Friday, February 28, 2014

Two and a Half Men: Hyper Masculinity vs. Effeminate Masculinity

Sarea Frederick
Television Criticism
Blog Post 1

            In the television show Two and a Half Men two very opposite type of masculinity are depicted which are hyper masculinity and the effeminate masculinity. Alan, the uptight divorced and unhappy chiropractor portrays the effeminate masculine role and Charlie, the womanizing carefree man who gets everything and anything he wants, plays the hyper masculine role. The producers of the show display their preference of the hyper masculinity by portraying him in the light that they do. He is successful, rich, constantly surrounded by beautiful women, and a good job. He is able to have all of these things seemingly because of the hyper masculine attributes he displays. Alan, enacting the opposite type of masculinity, is poor, dependent on Charlie for a house to stay in since his wife took his house in the divorce, and has a hard time getting a date or interacting with women at all but still hopes to get married again.  The strong depiction of Charlie’s hyper masculine character in a positive light, and Alan’s strong depiction of effeminate masculinity in a very negative light makes it simple to come to the conclusion that the producers favor a male who acts in a hyper masculine way. I will give you examples and clips from throughout the show and show how their relationship successes, career successes, and overall appearances are defined through their masculinity.
            For example in this clip Alan and Charlie are both deathly sick and Charlie is completely unwilling to suck it up to go on a date, whereas Alan is not only willing to go on this date he is trying to convince Charlie to go on the double date with him because I am sure that the success of the date is based on Charlie’s presence. Alan also lists all of the admirable qualities about Charlie’s date as a soap star, which he admits, to knowing only because he watches soaps at work. This just further drives home his effeminate masculinity, most women do not even watch soaps because they are so dramatic, let alone a male, except Alan does and pays attention not only to the shows but also to the characters real lives. When asked how Charlie wanted to feel better he said to shoot him in the face, guns and taking a shot to the face are all very masculine things to say in a situation. Alan tells Charlie he was going to suggest that Charlie gets a free chiropractic exam from Alan, Charlie responds with “You could also give me a haircut but what would be the point in that?” By tying his career as a medical professional which is otherwise a very respectful and masculine career but the way Charlie ties the one masculine quality Alan has to being a hair dresser quickly effeminates the quality. Also, the way Alan goes on to give a lengthy explanation of the benefits of chiropractics to Charlie just also continues to effeminates his character and career.
            Even Berta, the housekeeper, is a significantly more masculine character than Alan really ensuring Alan’s character looked effeminate and incompetent. If you watch up to 1:42 in the following clip (or all of it if you wish) you can see the many moments where Alan is displayed as a much more feminine character. Berta completely accepts Charlie’s sexual escapades and makes comments about sex often like she does in this clip about “liking it rough.” She also resorts to gun violence immediately, asking the husband of the girl Charlie has upstairs if he has a gun and then suggesting he gets one. Alan responds in horror that she is suggesting this, as a feminine character would.
            Hatfield points out many moments in which the producers point out Alan and Charlie’s masculinity types from their attire to their relationships with women and so forth in her article What It Means to Be a Man. Hatfield also points out that Alan’s constant struggle to understand his masculinity and his repeated attempts to enact masculinity in the way that Charlie. Alan knows that by doing this he is more likely to be as successful in his personal and career life as Charlie is but Alan never is able to succeed in enacting this quality and is stuck being dependent on Charlie, allowing his ex-wife to constantly take advantage of him, as well as many other women and Charlie, and really everyone. Hatfield points out on page 532 of What It Means to Be a Man that, “The simplest element of Alan’s and Charlie’s performances can be found in their attire. Alan dresses very neatly…Charlie has a laid-back California style; he wears untucked, short-sleeved bowling shirts with shorts in every episode.” In general I would think it would be much more attractive to see a guy dressed crisply in slacks and a button up, but the anal way in which Alan wears it ruins it. Also, Charlie’s messy, incredibly ugly, bowling shirt he is constantly wearing is not a better option in any way. The way that the show paints Charlie’s care-free character he is able to get away with this unsuccessful attire and he is even idolized for it with multiple characters throughout the shows lifetime mimicking his dress and mistaking children from previous lovers as his from the way they are dressing. Hatfield also quotes Alan from an episode in which a girl named Kandi says, “When I was a little girl, I used to love playing bride,” to which Alan replies, “Me, too.” I think this is where the show really shoots the home run in not only portraying Alan as effeminate but gay even though he has a child and way recently married.
            Why does the show seem to favor Charlie’s poor-dressing, poor-moraled, poor-behaved, womanizing asshole? Are they trying to send the message that enacting masculinity in the way Alan does will only lead to you being dependent on your asshole brother, left by your wife, and constantly disrespected by everyone around? I think so. From the above examples and the depiction this puts in viewers head about what type of masculinity is and is not okay, I think this is exactly the message the show is trying to send. It is safe to adopt a traditional view of masculinity, but I would be impressed to see them challenging the traditional view of masculinity, which I think they have started doing since Ashton Kutcher took over Charlie’s spot on the show although they still portray Ashton in a similar manner as 

1 comment:

  1. From Lauren Friedman: Hi Sarcea, I enjoyed reading your blog and liked the clips you picked to give evidence to your argument that Alan and Charlie are portrayed in different terms of masculinity. Two and a Half Men is a perfect example of hegemonic masculinity through Charlie's character, because this form of masculinity can only exists if there are comparisons to subordinate genders (like Alan's character). Charlie's display of hegemonic masculinity, even though it is the dominant ideal form of masculinity, only pertains to a small amount of men. You mentioned that Charlie has it all, always gets what he wants, and never has to face the negative consequences from his poor decisions, which clearly shows his hyper dominance in the relationship. Charlie's hegemonic masculinity can be seen as a "fantasy figure" to sustain this ideal form of hyper masculinity.


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