the goddamn hero doesn’t get away from this fucking wreck of a film. Even the man our heroine ends up with holds a secret that ends up nearly destroying their budding relationship, leading him to make a grand gesture to win her trust back, because, as a man, it’s just so predictable that he’d be a disappointment.

What becomes of our intrepid news reporter who accidentally reveals this news? I can’t remember exactly, but I do remember it being suitably humiliating. I honestly can’t even muster up the energy to go back and watch it just to double check. Let’s just be sure of one thing, he deserves everything he gets, because he’s a man who’s behaved like a cunt throughout most of the film.

Look, I’m not trying to say that men are always portrayed badly, or that these films should be boycotted. I’m just saying that, for all the moaning we get these days about unrealistic portrayals of women, there are numerous instances of men being portrayed equally as poorly, especially on Television. I’m not saying women don’t get portrayed badly, or that there aren’t damaging stereotypes that get peddled by films. I’m simply saying that we need to stop pretending this is a thing that only affects women.

You might try and argue that the films I mentioned are nothing worth worrying about, that it’s Hollywood that we should be worried about. Well, if I wanted to I could go through some Hollywood blockbusters and give you examples of stereotyped and one dimensional characters. This is not a gendered issue, this is simply an issue of scriptwriters following story arcs that have been established for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

I’m picking on these slightly less high profile films because they are the mindless drivel you find on Channel 5 in the afternoon, the kind of stuff that, predominantly, women watch to while away the hours with tales of romance and love. I’m not having a go at women, if they want to watch them then that’s cool. Like I say, there are also films of this type that I thoroughly enjoy. I enjoyed Nine Lives of Christmas, it became one of my favourite films of last Christmas. All I’m doing is saying that, even in these enjoyable and less obvious portrayals, the stereotypes and one dimensional characters still exist.

What we don’t get in these instances are articles by progressives, liberals, feminists and SJWs decrying the lack of progress when it comes to fictional portrayals of men. There’s an article I read recently that rips apart Toy Story 3 (yeah, fucking Toy Story 3) because it doesn’t do enough to progress the development of female roles in films. Toy Story 3 is damaging because reasons.

Well, if Toy Story 3 is damaging (and I may well write an article about that article) then all of the above films are damaging. If Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy are not feminist films because of the portrayal of a small selection of female characters then all the above films are falling short in their portrayal of male characters.

As I’ve said before, if you go looking for misogyny you’ll find it; if you go looking for misandry you’ll find it. There are some films where misogyny and misandry are more pronounced. Those are the films to go after, not every single goddam film that just happens to have a woman say something you don’t think is very progressive or doesn’t fit your own personal ideals.

I like romantic comedies. I don’t have anything in my life even remotely resembling a romance at the moment so I like to lose myself in these films. As I’ve said, they’re easy to watch and generally have a happy ending. I’m fully aware that these films are chock full of stereotypes, that’s the way storytelling has been for a very, very long time. What I don’t like is when I’m expected to sit through a film where my sex is shown to be utterly incapable of functioning as a rational human being without the help of a woman. I don’t like sitting through a film where male characters are shown to be sex-mad, one-track-minded, mind-numbingly idiotic simpletons. I don’t like sitting through these types of films yet only ever reading articles that complain about the way the female characters are treated. It gets extremely boring.

In fact, it gets to the point that, rather than making me feel like you’ve got a point, you come across like a whinging fucking cunt who is upset because something didn’t go exactly the way you wanted it.

I could go on for days about the misandry of television, about the way male characters occupy such a small portion of the scale of character development only to be told that, actually, male characters are always the hero. I could but I won’t. Why? Because I think I’ve rambled on long enough for one entry.

I will leave you with one final thought, though: next time you watch television, or a film, and think ‘wow that’s a bit sexist/stereotypical/one dimensional towards women’ just have a look at the male characters and see if you think they are portrayed any better. You might just be surprised.

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