WARNING: STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS RANT ALERT!!!!!
As a boy and adolescent in the US with two working parents I consumed a fair deal of television growing up. And now that I am in my late 20′s I observe what passes for entertainment in my country and find myself disgusted that my gender, as represented on the screen, has completely abdicated the position of respect. But in this case does “art imitate life”? Or does “life imitate art”?
In your country it may be different, but watch 5 minutes of nearly any program in the United States and you will see what I mean. Men, and it is typically the leading man or an important support character (or both) are complete fools! They are weak minded, over-sized babies who are barely competent to hold down the floor, much less a job. (And for all of you ladies who believe “Well men ARE over-sized babies” you are part of the problem). In programs like these the family or the household is typically held together by the smart, savvy, and sexy full-time employed wife and mother who swoops in in the last 7 minutes of the program to save the day from her man-child husband’s shenanigans with JUST enough time left over for the husband to realize that his wife really is “always right”.
So this is what the world expects of my gender? Am I supposed to expect my wife to change my future-child’s diapers AND my own? Worse yet, will my some-day-daughter grow up to believe that the majority of eligible men are a reflection of Doug Heffernan from “King of Queens”; and my some-day-son learn that the world expects so little of him that all he need do to beat the curve is to not dribble food on his clothing while he eats?
Now, having had this conversation with my female friends the common response is usually “So? This is how TV treated women for decades. You’d rather TV treat the genders like it used to?”
No. The way women used to be commonly portrayed in television was just as wrong and I’d hold the same stance if every woman were portrayed to have the same level of competence as Lucy & Ethel – all due respect.
I get it though, every joke has a victim: Blondes, Mexicans, Jews, Asians, Blacks, Men, Women, etc. But after so many years of repeated themes in prime time television there was a saturation point where I had, in part, concluded that what we see is the end result of a combination of our cultural acceptance of the denigration of my gender, along with the fact that males are apparently last bastion that writers may systemically insult at and not be sued or loose sponsors due to public outcry of sexism.
(Personally, I am inclined to believe it is also simply lazy writing. What writer can’t create a by-the-numbers concept about an inept man who’s wife/girlfriend/mother repeatedly bails him out?)
“Big Deal”, I’ve heard. “Just don’t watch TV. Or pick the right shows. Not every show is like that. And after all, no one believes what they see on ‘The King of Queens’ or ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’” is what it’s like in real life.
I beg to differ.
There is an adage that goes “Tell a lie enough times and it will become Truth”. Ask a woman or minority in the media industry how big of a win it is to have one of their creed cast as a respectable character. Because of the far reaching nature of television it shows everyone outside of that group that there is more to them than what they may think. (Frankly, we shouldn’t need “Law and Order” to tell us this, but that’s another topic). Well the opposite holds true, too. So when the endemic message on the most widely watched programs is that men are fat, stupid, unreliable, and lazy then that message begins to pervade opinions in real life and becomes “Truth”.
For example, years ago I announced on my lunch break that I was was getting married. After the initial ‘congrats’ many of my female coworkers joked that my wife is going to have a big job trying “train me right”. And as the news got around similar remarks were made by many more of my female coworkers. All of this despite the fact that, as a man, I have never given any indication that I was in need of domestic education. It was simply the expectation. It was common knowledge. It was “Truth“.
Don’t worry, though, I didn’t come here just to whine. I also came with solutions. It will be tough, though. But that’s OK; “tough” used to be something that people thought characterized my gender anyway.
But first the easy part. Tell TV stations what we think with our remote controls – change the channel (or better yet, turn it off and go train). Don’t give your time to programs that try to teach society that you are stupid or that your wife is also your mother (“Swamp People” excluded).
Now for the hard part, which is three-fold. First we (this means you, fellas) must expect more of ourselves and reject the brainwashing that you are lazy, unreliable, and incompetent. Second, we must live up to this new expectation. This means being fit, healthy, intelligent, and handy. And you’re not alone in this endeavor. There are tons of books and websites that describe what a Man should be like. Find one that suits you. You can start with the Art of Manliness.
And third, here is the big one, guys, fight for the respect of those around you. This means you must oppose false stereotypes. In the end you will be arguing with a lot of women and some men and educating them as to why they are wrong. And this, to the more unfortunate of you, may mean a number of nights on the couch (and on that topic, WHY THE HELL HAVE YOU GIVEN YOUR WIFE THE AUTHORITY TO KICK YOU OUT OF YOUR OWN BED?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!)
And lastly, one word of caution, guys. Don’t swing the pendulum too far the other way. Earning respect doesn’t happen when, in doing so, you’re trying to take it from others. You must lead by example. Ya dig?