Perfect Couple = Perfect Sexism

I have been watching NBC’s new Thursday comdey, Perfect Couples, that is until the episode entitled ‘Perfect Health.’  The show is NBC’s answer to Modern Family, without the wit and diverse characters.  Perfect Couples follows three sets of couples, Rex and Leigh, Julia and Dave, and Vance and Amy.  Rex and Leigh are the preppy, rich couple, Julia and Dave are the normal couple, and Vance and Amy are the party, immature couple.  Julia and Dave are the ‘normal’ couple, the other couples are much more caricatures of people — I don’t think we are supposed to take them seriously.

The show is basically about the two sides of every issue: something happens at the beginning of the episode and the rest is the men discussing it and inevitably screwing it up, the women discussing it and finding the right answer.  So basically your average tv sitcom.  It wasn’t outstanding but I was willing to give it a shot.

Until this episode.

‘Perfect Health’ is about two things, 1) Leigh gives everyone food poisoning with her spring rolls. and 2) gender roles.  It turns out that Julia is able to take care of herself when she is sick (and get a bunch of boys partying on their lawn late at night to go home) and doesn’t need to rely on Dave for useless trivia because she now has the iPhone.

So now the part where the men decide what to do and the women decide what to do.  The men get together (for beer and golf of course) and decide that Dave needs to show Julia that he can help her. So they recommend breaking her computer so that Dave can then fix it.  While unplugging her ethernet cord, Dave unwittingly turns on her webcam and gets recorded.  Julia and Amy watch the tape and Amy tells Julia it’s her fault for emasculating Dave, calling Julia a women’s libber like it’s crazyiness, and recommending that she act stupid so that Dave feels better.

At this point I had to turn it off and remove the show from my Hulu queue, so I confess I do not know how the story ends.  But any show that wants to function on the idea that women doing things for themselves is wrong is not going to fly in my book.

Toward the beginining of the episode, Dave is talking about how gender roles have shifted and that’s a good thing.  In the middle, he laments that he can name all the American Idol winners but  no generals and wonders what happened to men.

So, to recap, in the episode we have the women who are just too strong, blaming strong women for emasculating men, and the crisis of masculinity.  And that’s just half way through the episode.  Imagine what could have come next.

There have been inklings of Perfect Couples perfect sexism before, but I opted to keep watching, hoping they would get better.  One episode the women cracked down on the men’s flirting by not letting them talk to any pretty woman.  Another episode found Julia being told that she had to try a little harder to be pretty for Dave, and not put on sweats when she gets home from work.

According to the show, here’s the perfect woman: plays dumb to make her husband feel better, always dresses nice and leaves her makeup on for him, is a nag for trying to get her husband to eat healthy, and has to be controlling but not too controlling.  Wonderful.

It had been a long time since I watched a show that was really obvious about this gender roles.  This show accepts that women are equals (they all have jobs except Leigh who ‘retired’ when she got married) and have rights, but wants to keep those rights in check.  Ok, Julia can go to work and take care of herself, but she has to remember to make Dave feel like a man, and shame on her for being too masculine and not preserving her femininity.

All of this sexism is aside from the fact that all the perfect couples are straight, white, and middle-upper middle class.  All other couples are just not perfect enough. (Leigh is apparently Vietnamese, although they only mention this when they want to make a joke about their wedding, and the actresses is actually half-Chinese).

I will not be watching this show anymore, and am quite disappointed in NBC for putting this on the air.

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3 Responses to Perfect Couple = Perfect Sexism

  1. cara says:

    I watched one episode of that show to just check it out. Not my fav either, very bad actin n like people r fittin into nice cliques n sterotypes. I would rather have modern family any day. Its awesome. Period. Love it.

  2. bill says:

    Wait, did you miss the part about how Dave couldn’t name any astronauts either? Maybe, when taken in conjunction, Dave’s comments are less about the crisis of men, and more a comment about education levels of society.

    You’re also missing the shows large comment on the fact that Julia makes 3x as much as Dave, and no one bats an eye (in the show). What about the fact that Dave, at the start of the show, talks about how he’s gonna work out a bunch once he “moves [Julia’s] girl magazines” and then spends 2 hours reading them.

    What about 1/2 through the episode where a girl “understands” the man cave, and overcomes gender bias towards excluding women because “the cave wants to evolve.” And, before you tell me she sells out to gain entry, the focus is less on her gender and more on her class (rural roots).

    There’s other stuff going on in this episode, you’re analysis falls short of the mark.

    • Lisa Christina says:

      Thanks for the comment!
      You are right about Dave’s comment possibly being about the education system rather than masculinity in crisis. I read it as masculinity in crisis but it could very well be about that.

      The fact that Julia makes 3x as much as Dave and no one mentions it is supporting the fact that it’s ok for women to work and make money — it’s third wave, this is what women are taught that they can expect from themselves. But to pair that kind of feminism with the idea that women still must not emasculate their men mixes that message. This is the problem with the show — it accepts that women have come far in the fight for equality but does not acknowledge and even further supports the social barriers that keep women in their place.

      I do not think that Dave as a character is setting out to portray this, he is the one male character on the show that seems more comfortable with a new gender dynamic. If he wasn’t, I don’t think he and Julia would have gotten married. But it shows that he is not immune to the pressure from other men to regain his masculinity. I think those scenes at the beginning are meant to show how emasculated Dave really is. He can’t even work out without the distraction of a woman.

      As far as the man cave, you’re right it is about Amy’s class roots, which give her masculine qualities that gain her acceptance into the man cave. (also, this is in a different episode I believe). If she had come in and wasn’t able to spit tobacco after jumping over a sword, I don’t think she would have gained entry, nor do I think Rex would have talked about the evolution of the man cave.

      There are a lot of things going on in this show that makes it fall short of a show I want to watch, and you are right to point out that I missed most of them. However, I stand by my opinion that this show ultimately functions as a reiteration of the sexism that is present in our lives. The show does nothing to critique the situations it presents, but is content to be another show about hetereo couples reinforcing gender roles.

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