Starting with Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy, Chandler Bing of Friends, and coming full circle to Cameron Tucker of Modern Family, the men of sitcoms have raised my expectations of men, and therefore, ruined my romantic life.
It isn’t that I expect Cameron, a goofy gay man, to come and sweep me off my feet with his insecurities and wit. I don’t expect a boy to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and buy stupid as-seen-on-TV marshmallow guns with me, a la Andy Dwyer, of Parks and Recreation. Instead, I am here to question why these adorably lovable men only exist on fictional television shows, and why they are typically seen as comedic relief.
Jim Halpert spent four seasons of The Office loving Pam Beesley from afar, despite her being engaged to a jerk, and never pressuring her to be anything more than friends. He was there for her, always making her laugh, and in turn, making the audience absolutely fall in love with him. When they finally get together, the entire country almost burst with lovey-dovey feelings.
If we could harness crying as energy, we could probably power a small village with the tears that were shed on their wedding episode. And yet, on paper, Jim seems like a normal guy. He is a typical twenty-something young man; he has a basic office job and has average ambitions of getting married and having a family. What about this makes him so special and so lovable?
Ben Wyatt, of Parks and Recreation, was a character that was, at first, stand offish. He was a business man and he had a goal. Seeing him break down and fall in love with Leslie Knope was enough to make all of our hearts skip a beat. Seeing Leslie Knope, the goober that she is, be loved by a man the audience finally deemed worthy, was enough to induce squeals across the country. We loved that he never tried to control Leslie, that he only ever supported her wild ambitions, and that he was, truly, a nerd. We also loved that he loved to cook wildly delicious sounding foods.
These two men in particular seem like your average men, and yet, they seem to be the perfect partners. Where is my Jim Halpert? Where is my Ben Wyatt? Where is the man who is going to treat me with respect and make me laugh and make me mac and cheese pizza?
The idea of the perfect man has always been represented in comedies because there is a societal idea that the “perfect man” can only be represented as a joke. These men aren’t obtainable. They are normal, yes, but no man can actually be like that, which is what makes it funny. The world of television has made huge strides in their representations of both genders. Women are being shown as more than the doting mother, or nagging wife, but instead as powerful women who are in control of their own lives. Men are no longer characterized as misogynistic, sex driven maniacs, (i.e. the progression from Homer Simpson as the deadbeat husband, to Bob (of Bob’s Burgers) who is actually present in his family’s lives). Men are now seen as your average guy, albeit extremely loving and caring, and for some reason, this is seen as comedy. While we’ve come a long way in media’s representation of genders, I am sick of the idea that the perfect man is a myth that can only be found in a comedic settings.
So, here’s my call to action. Screw the idea that caring men are a joke. Stop letting the media portray kind people as comedic relief. Jim Halpert and Ben Wyatt are both hilarious AND good people. My standards are not that high. Treat me well and make me laugh. That shouldn’t be unobtainable.