Gender Roles within the Sitcom “Still Standing”

It is no brand-new question that every individual likes watching TV series, movies or talk shows to spend downtime or kill some minutes during a day. One of the favorite movie genres is situation comedy (cf. sitcom). Even though sitcoms tend to be hilarious and easy-going, they are bound to have a hidden motive/meaning throughout the story. For instance, an American TV series “Still Standing” may be a brilliant way to show gender roles and its core value between two main characters – a married couple from Chicago – William “Bill” and Judith “Judy” Miller. The Millers have been married for a long time and brought up three children: Lauren, Brian, and Tina. Will and Judy have been together from adolescence, but their relationship as strong and tight as on the day of the first date, and even the mundane could not destroy it. In fact, many episodes are revealing the ins and outs of gender roles concerning various topics. However, one of the brightest example showing in-depth gender roles is presented in season two episode two “Still Driving.” Although the episode focuses on Bill helping his son driving, it also reveals a wide away of topics, such as teenager’s stereotypes, the relationship between the couple, etc. The state-of-art sitcoms have altered their fundamental principle and it is clearly visible in “Still Standing.”

The episode two in season two “Still Driving” augments these altered gender roles where the husband provides a minuscule role in childcare specifically in jokes. Since the episode shows Brian’s worries about driving lesson, Will (as the best father) decided to help him and give some advice. Indeed, Bill offers his aid, and they both go for a father-son ride, though Bill continually jokes with his son. For example, Brian worryingly and unconfidently fixes the mirror inside a car so that he can observe the background outside. At the same time, Brian says “Don’t worry, son, your lipstick is fine” (00:04:35-00:04:47). It makes the scene even more humorous and shows Will’s childish attitude when he is supposed to be serious. Later, Brian complaints about his father being impatient and making him nervous. Judy, as a good mother and a loyal wife, asks Brian to give a second chance, though Brian says “Either you teach me to drive or drive me everywhere for the rest of my life” (00:08:35-00:08:47). Indeed, it was a little joke between mother and son, though this scene shows that Judith can, in fact, drive. Traditionally it was something out of the standard issue for a woman to drive, though “Still Standing” shows that a woman has the right to do everything along with a man. After a ride, Brian thanks his mother for an amazing lesson, and Judy says “Just remember, when you take care of father where we are old, I eat first” (00:09:20-00:09:27). It also implies the superiority of female in the contemporary society, even if it is in the form of a joke. She did not mention that the father should have been the most important. Neither did she refuse his son’s offer to teach him to drive due to her weakness in front of the male.

One of the interesting changes in the gender roles is the total equality between husband and wife. On the fundamental basis, a woman had to be 24/7 housekeeper taking care of husband/kids and listen/ do everything her husband says. Today it is vanishing, and boundaries are underway. Bill and Judy are equal in a professional way: they both work and save money for family issues. Bill works in the store’s toilet department whereas Judy works as a full-time dental assistant. Although Bill feels like he should be more important about providing money, Judy work efficiently and manage to give money to the family as well. In 1950s men felt furious if they could not meet particular metrics. Male are usually judged by their professional success, female – by the presence of their families and children. Folk wisdom says that a “typical” woman wants to marry and have children and that all other interests that she may have are secondary to these family roles. Thus while men are prescribed to be guided by achievements, women are required to be oriented towards people and strive for establishing close interpersonal relationships. However, these stereotypes are trying to be eliminated today. For instance, in the episode, Bill bought a new car for Brian by emptying their “new car fund.” Judy becomes furious at first and jaws him about saving money for a new family car, though then she thanks him. In fact, it shows that both adults work their best to provide all necessities and save money for children and themselves for a better living. Women have always had labels to sit at home, bring up children, and serve their husbands, though now these boundaries are being erased and altered due to many equality and feminist movements.

Parenting is of importance. Every well-brought kid owes the parents who dedicate all of their time and possibilities to grow him/her up accurately. Bill always tries to be an excellent father to their children but often fails due to childish behavior spending much time in front of the TV. In the scene, Bill tries to lecture Judy since she teaches Brian to drive correctly. Judy, being sympathetic and kind, comforts him by saying “you are a good father,” though she goes on telling that she is the one “who taught children how to ride a bike, tie shoelaces, and swim” (00:14:40-00:15:20). It shows that Bill does not know how to take care of children since he focuses on how to be a good father in something appealing to himself. Judy is more caring and attentive despite her silly jokes and attitude throughout the sitcom. Nevertheless, she correctly treats her daughters and son allowing them to do exciting things. For example, she is okay with Brian having and interacting with girls, though mothers tend to be overprotective and ruin the relationship or warn sons about “having fun” with girls. In the episode, Brian sneaked out to have some downtime with a girl in his brand-new car, and both father and mother were somewhat excited about it.

To be precise, parenting sometimes overlaps with priorities, because parents want to give something to children what they did not achieve or did not have at all. Bill does not have an outstanding job, yet he shares money with all family members. In episode two, he wants to teach his son drive because his father taught him the same; Bill says, “I was just excited. It was supposed to excited thing…my dad taught me how to drive” (00:15:49-00:15:53). Another reason for that is the girls’ love for “cool guys.” Bill wants Brian to be a big man and attract young girls by driving skills and good-looking. However, it becomes apparent that Bill is a sensitive type when Brian asks Judy to teach him to drive a car. In the past centuries, sensitivity was a shame for a “real man,” and only female can be sentimental. Today sensitivity is not a shame both for male and female. It is up to a person to decide whether or not they want to fit in or change stereotypes. Speaking of Judy’s priorities, she is a loving mother trying to deal with domestic chores and a full-time job so that she can be everything to her family. It contrasts with traditionally-based family. Moreover, Judy shows a vast number of new things, such as earning money, driving, talking to her husband and kids on equal and friendly terms. It represents the bond of the family since everyone treats each other the same unlike to the past decades.

Gender roles can be puzzling and somewhat complicated because many people support equality while another group of people still sticks to the fundamental principle of family wellbeing. In fact, sitcoms and movies tend to be different from what one could witness in the past. The contemporary world/media focuses on rational relationship describing female and male as equal human beings. Hence, a woman can work, study, drive a car, repair a bookshelf or be responsible for family finances whereas a man can also work, sit and bring up kids, and even be a sensitive and loving-type father in public. There is nothing embarrassing or forbidding to accept various gender roles. If a woman wants to be an engineer, let her be. If a man wants to be a teacher or nurse, let him be. It does not refer only to professional occupation but to many other factors. The sitcom “Still Standing” is a bright example of breaking the rules and labels. Every episode comprises a range of topics: from sarcastic and hilarious jokes to the role of man/woman within the family. The current episode is just an instance to reveal the core value of modern family; yet it does not mean that everyone should follow something specific. Life is given to everyone equally; thus it is up to an individual to decide what he/she wants to do during their lifetime.

Works Cited

Lantagne, Allison. Gender Roles in Media. Huffington Post, updated July 15, 2014. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-lantagne/gender-roles-media_b_5326199.html

Zukovich. Masculinity, Gender Roles, and T.V. Shows from the 1950s. The Artifice, Oct. 18, 2014. Retrieved from the-artifice.com/masculinity-gender-roles-tv-1950s/

“Still Driving.” YouTube, uploaded by Christen Plain, Feb. 7, 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxGociI7XfY

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