Show how the characters and dialogue reveal issues of gender in your chosen sitcoms

PS the Frasier episode is called Daphne Does Dinner

And please spell their names right!!!

 

  • Start your essay with some historical overview only a few sentences. UK vs. US, male and female centred, narrative and farce, character and jokes etc.
  • Also if you can quickly summarise how the mise en scene sets the scene for the representation of gender – good! Chloe writes:

‘In MBB Gary has long scruffy hair, is excreted upon by a pigeon and lives in a dirty flat littered with beer cans and other masculine items. This way of appearance, living and happenings means this character conforms to his constructed masculine role of the slob, the typical young bloke. By contrast in Frasier both he and his brother are feminised males because they take pride in their appearance, their flats and know terms like ‘ramekin’ which ordinarily only a chef or perhaps a woman would know!’

  • Objectification! Very important concept as Gary and Tony ‘do it’ (objectify women) all the time but show a total inability to understand its offensiveness to women, hence the discussion about breasts and buttocks, posing for a porn magazine and Tony’s appreciation of porn magazines and the remark ‘what you mean like vases?’ their insensitivity to the needs or even rights of women to their bodies is the source of much humour but sadly representative of so many men in the real world!
  • Gary and Tony are represented as male slobs – they are the ‘lads’, ‘blokes’ from the mid 90s, who know what women expect and don’t see why they should conform to their expectations; they are unreconstructed men: beer drinking, foul mouthed, women ogling, sex obsessed, couch potatoes.
  • Ultimately Tony would rather give up the girl than his magazines.
  • Roseanne is comfortable enough to be able to mock her own female role (to laugh at herself as a mother and wife)
  • Gary and Tony have never grown up – they are childish, competitive, jealous and emotionally inarticulate.
  • Originally broadcast in the mid-90s it is a post-modern sitcom in that after the political correctness of the 80s these characters are a return to the old stereotype of the ‘lad’
  • Frasier’s male pride is hurt but his way of showing it is feminine, hurt feelings, nose in the air, stalk off!
  • It is more masculine to refuse help (Daphne) to want to do it on her own.
  • Daphne and Roz are masculinised and Frasier and Niles are feminised therefore there is a swapping of traditional gender roles; however, Martin Crane is a conventional male stereotype – beer drinking, steak eating and action film watching; the painter Mike Shaw (also traditionally male) cleverly mocks those who keep him rich!
  • It’s all about competitiveness which is male but the context is a dinner party which is a female domain traditionally.
  • In both sit coms the males set themselves up for a fall by being unable not to take up challenge or by a stereotypical inability to be truthful (Gary and university)
  • Ben and the car are important because it reminds him of his youth, just as the anniversary reminds him of life passing him by; sadly at the end he admits he ‘couldn’t fix it then either!’ also men like to lavish time, care and attention on their cars because then other men will admire them but above all they don’t answer back!!
  • Nick – if he can’t get his father’s affection at least he can get his money.
  • Becky and the toad – her reasons for refusal are not the usual feminine ones of squeamishness but principles which is still a feminine trait.
  • There are different gender representations in these programmes:
  • Ben: respected, high status job, father , husband, emotionally illiterate (always after sex but never mentions love / also incapable of showing it this children); childishly jealous of his children; going through a mid-life crisis (the car / Jasmine); stereotypical interests – a garage full of ‘junk’, scrap metal, car parts; failure at home – poss also at work; realist; sex obsessed; cowardly (cowers in corner when Nick threatens him with the chain saw); uses flattery to deflect his wife’s anger; the butt of the humour; set up to fail and be humiliated each episode (Todorov’s circularity of narrative and repeated motifs). This is the whole point of Ben being portrayed as sensible and respected, a role model so that he can be undermined, sit-com being the only genre in which this is permissible!
  • Susan: mother, nurturer (though a terrible cook); wants kids at home; job unimportant; usually at home; manipulative; nagging, bossy, uses threats and blackmail; emotional; childish need to be right ‘I told you it wouldn’t work’ and to win; pessimistic, she knew Dorset wouldn’t happen; romantic but realistic.
  • Abi: ditzy, blonde, naïve, childish, manipulative – Mikey and the teddy bear and bra! Thinks she’s clever but isn’t really very bright – lighting the candles in the garage! Hopeless romantic, optimist, generous, open; emotional.
  • Nick’s desperate quest for a demonstration of affection from his father lead his character to subvert the usual masculine representation of the emotional illiterate.
  • Frasier and Niles by contrast being psychiatrists also subvert the usual expectations that males can’t express their feelings since this is what they do in their jobs all day.
  • Dan conforms to the stereotype of the working class American male.
  • He’s the boss in his household even if Roseanne does get her own way, US sitcoms don’t allow their men to be undermined; this reflects the US ideology and values that families are at the heart of American life and thus sitcoms perpetuate the expectations of love and the bonds of family life. Not until Malcolm in the Middle came along did we really see a dysfunctional family yet even here, though zany, this is a very close knit family.
  • Sitcoms main fuel is the battle of the sexes – in My Family this is epitomised by their anniversary which Susan sees as an occasion to be celebrated, while Ben sees it as one step nearer the grave!
  • Dorothy and Debs are constructed as caring and maternal, the opposite of their men.
  • Deb’s ‘no’ to Gary about his coming to her dinner party is only after she has tried to let him down gently and he’s refused to take the hint, ‘I could bring my own chair?’
  • Frasier is an example of the buffoon type of character – pompous and arrogant. He is constantly set up to be ‘taken down’. The narrative of each episode always ends up humiliating Frasier, exposing his snobbery and failings and prejudices; in this way subverting the traditional American male stereotype.

 

Useful phrases:

Subverting his masculinity or the traditional view of masculinity

Conforming to the stereotypical view of the mother figure as nurturing and caring

 

Many sitcoms portray children as manipulating their parents – Nick does this in his offer to let his father work on his car in return for him being nice to him! This kind of affection seeking is more often seen as a female characteristic here, though, we are shown the vulnerable , insecure side of Mick which is not often seen in males, thus subverting the traditional view of males. His good humour and slight ‘denseness’ is endearing and prevents his neediness becoming cloying or nauseating!

 

Each of the teenage children in the programme are shown as greedy, selfish and manipulative, and consistently work on the premise that their dad’s only way of showing them affection is by ‘buying them off’, thus Ben is an ‘easy mark.’

The car is a metaphor for their marriage ‘up on blocks and going nowhere!’

 

  • Both programmes use humour in the representations of the characters – Susan’s sarcasm to undermine Ben’s masculinity, ‘oil on your collar’ and ‘you can’t park there!’ and Roseanne’s gentle ‘digging’ at her husband’s lack of romance to undermine his.
  • These two females also represent very different ideas of womanhood; Susan is cool and rebuffs Ben’s advances while Roseanne is portrayed as more of an ‘earth-mother’ type, sexier and earthier, despite her lack of obvious glamour, attractiveness and sophistication.

 


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