The Last Man On Earth Is Great And Will Probably Be Canceled Soon

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Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Counterpoint: http://www.salon.com/2015/03/24/were_we_all_wrong_about_last_man_on_earth/#comments

    I tend to agree with you. But only tend: it’s good (so far), very good at times. Not great. I think it’s too early for it to be great yet, regardless. Mad Men was great this early. The Last Man On Earth is quite good in its early going.

    I hope you’re wrong that it’s on its way out.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      The fist two episodes were great, then it settled down, which was to be expected. But there are moments in those first two that I suspect I’ll be quoting or alluding to for some time.Report

  2. Avatar Glyph says:

    “Even though ratings have been ticking upward”

    Have they been? I thought they were sliding downwards. And running eps. back to back feels like possible burn-off.

    I do like the show, but I’m holding out hope they are going to twist the premise yet again; right now I feel like they started off in an interesting place, but I don’t particularly need a post-apocalyptic Three’s Company, or a Gilligan’s Island with Thurston Howell as the protagonist.Report

    • Avatar Sam says:

      I was slightly miffed at the missed twist with Melissa. When she’s confessing to being horny – and Phil somehow immediately gets to, “And she must want me!” and starts stripping down behind her – I absolutely expected her to bemoan that Carol was already committed to Phil. When she started talking about missing a man, it was a let down, as I imagine some good humor could be mined from Phil wanting Melissa, Melissa wanting Carol, and Carol barely tolerating her idiot husband.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    It never occurred to me to even consider watching it. The adds made it look like a post apocalyptic dumb and dumber serial.Report

  4. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I’ve only watched the first two episodes, but since now I see they were going to go that way anyway, I think they really missed an opportunity with the tomato bit at the end of episode 2. Until the end (and when they kind of beat into the ground the joke they did) I was expecting to go something this:

    Phil does try to fix the irrigation system. But when Carol approaches him and Phil does his coy act at the end, it turns out he’s telling the truth – it wasn’t he that fixed the water, he botched the job every bit as much that Carol did.

    *That’s* how they figure out that there’s a third survivor. And then in comes January Jones, and she winds up not just being a pretty face, but also extremely technically adept. The reason? She has been actually living in a bunker before the apocalypse, a la Kimmy Schmidt, so learned all these survival and other practical skills.

    So there’s your trope bending – a doomsday prepper that actually has doomsday visited upon them – and survives. But winds up being surrounded by imbeciles.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      January Jones has been surprisingly decent in this. Her seemingly natural reserved low-keyness makes her a nice normal straightman foil for the other two nuts.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Fur naq Gbqq frrz erznexnoyl fnar nsgre 2 lrnef bs pbzcyrgr vfbyngvba, va snpg, cnegvphyneyl arkg gb Pneby naq Cuvy.Report

      • Avatar Sam says:

        I don’t think you really mean that Chris.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Well, Phil’s ability to functionally interact with other human beings is teetering on the edge of disappearing entirely, and Carol’s clinging to rules and traditions is almost equally batty (the wife stuff even more than stopping at the stop signs, the parking in the parking spots, or even the getting married in the first place, which was by itself oddly touching), ohg Zryvffn naq Gbqq obgu frrz erznexnoyl gbtrgure. V zrna, gurl obgu unir zbzragf jurer gur rssrpgf bs gurve vfbyngvba ner pyrne, ohg sbe gur zbfg cneg gurve crefbanyvgvrf naq gurve fbpvny vagrenpgvbaf frrz cerggl abezny.

        Can’t wait for Cleopatra Coleman.Report

  5. Avatar j r says:

    I watched the first two episodes last night and the whole “women are such a drag/women ruining men” complaint is terribly off base. To buy into seeing the show that way, you’d have to start from the premise that Phil is decent and/or interesting character. It is likely that he might have been at some point in his past life, but by the time we fast forward into the present, he is thoroughly broken. I never got the sense that I am actually supposed to like Phil, more that I have to tolerate him because he is the only character. And that’s exactly how Carol likely feels about him when he shows up (and he about her); this I am guessing is the primary tension fueling this show.

    And you are right, so far, about Phil and his expectations.Report

    • Avatar Sam says:

      I absolutely agree. If you go in assuming that Phil is a decent human being simply by virtue of him being the center of the show, then maybe you can get to a point where Carol is nothing more than a nagging shrew. If you abandon that assumption though, you quickly arrive at Phil being nothing of the sort. He’s a doofus at best and occasionally worse than that.Report

      • Avatar Pyre says:

        I know this is going to get me tagged with the MRA thing but isn’t that kind of how network TV portrays it’s males anyway?

        http://www.arcamax.com/thefunnies/babyblues/s-1625458Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I don’t think you need to go MRA at all. This:

        If you go in assuming that Phil is a decent human being simply by virtue of him being the center of the show, then maybe you can get to a point where Carol is nothing more than a nagging shrew. If you abandon that assumption though, you quickly arrive at Phil being nothing of the sort. He’s a doofus at best and occasionally worse than that.

        has been the default for lots of TV comedies, since at least Seinfeld.Report

      • Avatar Sam says:

        Except that in those comedies, the men never lose status, or face, or standing. Those male characters ultimately pay no price for their idiotic scheming and in fact always end up rewarded with familiar love, success, etc. The critical fear with this show is that the same might happen. And it isn’t (so far).Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Except that in those comedies, the men never lose status, or face, or standing. Those male characters ultimately pay no price for their idiotic scheming and in fact always end up rewarded with familiar love, success, etc.

        Wait, what? To take Seinfeld as a famous and influential example, I don’t see that at all. At the end, the gang all famously go to jail for their terrible behavior. Even before that, none of them are lucky in love or success – George has an unending string of personal, professional and romantic self-inflicted humiliations, Jerry is portrayed within the show as a struggling, low-to-mid-level standup comedian with a string of unsuccessful relationships (again, nearly always due to his own shallowness and selfishness), and Kramer is *sort* of a “success” by his standards (mostly because Kramer lives in his own fantasy world) but to quote Elaine, he is a “hipster doofus” at best.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I think the issue is that, with only a few exceptions*, men (collectively) aren’t harmed in real life because of negative media portrayals. We see the bumbling doofus on TV, but no one says, “Well, is that man really CEO/Presidential/leader material?” But with women, because we are bombarded with messages that implicitly or explicitly tell us very harmful messages about women, these become part of a collective, subconscious bias.

        * The exceptions tend to be around domestic issues, namely parenting. This does have real, negative effects on men which shouldn’t be ignored.Report

      • Glyph,

        Yes, in Seinfeld’s finale, I suppose they ended up in jail, although that was widely considered a hugely disappointing finale. Meanwhile, both Seinfeld and George might have botched numerous relationships, but the next interested woman was always minutes away from appearing. And that’s before we delve into other shows with more fixed casts – Seinfeld was a little different because the primary cast was rarely involved sexually with one another – similar to what we’ve gotten from so far from Last Man On Earth.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Speaking of characters whom you should’t assume good things about just because they’re the center of the show, what’s up with The Gilmore Girls?Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Well, no one will think that I am an MRA (to say the least), and yes, this is the default presentation of men throughout much of the media. And unlike @kazzy , I think this probably does cause broad harm to men — and women to, insofar as men who are a mess are a menace to everyone around them.

        We don’t have good models of masculinity that work for most men. Likewise, many of the models we do have are actively hurtful to men. Either they support destructive behavior (such as “solves problems with violence” guy), or they are out of reach of most men (such as “rich executive guy with designer suits and a trophy wife” guy), and thus a source of resentment.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I think the issue is that, with only a few exceptions*, men (collectively) aren’t harmed in real life because of negative media portrayals.

        This implies that there is a demonstrable link between how people are portrayed in media and real life harm. I don’t go so far as to say that there isn’t one, but it’s certainly more complicated than this implies. I tend to think that causality is circular, which locks us into a chicken/egg question.

        I have largely answered this question for myself. And I think that this is something that each individual really has to come to terms with, which is why I tend to be suspect of the social activist route, or at least certain manifestations of it.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m not sure the chicken or the egg debate really matters if you can demonstrate that media portrayals have certain unwanted effects. And such effects have been demonstrated.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @j-r — I expect the causality is circular. I mean, who thinks otherwise?

        A prejudice exist, which shapes the views of creators, which forms “the narratives” that we all consume, which shapes how we think about issues, which shapes our society, which shapes the views of creators, which forms “the narratives” that we all consume…

        On and on.

        I mean, television is not the only thing that shapes our views, but it is a big part of the conversation.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @chris — Even if the media only revealed prejudices, it would still be thus valuable. We’d still have stuff to talk about.

        Of course, I think it both shapes and reveals.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @veronica-d

        I hadn’t thought about the lack of useful male role models on TV. That, indeed, can be harmful. I was thinking more about the projections than being used against men, which I think happens much more rarely and much less intensely than it does for women.

        Along these same lines, I realized that I am literally the only adult male my two boys see with any regularity. I need to change that. I think I’m a good role model, but I want them to have a range of role models for both men and women, to see that there are myriad ways for men and women to be and provided those people are good, decent people, all are worthwhile paths to pursue.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        This gets into the whole “punching up/punching down” thing, probably.

        Can we make fun of the white dad, showing him as lazy, scheming, and consistently hoisted on his own petard? Like, if he just did was he was supposed to do, he’d be okay but since he puts so much effort into avoiding work, he works twice as hard as if he’d just do the work in the first place? And he never, ever learns?

        Hells yeah. Let’s get Phil Silvers! He’s not doing anything. Wait, let me google… oh. That’s why he’s not doing anything. What’s Kevin James doing?

        Okay, let’s make him black. We can have a black dad who is lazy, scheming, and consistently hoisted on his own petard? Like, if he just did was he was supposed to do, he’d be okay but since he puts so much effort into avoiding work, he works twice as hard as if he’d just do the work in the first place? And he never, ever learns?

        Get Marlon Wayans! Wait, what do you mean that sitcom would be problematic?

        Maybe we could do it with a gay guy? If he was white, I mean?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Can we make fun of the white dad, showing him as lazy, scheming, and consistently hoisted on his own petard? Like, if he just did was he was supposed to do, he’d be okay but since he puts so much effort into avoiding work, he works twice as hard as if he’d just do the work in the first place? And he never, ever learns?

        I’m confused, maybe my TV is broken, but Homer Simpson is definitely a yellow guy…Report

      • Jim Belushi, too, when I mess up the settings on my TV.

        I suspect that Jay is off-base with the race angle. As long as he has a wife who is with it, I don’t think they’d have a problem with a black doofus dad. TBS or WB probably did it at some point or another.Report

      • Actually, ABC did with Family Matters.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I mean, television is not the only thing that shapes our views, but it is a big part of the conversation.

        That is where the disconnect happens for me, when we start talking about “the conversation.” The media, both the content producers and the ecosystem of people who critique and comment on the content have a tendency of inflating the cultural importance of what they do.

        Ultimately, it comes down to different strokes for different folks. Some people care deeply about media representations and some folks could not care less. I have found that the key to my own happiness and mental stability is to work on moving myself along that continuum from the former to the latter.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Suppose a black man was lazy and immoral, another person of color was subservient, and women were stupid, ditzy, and crazy, with a rich white man being the only voice of reason. isn’t that a show that all right-thinking people would protest and boycott?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Mike,
        oh, come ON now, they can’t even get a single Jew to protest blatantly anti-Semetic tropes being flung around. (And that’s when they’re TRYING to provoke a reaction. Yes, comedians have a strange sense of humor).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @jaybird

        Such portrayals of people of color are much more acceptable when they are part of a wide range of portrayals.

        Yea, we have Phil Dumphy (Modern Family). But we also have Don Draper (who may be evil… I don’t watch… but at least isn’t a bumbling fool).

        We don’t get that same diversity for people of color and women. We’re getting better. But we have a long way to go.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @will-truman

        Absolutely. We’ve been portraying people of color poorly on TV for a long time. We’re just finally starting to pay attention to the issue.Report

      • I think the sitcom dynamics referred to work – regardless of race – in large part because of the thing that @kazzy mentions. It’s not a problem to have a dufusy character. It becomes a bit of a problem when the only (significant) character on the show fits that category. Or when the only character on ten shows is that way.

        Which is where dufus dads come in. The problem isn’t any specific dufus dad, necessarily. It’s that it spreads across so many shows of an entire genre. It doesn’t speak to how Hollywood looks at males, or fathers, but rather “domestic males” and with a disturbing consistently. And it becomes an archetype that’s harder to move away from because it’s so darn familiar.

        Except with men, it’s only a particular role where the depiction is skewed by archetypes and stereotypes, and with others it’s their entire selves.

        I remember a while back a discussion on comic book usenet about this, and someone said that people will complain no matter how a minority character is represented. A black character who is urban is a stereotype, but a black character who isn’t is deemed unrealistic. The complaint actually had some merit (the complaints were pretty constant, seemingly regardless), but the reply was great and it’s something I still remember, which is that this is largely an issue due to the constant absence of black characters, so each one of them actually ends up with unrealistically lofty expectations of being emblematic of an entire people.

        That makes a lot of sense to me, and also explained female superhero characters. Since they were the “female” character, a lot was expected of them. So the vast majority of them were basically female Supermans. Stiff archetypes who couldn’t be anything but perfect and moral and achingingly one-dimensional. The biggest exceptions were cases where (wait for it) team books with multiple female characters that could bounce off one another and differentiate from one another and for whom almost none were expected to be exemplars for their gender. I think the writers felt more free to explore the characters. Keith Giffen’s concurrent work on Justice League America, with three or four female characters, and Justice League Europe, with two, was indicative of this. His JLE heroines were kind of flat, where his JLA ones had more readily identified personalities – warts and all.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        I’m with veronicaD on this. Mainstream entertainment doesn’t have a lot of positive male role-models. The most common type seems to be an a well-meaning but incompetent doofus that can’t do anything domestic or really much of anything else right. There is a commercial of sanitary wipes on TV now that depicts a woman coming from from somewhere and the first thing she sees is the kitchen counter is a mess because her husband is struggling to change their baby. Some men might be this incompetent but most men are capable of doing domestic chores with at least average competency. The portrayal of men as loveable but incompetent types isn’t great for either gender.

        The other type of man is the impossibly skilled, badass ladies’ man. Most men aren’t this either and aren’t really capable of being such just as in most women can’t be the seductive honeypot that is also domestic at the same time.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Lee,
        allowing a shit factory to reside in your house is just asking for fecal contamination of most surfaces. Parents get used to it, as do pet owners.
        (Now, I am tempted to find the picture of the dog-halloween costume that’s apropos).Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        The doofus dad stereotype exists for a wide range of reasons. Part of it is to serve as corrective to the older, father knows best type of sitcome dad. That would come across as too jarring for modern sensibities. Even conservatives might find it really patriarchal and really unreflective of modern society. For all it’s fault, the doofus dad archetype falls more comfortably within modern mores.

        Another thing is that the doofus dad is just lazy writing. Sitcoms use stock characters and commedia del’ arte archetypes because it makes writing jokes funnier. Its why everything is so exaggerated on the less well made sitcoms. Creating a non-doofus dad that doesn’t come across as patriarchal but can still be a source of jokes is a difficult task. With doofus dads, the jokes write themselves.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @leeesq

        I think that ignores a whole much of male characters.

        Which group was Jerry Seinfeld in? Chandler, Ross, and Joey from “Friends”? The “Big Bang” guys? Jay, Mitchell, and Cam from “Modern Family”? The guys on “How I Met Your Mother”?

        I dare say that you might not be remembering the ‘normal’ guys because, well, they’re so normal.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Ross and the guys from the Big Bang theory fall into the loveable nerdy loser category. From what I’m remembering Ross was an intelligent guy that had some really bad luck when it comes to personal relationships. His ex-wife turned out to be a lesbian and kept messing up every subsequent relationship he was in until the end of the series. The men from the Big Bang theory are extravagant, socially maladpated nerds. The message seems to be that if your a man and intelligent, your going to be incapable of normal social interactions, especially with women and romance.

        Chandler and Joey were interesting contrasts to each other. Chandler had varying depictions through out Friends but eventually came across as somewhat effeminate but more cultured than the more manly but dumb Joey. Neither is really great.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @leeesq

        What are you looking for? You just described three or four different types of male characters — all divergent from the initial two groups you highlighted. That gets us up to six different types of male… all of whom we laugh at because we’re discussing comedies. What about the various guys on the CBS sitcoms, all of whom may bumble a bit but many of whom are not full-blown doofuses?

        What if we include dramas… Don Draper? Tony Soprano? Walter White? The guys on “Living Dead”? Jack Shepard? Other guys from “Lost”? I’m sure people who watch TV from this decade can name more, too!

        I mean… seriously… what are you looking for? Yes, all those characters are flawed. Because humans are flawed.

        Also, the idea that there is something problematic about showing people who have failed relationship after failed relationship before settling down… that is how life works! You fail until you succeed! If you succeed off the bat, you just stay settled down.

        Seriously… SERIOUSLY… what are you looking for? A LeeEsq clone?Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @kazzy — I’m not sure if we KNOW what we’re looking for. But actually, that’s the problem.

        Look, media crit such as this is not about beating up on writers — which, of course sometimes it is. Some writing is really weaksauce. But it does not have to be. Walter White is a compelling character. Sure. But he better illustrates the crisis of masculinity than its solution.

        I say, we cannot blame the writers if they cannot solve a problem I cannot solve either.

        But dammit there is a problem, and the “men of television” illustrate it.

        If we mask out “solves problems with violence” — and then if we look for a model of masculinity that modern men can aspire to, and actually reach, what is there?

        Is there one that will resonate with men, but also with women? — since most men kinda want to date women, thus their masculinity should maybe kinda be attractive to a fair number of women.

        Who here wants to date Ross, or the guys on Big Bang Theory?

        I don’t. Blah.

        (I’ll set aside what women would date Walter White. Don Draper would probably get dates, but — well — we should hardly find that admirable.)

        #####

        I can kinda hope that, in my real life, I will make better dating decisions than Veronica Mars. Okay. But darnit I’d love to be a lot like her. I’d like to be as smart as her. I’d like to be as effective as her. And indeed, looking like her wouldn’t be so bad. I can see her as a role model, even if I can see some bad decisions she makes. (And it turns out being a lesbian doesn’t actually make this easier. Who knew!)

        She’s flawed, but in a “I’d like to be her” way, not a “yeesh whatta loser” way.

        (I’m quite literally named after her you know.)

        But for men, which TV-men should real-life-men want to be, who is not also a complete sociopathic shit?

        Tough problem for men who want to be effective at life, but not become complete sociopathic shits.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @veronica-d

        Maybe I’m an outlier, but I never looked to a single male to define how I wanted to be. I mean, sure, I wanted to be Zach Morris when I was 11… but even then I wanted Slater’s athletic prowess.

        So, I want the relationship that Phil Dunphy has with his son. And I want the amazing loving side he presents to his family. But I’d want it balanced with Cameron’s domesticity and Mitchell’s responsibility and Jay’s laid back coolness (to use a bunch of characters from the same show). Now… that person probably doesn’t exist in real life and would be weird to see on screen. But I’m okay with that. I’m not supposed to be a television character. I’m supposed to be a human being, striving to be the best version of myself possible and looking to those I see as better than me for inspiration as to how I can improve.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Kazzy and Veronica, I find many more good role models for men in old Hollywood movies than I do now. A lot of the leading men roles in old Hollywood movies, the ones played by Cary Grant, David Niven, Jimmy Stewart, etc., seem much better rounded than the modern type. A lot of men in modern are either sociopathic bad boys like Walter White, Don Drapper, or Christian Grey or kinder, more intelligent but socially maladjusted nebbishes like Ross or the Big Bang cast. In old movies, you get men who are intelligent and kind but not socially maladjusted nebbishes. They come across as charming and socially aware.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        veronicaD, using media for romantic role models isn’t necessarily a good idea. Some people think that there aren’t love stories aimed at heterosexual men. These people are idiots. There are lots of love stories aimed at men. They just tend to be hidden in another genre like comedy and annoy lots of women. “There is something about Mary” is a pretty good example of a love story aimed at men. The story line of a man getting a really attractive and desirable women becasue of his good nature and personality is a very compelling one for a lot of men even though women hate it. If you add an alpha male, bad boy competitor for the women’s affections than even better for the male audience. Its an underdog love story for us.

        The manic pixie dream girl is another male fantasy that a lot of women find repellent. Many love stories aimed at women involve a domestically inclined girl next door type of every woman, the audience surrogate, having a fling with an exotic and romantic man or bad boy. The manic pixie dream girl is simply the cis straight man version of this fantasy.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @leeesq

        I ask this genuinely as I am not a film buff, but how many of those men were grossly misogynistic? Paternalistic?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Lee,
        I’m rather enjoying the blokes in Grimm.
        It’s always sunny in philadelphia has the unique distinction of occasionally having too many toxic people on air, at which point I’m “what is UP with this? who could possibly hang around with people like this?” (other times it’s just plain funny, but sometimes it’s winceworthy)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        There was a lot of misogyny in those films that would be unacceptable today but it is not like modern media is currently lacking in misogyny. This includes media aimed at both men and women. A lot of the badass types that figure so prominently today carry the message that unless your a buff, muscular and not to bright action type who solves problems with his fists than you are not a man. This is coincidentally what women want according to the movies. This is misogyny in media aimed at men.

        As to misogyny in media consumed by women, we have Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. Edward and Christian Grey are both predatory types of men with very misogynistic views about women and romance. This doesn’t seem to prevent each series from being popular. The entire bad boy archetype in media aimed at women is highly misogynistic for the same reason badasses are. There seems to be a genre that can best be described as “feminist, modern woman falls for traditional, conservative man as opposed to a modern, liberal man.” It seems mainly to be aimed at and popualar with women.

        The relationships in old movies had a lot of faults in them by modern standards but at least the men conveyed the idea that being kind, intelligent, and cultured and not solving problems with your fists did not mean you were a socially maladjusted nebbish or effete and not a real man.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        There seems to be a genre that can best be described as “feminist, modern woman falls for traditional, conservative man as opposed to a modern, liberal man.” It seems mainly to be aimed at and popualar with women.

        Even stretching those terms well beyond their purely partisan meaning, perhaps its not best to reduce the whole wide world of possibilities about how to live you particular combination of sex, gender and preference to those two categories.

        Beyond that, this is an awfully flat and reductionist way of viewing the world. What people want from their partners is often complicated and, quite frankly, contradictory. That’s only a problem to the extent that you are intent on being tone deaf. A lot of men want the proverbial “lady in the streets; freak in the sheets” and lots of women want the man who is all alpha male to the outside world, but beta male enough to remain faithful and suitable caring to her. Why this is the case shouldn’t be particularly confusing.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        There was a ton of sexism in those old movies — which is maybe different from misogyny as such — but there were also some pretty strong women. It’s a mixed bag.

        But indeed, many of those men were admirable, and they gave something of a life-script to follow.

        It’s not about simple “role models,” the way I might ask “what would Buffy do?” or “what would Veronica Mars do?” — cuz actually I do not ask that. It would be silly. But there are still narratives, which we take in and these shape our views. We can ask, “What is a relationship supposed to look like?”

        Or, for me, what is being a transsexual supposed to look like? (The answers I got from the media literally-fucking ruined half of my life. LITERALLY!)

        (I mean that and I cannot say it strongly enough.)

        To answer these questions, we have stories we see, some from our home life, some from our friends, but a lot from TV also.

        I remember being constantly surprised as a teen that the stuff I learned from television did not work in real life, inasmuch as being the “brooding loner” wasn’t actually attractive. Nor was being the brash “alpha guy.” Maybe Joe Beltbuckle McStrongjaw could pull that off, but I could not.

        What is a man supposed to do? Who is he supposed to be? What does the “good life” look like? How does he treat women? His children? How does he deal with his career? How does he handle failure? How does he greet death?

        On and on. These are real questions, and in some existential sense we figure them out ourselves — we have to. But then, existential angst is hardly pleasant, and deep self-exploration is actually-really hard, and people take shortcuts. They look to our culture.

        Plus women are looking to our culture also, as are bosses, and cops, and the people who sit beside you on the train. We all share these stories. They also have a model of what a man should be, one shaped by narrative.

        Part of growing up is realizing that television lies to you, just as I assume young Athenian men at some point had to realize that acting like Achilles wasn’t a good life plan. But there are levels beneath, where the stories we tell both reflect and shape our assumptions about ourselves.

        Everyone here consciously knows that the view of life from television is false. But on the other hand, the deep currents of our feelings are fueled by this stuff. It doesn’t just go away cuz you can say some words.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        jr, I am well aware what people want from their partners is complicated and contradictory. My own thoughts about what constitutes an ideal partner is contradictory. It isn’t quite “lady on the street, freak under the streets” but if I had to describe my ideal woman it would be a conventionally attractive one that dresses elegant and fashionable style but is also intellectual, kind, and affectionate. If she was in some type of artistic profession like acting or dancing even better.

        veronicaD, sexism might be a better world for the societal expectations of the old movies that misogyny. The movies werren’t expression hatred and fear of women but they were written in a less free time between the first waive of feminism, which achieved the suffrage and theoretical legal equality of women on paper, and second waive feminism. The idea was that men and women had their own roles to play in society and society worked best when this happened. Sexist yes but not necessarily misogynistic. I think one reason why its difficult to find good ways of presenting men in modern media is because there isn’t much of a consensus on what men should be anymore. There is a similar problem with women but it seems easier to get a rough average on what a woman should be. I find the Cary Grant/David Niven type admirable but I can also see why many people of both genders would chaffe at them.

        My problem with how sex appeal is depicted for men in modern media is that men who are depicted as having high sex appeal to women come across either as dumb and uncultured like the stereotypical badass or evil like Don Drapper or Christian Grey and other bad boys. Gentleness and intelligence seem to be decidedly not sexy in a man when they exist together in modern media. In the old movies, you had men who were both kind and intelligent but attractive to women. Cary Grant’s character in Arsenic and Old Lace is a good example.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Lee,
        they can’t all be The Doctor (or the doctor from ds9 — why DID they have to make him British?)…
        That said, there is a surprisingly large market for witty urbane men sweeping “ordinary girls” off their feet.
        (not everyone’s big on muscles).Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @leeesq — I’m aware that such movies exist — I mean, I’ve posted enough rants here about the various flavors of nerd “dreamgirl” — which, anyway!

        But the whole “sadsack man-child gets get girl” — well, why does he have to be a man-child? Like, it keeps happening, and it can be pretty funny. But actually no. It’s cliche as fuck and waaaaay past is sell-by date. They need a new shtick.

        Which actually, this won’t change cuz if folks keep watching it, they’ll keep making it.

        So yeah, guys can have their man-child fantasies if they want. I know plenty of dudes who seem hellbent of reenacting these characters in their real lives. (I encounter them on the subway frequently enough.)

        But just, don’t complain when this does not actually work. It’s rubbish and most dudes who live this shit cannot distinguish making a joke from being a joke. And if the guy is cute enough maybe he can pull off this kind of rakish charm, but that grows thin about halfway through your twenties.

        And that is that.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Kimmie, the Doctor is the exception that proves the rule. I can’t think of any American equivalent.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Veronica d., man child is an over used word. I don’t consider the male lead of 500 Days of Summer to be a man-child. He lacked ambition and made some bad choices in his life but did not seem particularly immature. Even in movies with man-children like Knocked Up, the male lead often has to lose his man childness and grow up to win the goal at the end.

        Manic pixie dream girl movies are really just the male equivalent of Dirty Dancing, where an ordinary everygirl gets sweeped off her feat by a bad boy type. Men find those movies equally annoying.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @leeesq — On the old movies thing, I totally agree. (My previous post was about the new movies, in case that was not obvious.)

        I tend to use Jimmy Steward as my go-to example for this stuff, but I suppose Cary Grant will do.

        Actually, the best example I know is my dad! But that’s maybe kinda personal.

        Anyway, yeah. I’ll say this, however: I don’t think men can blame women for this, at least not women in particular. Which, I mention this cuz a lot of men do. But I think that is bullshit. The guys in movies are the products of male imagination. It is men who think we gals all want men like Vin Diesel — and of course some women do, but plenty do not. Nor do women keep making the sadsack man-child movies. These are things men create for other men. When men draw up their banal sadsacks and dreamgirls, these are their fantasies, not our aspirations.

        And you’re allowed your unrealistic dreams, just as teen girls fall to sleep clutching their chest and dreaming of sparkling vampires. That’s okay. Love your childish things. But know when to put them away. Cuz that story doesn’t work anymore. That young woman will grow to be a smart, well-educated woman capable of earning her own living, and she will long for a man at her level. And too many men just aren’t keeping up.

        This not her fault. After all, what she seeks is excellence, and that should never be too much to ask.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Lee,
        Caroline in the City had a classic “witty guy” (granted, that guy was kinda crippled by anxiety, but…).
        [I do not watch enough contemporary TV to actually comment on it, sorry.]Report

  6. Avatar Sam says:

    Fair question. And the answer is – this has been a hellacious weeks. Post-moving, my wife and I imagined things calming down, which was stupid, apparently. Between a car wreck, a severe housewide pinkeye outbreak (the kind that can’t be treated with medicine!), replacing a furnace, a brutal cold spell, a badly sprained ankle, infantigo, stomach flu, my wife being away for a week, and my annual bout with chest-theria, I haven’t watched an episode. I swear I’ll be getting back it to though.Report

  7. Avatar Chris says:

    We just watched the two most recent episodes. Two things, not really spoilers:

    1.) FYC. That song came out when I was in 7th grade, and my friends and I couldn’t stop singing it mockingly. It was the perfect song to use.
    2.) There’s a porta-potty song, which I need to find so I can use it as a ringtone.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Trivia: FYC were (mostly) made up of ex-members of the (English) Beat, who were *excellent*. I can’t really begrudge them wanting some US chart success, even if the music in that particular song IS pretty much a rip of INXS’ “Need You Tonight”, from one year prior. (I actually kinda liked their “Suspicious Minds” cover.)

      (if you want to make a playlist of lightweight new-wave pop descendants of Two-Tone bands, make sure to include the Fun Boy Three, who were to the Specials as FYC were to the Beat).Report

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