Tonight, CBS premieres How To Be A Gentleman, a brainless buddy comedy presenting a dichotomy in which men can be either delicate, ineffectual, sexless weaklings or ill-mannered but physically powerful meatheads. Says this show — over and over, in both its marketing and in its actual dialogue — there are gentlemen, and there are real men, and each might need to be a little more like the other.Sounds like a variation on the Odd Couple, or Two and a Half Men. There is also a show called 2 Broke Girls that similarly contrast two stereotypes of women, a sassy waitress and a spoiled rich girl.
Yes, yes, it's a sitcom, and caricatures are common, and on its own, this wouldn't make much of an impression. But this is not just any season. It's a season that also brings Tim Allen whining about what ever happened to "real men" in Last Man Standing, three guys lost in a universe of "pomegranate body wash" in Man Up, and — sometime in midseason, unless the universe blissfully swallows us all before then — two men in drag in Work It trying to overcome the entirely female-driven economy in which they literally cannot support themselves without dressing as women.
And in that environment, How To Be A Gentleman and its overt and unapologetic sexist stereotyping, in which only certain kinds of men are "real men," represents a kind of tipping point: Television right now — at least broadcast television — is even worse at managing its ideas about masculinity than about femininity.
While there are lots of shows that put men in a bad light, there have also been lots of shows like Desperate Housewives that put women as very bad characters. So I am not sure about this criticism. Are there women who form opinions about men by watching TV sitcoms? I am pretty sure men do not take these sitcoms too seriously.