Friday, February 15, 2008

Wherefore the hot wife?




I stumbled upon this Slate article from 2005. (Though I did not StumbleUpon it, actually.) It discusses the phenomenon in teevee sitcoms known as "fat guy, hot wife." Writer Matt Feeney points out sitcom couple after couple that are "ill-matched looks-wise." These couples had a lot of other endearing little quirks in common. "In addition to their girth, a signal characteristic of these men is immaturity. Most of them are unable to master the simplest daily tasks." Oh, and the women have no real discernible personality or value besides being the hot wife that graciously puts up with her clumsy husband's antics. Having never really watched the shows mentioned, I skipped down to what appeared at first to be a pretty spot-on explanation:

"It's tempting to register a feminist complaint about the message these shows convey—that they perpetuate the view that women shouldn't expect autonomy or fulfillment in romance and marriage. They do, after all, play to a certain male fantasy: living the gluttonous, irresponsible, self-absorbed life of an infant and basking in the unconditional love of a good-looking woman."

But alas, that's not it at all. As Feeney explains, the reason these incongruous pairings are so common is because women watch sitcoms, too!

"In portraying husbands as lousy parents, marginal breadwinners, and repellant sexual partners, the fat-husband sitcoms convey a persecution fantasy"

That's right! Women want to be saddled with an irresponsible, lazy, all around jackass of a husband to satisfy our persecution fantasies. Ugh.

Now, that's not even the worst of it for me. Men are given a pass to be overweight, sloppy, crude, etc, whereas the women are relegated to playing the stunningly beautiful martyr, bravely putting up with the slovenly man she loves. Why aren't women allowed to be unattractive assholes? Is that not acceptable for television?

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10 comments:

stickpaste said...

good call. tv is such a weird refraction of us. its frightening.

being a fat guy myself, let me just say that in my experience, the world doesn't function like it does in tv land. at least not in my neck of the woods.

Holly said...

I also can't wrap my mind around this. However, one of the best family TV shows in my opinion is Roseanne because that has always been what a REAL middle-class family was like.

Hops said...

Stickpaste - Being a hot chick myself, I can also attest that the real world does not parallel TV.

Holly - Roseanne was the best! Until she won the lottery, then it kinda sucked. I remember in like 3rd grade, I had this uppity teacher (Catholic school, obvs) who told the class that watching shows like Roseanne and The Simpsons was a sin. This only served to make me want to watch them more.

Michael T said...

damn, i was going to pull the Roseanne comment. i would say, though, that Lois of Family guy (the picture you started this post with) is a pretty developed character. In fact, she's my favorite part of the show--and one of the reasons I love to watch her so much is the fact that she has to juggle so many challenging aspects of her life, such as a matricidal infant and a stupid, ugly husband. It turns out, though, they have a lot in common, including their sense of humor most of the time.

The Simpsons, however, never really made sense to me, except for the fact that Homer is less fat and a bit more suave in the flashback sequences.

Are you sure there's no validity to the persecution fantasy idea? Not that women actually want a shitty husband, but that most people like to complain about how everyone is against them. Seeing someone in that situation and actually making it work--it's a way of escaping into a fantasy, surely. I don't know...

Fat husband/hot wife is a commonly repeated theme on TV though. Kudos to pointing it out. Weird. (Is it really that uncommon in real life, though? I know I've seen a lot of ugly foreigners with hot Korean women on their arms, but that might have more to do with a gold-digger aspect of psychology than anything else, and Homer/Peter are definitely not rich.)

Hops said...

Michael, perhaps my choice of photos was misplaced. I don't watch enough Family Guy. As for the persecution angle, well, it must be nice for the women who are in that situation to be validated with what they see on TV. However, as this "fat guy, how wife" setup is such a trend, it seems to promote that it is the only socially acceptable marriage arrangement. That's dangerous. And it really chaps my ass that there are no "fat wife, hot husband" situations. Because women are supposed to settle. Because women are supposed to be beautiful. Because unattractive men can land any gorgeous, selfless woman simply by being a bumbling idiot. Because women aren't allowed to be unattractive, period.

J said...

If it were a hot wife and a hot guy, it would be more like a soap opera and no one would watch it. The nature of the sitcom is to be over the top. And I'm a girl, and even I think it's disgusting for a fat woman to be with an attractive guy. I mean, keep yourself up. If we start showing fat wives we're just validating the average size 12 (overweight for most people!) woman in America with an unhealthy lifestyle. It's true, guys are more lovable fat, but I think that says something positive about the way women are accepting and love is more important than looks.

I don't think men really watch that show and get the idea that they can be fat and lazy. I think it's an exaggerated form of art imitating life, if anything.

From a feminist POV, I can't imagine that showing a fat, immature woman would be better than an attractive AND capable woman. Maybe pick your battles. :/

- J @ Hollow-Star.net

Hops said...

J - great point at the end there. Really made me think.

My main issue, and you illustrated it very well, is that women are just supposed to "keep themselves up" whereas men aren't expected to keep the same physique that they had in high school, or paint their face every day to hide that their societally-perceived flaws.

Body-wise, I mean, objectively, shouldn't it be the opposite? Why don't we demand that men stay in peak fitness? It's not like they ever have to gain 25+ lbs to support the life of another human being growing inside of them. They have no reason to ever get fat. So why do we give them permission to do so and then hate on every woman over a size four?

Hops said...

And while I'm at it, is it really pro-feminist to show an attractive, capable, put-together woman suffering (albeit comedically) with a husband that clearly isn't in her league, looks and maturity-wise? That's like telling every little girl watching that they can do anything and be successful and have it all - except a capable, competent man who cares enough about you to stay as fit as you do. Ugh!

Michael T said...

I was trying to think of a show with a hot husband/unattractive wife, and I can't. Looking over the 100 highest ranked tv shows at tv.com, of the shows I've seen, only five had a marriage at the heart of the show, and 3 involved unattractive men (Family Guy, The Simpsons, and The Girls Next Door), one involved a beautiful woman married to a beautiful man (Nip/Tuck), and is questionable (Desperate Housewives).

I put Desperate Housewives under questionable because the only marriage I can think of in that show is between a hot woman and a less hot man, but the woman seems like a bitch and the man seems cool and I think things are a little more complicated than perfect woman/imperfect man.

I don't watch enough TV to do a thorough study of this, but I do think it's kind of disgusting. I don't know that the answer is to have a hot husband with an ugly wife, because I think there's an easy feminist argument against that with "why is the wife so substandard?" But it might at least level the playing field.

In real life--and let's not forget, we should all strive to have a conception of the real world that isn't based on what we see on TV--I sincerely hope that it isn't true that only women are capable of believing that love matters most, and that only men are lovable when fat.

bruno said...

This Cuckold theme Its not a myth, its real and expanding very fast across US and Europe.

In most cases its always the husband that tries to convince the Hotwife into these fetichist niches. Most of married women dont understand why their husbands want to share them, but once the couple tries such sexual deviation, then there is no coming back.

In Italy where im born there is a high addiction for BBC, big black cocks. Black guys rule here.

There are hundreds of porn tube alike sites around the web, whereas married couples share their homemade cuckold videos.

Check these two: http://www.cuckshare.com and http://www.cuckoldvideos.xxx , both will give you a hint of what kind of perversion is this one (+18 years!)