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CASE STUDY: SITCOM AND GENDER Text: Men Behaving Badly

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Introduction

CASE STUDY: SITCOM AND GENDER Text: Men Behaving Badly Earlier, we looked at Taflinger's descriptions of the kind of character types to be found in the sitcom universe. With this kind of formulaic approach, it is hardly surprising that sit-com should be so heavily reliant upon stereotypes to fill its environments. The images of men and women with which we are presented in sit-com have to be easy to recognize and relate to. They do, however, raise some key questions about the way in which we are positioned in relation to these types in order to generate laughter. We suggested previously that the humour of sit-com often arises from the undermining of a shared set of ideas about what constitutes 'normal'. Unsurprisingly, then, gender becomes an obvious arena in which humour can be generated from the contrast between expectations of the audience and the behaviour or attitudes of the characters. For example, male sitcom protagonists are often marked by some clear deviation from the dominant views of the qualities which make up masculinity. Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, for example, demonstrates masculine drive and ambition, but is constantly thwarted in his attempts to establish control of his hotel, his staff, his guests and his wife by his overemphasis on the superficialities of class distinctions and social niceties. ...read more.

Middle

Although there is some sense of narrative development across the various series, with Gary asking Dorothy to move into his flat, proposing and then getting married to her, individual episodes tend to feature fairly basic or rudimentary plots. In the context of the lack of narrative complexity in Men Behaving Badly, interest and humour is generated from the characters and values of the show. The terrain of this sitcom is that of gender. Gary and Tony are constructed according to widely understood stereotypes of masculinity, although these tend towards negative qualities : immaturity, selfishness, lack of emotional awareness and boorishness. In contrast, the paired female representations focus on more positive, though equally stereotypical ideas. Dorothy and Debs are both sympathetic, understanding and maternal, eternally patient and forgiving of Gary and Tony's behaviour. In addition to the construction of the characters, Men Behaving Badly looks to gender its entire diegesis. Locations, behaviour, emotions are all coded in terms of gender and humour is generated through the incompatibility of the masculine and feminine systems in evidence. One episode from series 5, The Good Pub Guide', The 3 areas of textual analysis are: Part 1 opens with a scene of Gary and Dorothy in bed. ...read more.

Conclusion

Many sitcom protagonists are driven by the frustration of being trapped within a particular set of unchanging circumstances, familial or organisational. Gary and Tony, on the other hand, seem to be frustrated because of change, as they desperately cling to a lifestyle and a set of values which they enjoy but which appear to be slipping away from them. Individual episodes often introduce a threat to their stability - mostly the result of Dorothy or Debs' demands - and then allow the threat to be neutralized by the male characters' intransigence or lack of understanding. In The Good Pub Guide', Dorothy's attempts to change Gary's attitudes are mirrored by the refurbishment of The Crown. Both elements represent an unwelcome challenge to Gary's lifestyle. Of course, the closure of the episode assures us that these challenges have been unsuccessful. The Crown looks exactly the same as it has always done, as new landlord Ken based the refurbishment around a photo he believed to be from the 1920s; in fact it is a faded snap of Gary and Tony in the pub, with pickled eggs on their head. In addition, Dorothy and Debs are nowhere to be seen in the final sequence as Gary and Tony share a couple of cans of Stella together and celebrate the pleasures of living for the moment. ...read more.

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