Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This just in: Men are not the new women (by Suzie)

"Men are the new women" has been making the rounds for a few years. It captures the fear that women are ascending while men are losing ground, and that women will treat men the way men have treated women. New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley uses the phrase in describing two new sitcoms:
"Man Up!” is about Judd Apatow-ish men who are treated as children. “Last Man Standing” is a little less humble and more of a backlash against all the man bashing. ... Like so many other men on television these days, the put-upon heroes of “Man Up!” and “Last Man Standing” are victims of a changed economy and a new social order in which men are the new women.

Men have always been the butt of sitcom jokes, but in the days when they really did dominate the weaker sex, they were mocked more for their manliness than their metrosexuality. Husbands like Ralph Kramden and Ricky Ricardo were bossy despots who never quite understood that their wives were really running the show sub rosa. Even henpecked husbands on shows like “According to Jim” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” erred by being blunderingly male: Jim paid his sister-in-law to pick out jewelry he could give his wife; Raymond erased the wedding tape by recording a football game over it.

Nowadays men get on their wives’ and girlfriends’ nerves by not being manly enough. ... [T]here is a faint whiff of hostility mixed in with some of the laughter.
A little hostility? You don't say!

Matt Roush of TVGuide says: "... 'Last Man Standing,' and its companion piece, the abrasive buddy comedy 'Man Up,' are rather single-mindedly obsessed with the notion that manhood is an endangered species."

Men predominate as producers, directors and writers in television. What is their motive to belittle men? Perhaps they are expressing their own anxiety of what it means to be a man these days. They may be catering to the predominantly female audience. When they have male comedians, it makes sense to pair them with a straight woman to set up the jokes. In the older sitcoms that Stanley mentions and the two most recent ones, the message is that women are really more powerful than men. That's a conservative argument against feminism. It's also conservative to laugh at men who "act like women."

This isn't a new social order. This is a backlash.