The Office is a show about an everyday office and the romances therein. There are a lot of fairly responsible portrayals of verbal violence and references to sexuality, but there are few opportunities to portray rape. But on the rare instance that rape does enter the narrative, The Office whiffs it by playing into tired patriarchal tropes about false rape allegations and making a mockery of male rape victims.
Image: Cartman looks angrily at the camera in front of a tank full of manatees and balls.Both South Park and Family Guy have issues. But which privilege do they insist upon most thoroughly? At what rate do these shows oppress which bodies, and in what way? Which is more offensive? In the next few posts, I'm going to take a quantitative (though inherently subjective, of course) look at exactly how offensive these shows are. I will take five episodes spread over the course of each series and analyze the rate at they make offensive comments or jokes, whether in language, image, or action, and break it down by sexism, racism, classism, ableism, cissexism, sizism, and heterosexism.
The Huffington Post has a piece up today called "TV University: Meet The Faculty". It's a clever idea–a faculty roster for a university comprised entirely of television (and some film) characters teaching courses that play to their fictional strengths. So Dr. Who is the Dean of the Science Department, Stringer Bell teaches Transitional Business Management, and so on. The only problem? Out of 96 faculty members, only four are women–they even have a dude teaching Women's Studies. Come on folks, we can do better! (And I mean this literally.) Which female television characters would you like as your TV University professors?
Television icon (and feminist favorite) Rue McClanahan passed away this morning at the age of 76. She was best known for her role as Blanche Devereaux on the classic sitcom The Golden Girls (though I probably didn't have to tell you that). Blanche was always my very favorite of the four Golden Girls. I loved her Southern wit and charm and her unabashed sexiness (oh, and I thought her flowing pajama robes were the height of glamor).
Though us feminist TV fans will miss Rue something fierce, she leaves behind a legacy that won't be soon forgotten. She was a pioneer when it came to representations of older women on television, never apologizing for her sexuality or her age. Thank you for being a friend, Rue McClanahan!
Ugh. Family Guy. It's a terrible, terrible show in my opinion. I still watch it regularly, out of long-held habit. But it's just. It's lazy, it's aesthetically not pleasing. It's not very funny. And it's offensive on an consistent, regular basis.
But for some reason, folks really like it, and Seth MacFarlane, its creator, seems particularly proud of it. It's currently in the midst of an Emmy campaign, and it is promoting itself by mocking Precious:
As The Office is a show about white people and men primarily; it is also a show about size-privileged people primarily. However, its focus on folks of size privilege is not myopic; of the regular cast, Kevin, Phyllis, and Stanley are all visibly fat. Discrimination against their size is not ignored, but portrayed in a responsible and progressive way. Unlike most primetime shows, these characters are nuanced, three-dimensional players with lives independent of and often counter to stereotypes; their fatness is not erased, but instead a value-neutral part of their life.
Image: Pam Halpert from The Office, in front of her watercolors
The Office is a show that focuses on men–four out the five stars are male. Nonetheless, it's one of my very favorite shows, and I think it has strong, likable, interesting female characters. It's launched the career of Mindy Kaling, who writes for the show and plays the totally hilarious Kelly Kapoor. And it's got Pam Halpert (formerly Pam Beesley), whom I like quite a bit. Over the series, she has grown quite assertive, a admirable quality not usually rewarded in women. But her early independent ambition for art has been abandoned so that her professional identity can be attached to her husband Jim Halpert's.