Monday, August 20, 2012

Happy Endings Tries to Make Me Ashamed to Be Single (Tries)

Happy Endings is a very cute show. It’s pretty much an updated Friends. Rachel left Ross at the altar, Monica and Chandler are a happily/weirdly married interracial couple, Joey is a gay dude and Phoebe is exactly the same. Just gainfully employed.

Let me make this clear. I really like Happy Endings. For a while I resisted it, because I am not in the habit of enjoying sitcoms referred to me by tumblr, but in this case I gotta give the tumblpeeps credit. It’s a great show. I am reasonably happy about succumbing to peer pressure on this one.

Reasonably happy.

Like I said, it’s Friends for the 21st century, and as such, I have a few problems with it. Little ones. Barely noticeable. Promise.

It’s all about sex/romance.

Now, you’re probably already thinking that this is a sitcom, so, duh! Of course it’s about sex and romance! Every sitcom is about those topics. Which is true, and also not. Friends is really the show that started that, and in the time since then most shows have followed the format of having a group of nice young (white) kids living in the city, having unreasonable apartments, and talking about themselves ad nauseum.

I, for the record, like a few of these shows. How I Met Your Mother is suitably charming. I can dig the occasional episode of 2 Broke Girls (emphasis on the occasional). But what I really love are the shows that have felt the need to break that mold. Awesome workplace comedies like 30 Rock and Parks and Rec (I don’t like The Office. Sorry.). Or shows like Community, Raising Hope and The IT Crowd, that defy classification but are seriously awesome.

I like me a sitcom. It’s cool.

And as far as sitcoms go, Happy Endings is a pretty darn good one. Aside from having a title that makes me immediately think of a sketchy massage parlor, it’s got a solid group of characters, fun writing, and good, if weird, plots. The one thing I really hate, though, is that when they say happy endings, they mean romantically. And I don’t buy that.

Of the six characters, two are already married, the epically funny Brad and Jane, so we’re going to discount them. But the other four, Alex, Penny, Dave, and Max, are all obsessed with either finding a mate or avoiding finding one for as long as possible. It’s kind of super annoying.

The episode that sticks out to me, as far as value judgments go, is the first episode of season two. Penny buys her own condo, because she (rightly) assumes that there’s no need for her to wait until she’s married to get her own place. Yay! That seems nice.

Except, the first guy she brings back there (because she’s a serial dater on a neverending quest to find The One) freaks out that she has her own place, and she decides that she’s going to turn into a spinster. Cats start magically appearing in her condo. She finds a Tivo full of episodes of The View. It’s all very funny and weird and awful. Because all this stuff is shown to be bad. She’s afraid of it. She’s terrified that she’s going to wind up alone.

Why?

I mean, why is this something we’re terrified of? I have no actual problem with marriage. I think it’s a lovely thing when it’s done between two people who genuinely love and trust each other. But I don’t love the idea of people getting married who are just terrified of being alone.

Besides, Penny’s really not alone. She has a strong group of friends who love each other very much, and are willing to support her decisions. That’s great! Most people can’t say that. So why care that you might not end your days all married and stuff?

Societally, it’s still very much frowned on for a woman to go her whole life unmarried. Once we hit thirty, people start giving funny looks and making snide comments about dining for one. That’s shit. Being single is pretty cool. I never would have gotten to do most of the ridiculous things I’ve done in my life (and oh are they ridiculous) if I was in a relationship at the time.

People seriously need to stop stressing out.

Of course, the attitude towards men on the show is just as harmful. The show forces a value judgment on all things masculine. Brad is exempt because he’s married, but even then they make sure to temper all of his feminine tendencies with some hardcore masculinity. 

For Dave and Max, though, it’s made clear that no feminine habits will be allowed. Max, the gay character, is very much the enforcer of bro-ness. He calls Dave a pussy and mocks his penchant for v-necks and going to work. Clearly being a man means not having responsibilities and not doing silly girly things like showering or living in a nice apartment.

More, though, is the fact that Max and Dave are never encouraged to be in a long-term relationship, while Penny and Alex are weird if they’re not dating. The guys have one night stands, the girls have boyfriends. Do not want.

Like I said before, I really do enjoy Happy Endings. I just don’t subscribe to the idea that a happy ending is necessarily a be-coupled one. Single people can be happy too, okay?

So there.

Also, having a dumb blonde character? Not cool, guys.

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