The Left

The Castrating Television

Steve Carell
Steve Carell
Born August 16, 1962, Steven John Carell was nominated as "America's funniest man" in Life magazine, and received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Comedy Series for playing the lead role of Michael Scott for The Office in 2006. | Photo: Martin Schoeller | Link | Steve Carell, The Office, Comedy, Television, Actor, Bee, Wasp, Sting, Face, Boil, Pain,

No strong men on TV? Oh, please.

I'm constantly amazed how some bullsh*t arguments just refuse to die.

To give one example, I've read articles since the 1980s claiming that broadcast television is a vast, anti-male conspiracy. There are no strong, positive male role models on TV like the shows of old. Instead, we have buffoons on sitcoms and stupid males in commercials. One recent article (which is what prompted this article) said that women are incredibly privileged because a woman can 'see yourself represented in a positive way' on TV whereas men are shown as 'ugly lazy slobs.'

Other articles of this sort sometimes claim this is all the work of feminists, who apparently rule the media with an iron fist. Because of their overwhelming hatred of men, they force the networks to make all the cool, heroic characters women and make all the men look stupid.

Like I said, it's amazing this argument survive,s given that five seconds with TV Guide would prove it's nonsense. I don't watch that much TV but I still see plenty of strong positive men on Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, Beware the Batman (why, yes, I do read comic books, why do you ask?), Person of Interest, Tomorrow People and Bones. TV I don't watch that gives us positive male figures includes Castle (most women I know do not consider Nathan Filion ugly), the various NCIS series, Grimm and Hawaii 5-0. And that's not a complete list.

As for the idea of a secret femi-Nazi cabal pulling the strings, I'll take that seriously when the No Positive Male Images conspiracy theorists explain how the cabal went back in time to write those male buffoons into The Honeymooners, Gilligan's Island and I Love Lucy. Or for that matter, back even further in time to write Pantaloon, Harlequin and other comedic, foolish men into the Italian commedia dell'arte of past centuries.

Joe Manganiello
Joe Manganiello

Joseph Michael Joe Manganiello, born December 28, 1976) is a classically trained American film and theatre actor. He holds a BFA in acting from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. | Photo: HBO |
It's one thing to criticize a male portrayal as a negative or harmful image, it's another thing altogether to claim TV offers no positive male characters. This falls into the same category as 'the only people we're still allowed to make fun of'' arguments, in which someone insists their subgroup (Italians, straight men, Southerners, fat people) is literally the only group that it's still acceptable to tell jokes about. It's a desire to claim not merely victim status, but a unique victim status, worse than anyone else's suffering

I wonder if No Strong Men doesn't also reflect that for some men, positive portrayal is a zero sum game: If women get to be heroic or strong on TV, somehow men must be losing. Back when Kirsten Stewart's Snow White and the Huntsman came out, for instance, movie critic Michael Calleri said his publisher refused to run a review because movies where a woman is the hero are 'trash, moral garbage' and would injure his sons' 'developing manhood." Apparently the manhood developed by hundreds of male-centric films can easily be castrated if even one woman gets a heroic role.

Likewise, while there were plenty of dumb men on TV in the pre-feminist era, the shows affirmed male status as the head of the house. I Love Lucy took it as a given that Ricky, as the husband, could tell Lucy when to have dinner ready and to have the final say on whether she worked outside the home. Lucy frequently disobeyed, of course, but at least in theory, the man was in charge.

By contrast, moms in modern sitcoms can hold dads to account. It's not just that he's sloppy or screws up, it's that he's an equal partner, not a boss ' why some TV shows even show he's supposed to do household chores! I can't but suspect the screams of outrage are as much or more about male power than male competence.

And it's not as if dumb, sexist portrayals of women or images of them as eye candy have vanished from the screen.

So if you want to claim that men suffer from some unique form of persecution, whether engendered by feminists or not, excuse me while I laugh.

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Updated Apr 22, 2017 5:50 AM EDT | More details

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