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CBS’s Recipe for Success in “FWBL”?: Sexism + Sexy Stars

May 16, 2014

After getting back from a long camping trip with my students, I decided to catch up on lots of television, including CBS’s Friends with Better Lives. I had so much hope for this show because a) I’m looking for a sitcom to replace How I Met Your Mother in my life and b) I am a sci-fi nerd who loved the show Roswell growing up and was so excited to see that Majandra Delfino is on the show! 

However, after binging on five episodes, it appears that FWBL relies on traditional views of femininity and masculinity to complete the show’s punchlines. For example, Jules, the super hot Brooklyn Decker, is engaged to Lowell, a vegan hippie who owns a sustainable cafe. In one episode, the men don’t want to invite Lowell to boys’ night because they think he won’t be “into” that kind of thing. When Andi asks for a reason, Lowell coincidentally walks over with a dessert and sprinkles flowers around it. Lowell’s feminine behavior gets a laugh because clearly if he acts like this he won’t be into boy’s night. When Lowell goes to boys night, he is shocked to see that the boys are eating cupcakes and watching The Good Wife. He mocks the boys and insists they do manly things like get drunk and steal police bicycles. (Okay, this sight was pretty funny!) However, I have a hard time getting behind a show that relies on the same old crap to get laughs. 

The show also gets at another one of my pet peeves: the archetype of a single woman who is always longing for a mate to complete her. Kate is spunky and funny yet it is revealed in a recent episode that what she really longs for is a soul mate who she can have her dream wedding with. I think this is something we can all relate to but it bothers me that the promo for this show clearly labels her as single. Does this really matter so much?

Let me also address that the show uses Brooklyn Decker’s supermodel status in the most stereotypical ways possible. Her character decides to become vegan for her fiancee yet Jules harbors a love for meat. Jules sneaks a bite of Kate’s hamburger and the camera goes in slow motion as Kate cannot stop eating this giant hamburger (Think every Carls Jr. commercial on the planet). This recipe (sexism + sexy stars) isn’t new for television. I would argue that How I Met Your Mother‘s success rests somewhat on its use of sexist jokes. We need to rethink “what is funny” in order to get better sitcoms on television.

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