Undead sexist clichés part three: Feminists castrated our television!

(Part two here, if you’re wondering). I don’t actually have anything to link to because I haven’t seen this particular myth lately. However, it’s been popping up since at least the early 1980s and I last saw it two years ago (a column by men’s rights advocate Marty Nemko, a man who blames feminist cabals in publishing for his groundbreaking book not getting published), so I’m quite sure we’ll see it again.
The gist of this cliché is that back in the Golden Age, TV featured men who were Real Men. Strong, wise fathers, two-fisted, courageous heroes, you know the type. Today, thanks to the feminist stranglehold on the liberal media, what do we get? Tough dominant females backed up by ineffectual male sidekicks. And the fathers are a feminist fantasy, incompetent boobs whose wives have to solve all the problems.
This one is so dumb, it feels almost ridiculous to point out how full of crap it is. No strong male heroes? Okay, if you eliminate Castle, the CSI and Law and Order franchies, The Cape, The Event, Bones (as Booth, David Boreanaz isn’t the guy in charge, but who wouldn’t want to have Booth get your back?), the new Young Justice cartoon—well, do I need to go on?
As for the feminist conspiracy forcing sitcoms to write the fathers as boobs, have the people pushing this bilge ever heard of Ralph Kramden? Ricky Ricardo? The Life of Riley? Gilligan’s Island? Did feminists travel back in time and make all those guys buffoons too?
Setting aside the paranoid delusion of feminist media control (Susan Faludi’s The Terror Myth, which I’m in the middle of, shows in passing how non-existent that is), aren’t shows like According to Jim or My Wife and Kids more a male fantasy than a feminist one? A family dynamic in which an average looking guy has a beautiful wife, blows off or screws up his responsibilities and gets forgiven anyway? Yeah, that’s what every feminist dreams of.
(I suspect it also has a lot to do that like Lucille Ball, Damon Wayans and Jim Belushi are comedians. It shouldn’t be that surprising they get cast as funny guys and not sensible family heads).
While I suppose this may just be propaganda (feminism=evil!) or stupidity, I also wonder if some of the advocates of this cliché aren’t using it to hide some deep hostility to women, or at least women who depart from 1950s “traditional” gender roles.
Take Castle. Nathan Filion’s mystery novelist is unquestionably a strong male lead, a good father, a successful professional, plus he’s the best detective on the show. But his female partner Beckett is competent, strong-minded, a homicide detective—a traditional male job—who never defers to Castle just because he’s the guy.
For someone who believes a woman’s place is in the home, that must burn like battery acid. Let alone a show such as Bones, where the female scientist is the star and team leader.
Or look at those oh-so-male-bashing sitcoms. Ricky Ricardo and Ralph Kramden may have been idiots, but they were unquestionably the man of the house, the authority figure (even if their women subverted them on a weekly basis). Perhaps the horror isn’t that the men are inept, but that the marriage is, compared to TV 50 years ago, fairly egalitarian (at least based on my occasional viewing—and let me emphasize the “compared to” in that statement).
For other viewers who aren’t hard-core sexists, it may still be unsettling to see the TV sex roles people my age grew up with challenged by having so many competent, professional women on so many shows. Women doctors. Women cops. Women who have some purpose in life other than to gush and reassure the hero (and by extension, whoever fantasizes about being the hero) how awesome he is. I remember one SF fan who complained bitterly about Voyager having a female captain—how were men supposed to enjoy the fantasy of space adventure if they couldn’t identify with the captain?
The possibility women might want a hero to identify with, or that having heroic women on TV doesn’t somehow degrade men, apparently doesn’t occur to them.


Filed under Movies, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

16 responses to “Undead sexist clichés part three: Feminists castrated our television!

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