Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The League of Semi-Extrandinary Gentleman and a Hot Chick

Dan Brumbaugh
Melissa Zimdars
TV Criticism
The League
Not every person can be a six-foot four athletic freak of nature who can bench press three hundred pounds and jump forty inches in the air, but anyone can be a fantasy football king or queen.  Such is the mindset in FXX’s show The League. The characters in FXX’s The League can frequently be seen in each episode screwing each other over, making deals they soon will regret, and doing all sorts of illegal things just to get a leg up on each other in a fantasy football league.  Compared to other masculine shows, The League, specifically “The Vegas Draft” episode, stands out for its use of satire in gender roles and challenges to norms.
            The episode begins with Jenny, the wife of the League Commissioner Kevin, wanting to be in the league. Despite knowing her fantasy football, being friends with almost everybody in the league, and not being as awkward as other characters, she is rejected from the league because she is a girl. The episode takes the league members to Las Vegas where they meet up with Chad Ochocinco, and eventually Jenny when she learns there is an open spot in the league. It comes down to a vote between Jenny and Rafi to determine who gets the final spot. Rafi is an unshaved drink stealer obsessed with bumpin’ chodes, but gets the final spot in the League because he is a guy. 
            On the surface, this doesn’t seem like anything special, but I would argue that the episode is a great challenge to gender.  Anaam Butt’s article, talking about gender roles in TV shows, states “In most top-rated TV shows, the male characters are much more accomplished and are further along in their careers than females.”  While Jenny may be a stay at home mom, and most of the male characters in the show have very good jobs, she is furthest along in regards to what is important for the show: fantasy football knowledge. The League does a good job of painting the scene to show Jenny as a smart, cool, intelligent, female character who anybody would be lucky to have in a fantasy league. At the same time, the show portrays Rafi as this disgusting person that nobody likes who even tries to make out with Jenny in the episode. The only reason Rafi is picked to go into the league instead of Jenny is because it’s funnier, due to the scene being set up so one-sided. The article goes on to say, “Prime-time television needs more strong and professionally accomplished women characters. Most shows are successful because they are relatable and have characters that we all hope to be like one day.” From a viewer’s perspective I think Jenny is a great female character, because she is so down to earth and not an over the top, highly sexualized, high maintenance bitch that you sometimes get from these types of shows.

            Comparing The League to another masculine football show, Blue Mountain State, we can see various positive differences in the shows. While I remain a huge fan of Blue Mountain State, the show’s representation of female characters is always the same. Drunken party girls who have pillow fights with each other in their underwear running rampant throughout the college campus. Matt Gilbert from the Boston Globe seems to agree with this assessment in his article about Blue Mountain State in regards to female characters. “The women? Almost all of them are subservient students who apparently live to sleep with the football players. Only one, Craig’s girlfriend, Denise seems to have a name, and she’s a shrew who won’t sleep with him and who is obsessed with making him into a rich pro player”. What’s so great about The League, and this episode in particular, is that it flips one’s expectations of gender. In one scene at the club, Rafi has the idea that women love being sandwiched by two men, since two men love being sandwiched by two women on the dance floor. He of course makes everyone feel really uncomfortable, and turns into the fool of the party. Meanwhile, Jenny is in the VIP room talking football with Chad Ochocinco and having a blast. In the episode, Chad even says, “This girl knows her stuff. I would’ve put you in the league.” After having a pro football player vouch for her, Jenny’s credibility and moral standing sky rocket in the episode to where she is arguably the coolest character. Jenny even helps Ruxin, another male character in the League, draft a team so good he is forced to rosterbate to the lineup (self-explanatory I hope).
  A final scene in the episode I want to talk about, and another good example of flipping gender expectations is when the guys visit a strip club in Las Vegas. The female dancer in the scene sees the guys at her table paying more attention to fantasy football and whom to draft than her. Usually the answer to this problem for females in strip clubs with males around is to become a super sexualized object that just can’t be ignored, but in this instance, the stripper gets attention through fantasy football knowledge. She establishes credibility by saying “I won my league last year. Athletes come in here all the time and tell me everything.” After hearing this, the guys are competing to buy a private room with her, not for a lap dance, but to talk fantasy football drafting strategies.  In the next scene Kevin, Jenny’s husband, is seen in the private room with her with a huge draft book of fantasy names. Even when the stripper attempts to give Kevin a lap dance, he shuts her down, and strictly wants to just talk about fantasy football, despite her being very attractive.
“The Vegas Draft” episode of The League did a fantastic job of challenging norms and expectations of gender. While the episode does not end with Jenny being accepted into the league, the viewer of the episode knows that she is clearly in the right. And I would argue that the turning point later in the show, when she is included in the league, is far greater because of this episode’s set-up. 


Butt, Anaam. "'How I Met Your Mother' and 'Big Bang Theory' Promote Gender Stereotypes." PolicyMic. N.p., 03 May 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Gilbert, Matthew. "'Blue Mountain' Turf Is the Lewd and Crude." The New York Times, 12 Jan. 2010. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

"The Vegas Draft" The League. FXX. 2010. Television.

1 comment:

  1. Watching "The League" as a woman it is a breath of fresh air to finally see an empowered woman take on a role that is more dynamic, matching and even surpassing fantasy football knowledge of her male counterparts. However, in other ways throughout the show there is still highly sexualized characters, what do you think is special about Jenny that makes her character stand out? Do you think they are striking a delicate balance by having one strong woman and do not want to stray from this?


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