There’s an interesting piece over on the NYTimes this week about how women have done a better job of evolving and adapting to a particular shift in the American economy. Women are now better educated, and because the new economy favors brains over brawn, women in their 20s now out-earn men in their 20s, while the percentage of men in the workforce has dropped from 96 percent in the 1950s to 80 percent now.
It’s an interesting shift and I admit that, even though I’m part of it — I work from home, make most of the household meals, and tend to a lot of the tasks once associated exclusively with housewives and stay-at-home moms, while my wife spends much of her time in an office or a courtroom — I fit the description of men in Brooks’ article to a tee: We’re “like immigrants who have physically moved to a new country but who have kept their minds in the old one.” I don’t feel emasculated by my role, exactly, but sometimes I feel unnecessarily frustrated by it: “Shouldn’t you be making the sandwiches and cutting off the crusts, and why am I the one walking the kid to school? I do have a job, you know?” I often say to my wife in my head (but never out loud. What am I? Stupid? She gave birth to twins.) Moreover, I’ve met several stay-at-home Dads over the last few years and my first assumption tends to be that the Dad can’t find work, rather than to assume that this is what he wants to be doing because it really is a Herculean and noble undertaking.
The Jimmy-Fallon produced multi-camera laugh-track sitcom, “Guys with Kids,” isn’t doing any favors for stay-at-home Dads, either. Besides being poisonously unfunny, terribly written, and outrageously stupid, the sitcom — like the men described in the NYTimes piece — presents a new way of family life, but it’s stuck in an old way of thinking. We’re used to seeing men in family sitcoms presented as the dumb ones, while the Debra Barones and the Roseanne Conners are the sage voices of reason. In “Guys with Kids,” however, men are not only the homemakers, they’re stillthe dumb ones.
More detrimentally is the fact that, besides turning dudes into the clueless troglodytes just minutes away from causing permanent damage to their children. “Guys with Kids” minimizes their roles at stay-at-home fathers. These men take their kids to bars, use them to get laid, and let their children run wild while they themselves engage in juvenilia. The one guy that actually seems to be a reasonably decent father — Anthony Anderson’s character — is emasculated and presented as something akin to the “girl” is a gay couple. He loves to buy ties!
If “Guys with Kids” strived to be taken seriously in any way, it might be offensive for projecting old gender constructs onto new situations. As it is, however, it’s neither funny nor significant enough to be treated with proper criticism. “Guys with Kids” has no interest in providing real social commentary (and if it did, it’d be drowned out by the laugh track); it’s only interested in reversing gender roles but recycling the same old sitcom cliches. It’s a complete waste of your time.