They Just Don’t Make Comedy Like They Used To

My wife and I have been rewatching one of our favorite comedy TV shows, 3rd Rock from the Sun.

The premise is that a group of outer space aliens assumes human bodies in order research life on planet Earth.  The “politically incorrect” jokes that were allowed to air back in the late ’90s is a testament to how much our culture has changed in such a short time.

Here are a few of the classic zingers on gender:

Dick: Sally, I want you to observe her, find out what women on this planet do.
Sally: Why can’t Harry do it?
Dick: Because you’re the woman.
Sally: That brings up a very good question: why am I the woman?
Dick: Because you lost.

Sally: Dick, women are trouble. I should know! I’ve been one for two weeks!
Dick: I know, which brings up another point. I command you to shave under your arms.
Sally: Doable. I’m sorry you find me so offensive (tears up)
Dick: Dammit! Pull yourself together, man! We’re going out.
Sally: Ok, give me an hour.
Dick: An hour?
Sally: I got to rotate these (indicating breasts). It’s a party!

Harry: Women. You can’t live with ’em, and yet they’re everywhere.

Tommy: Sally, you’re amazing. As sick as you are, you keep taking care of us.
Sally: Yeah, I know. I don’t understand. All I want to do is curl up into a ball, and yet somehow I feel compelled to nurture you. God, what a cruel disease!

Sally: You just can’t imagine what it feels like, Dick. It’s like he reached in… and pulled all the bones out of my body… [starts crying]
Dick: My God, what are you doing?
Sally: [wipes her tears] Apparently I’m leaking!
Dick: Well, stop!

Nina: I knew you had a thing for her.
Dick: Yes, but I understand I’m not allowed to show it to her without her permission.

Gender comedy has changed. It used to be about poking fun at the difficulties of being (and living with) a woman. Nowadays, it’s about the difficulty women face dealing with their idiot husbands.



Redeeming Disney

I recently saw the latest Pixar movie Coco with my wife.

I found the movie to be a refreshing contrast from the normal deluge of anti-male Disney propaganda.

The protagonist is a 12-year old boy (I know, shocker) who grows up in an oppressive matriarchy. The boy wants to be a musician like his great-grandfather, but his grandmother says his grandfather was a bad man who abandoned his family. And to make sure the family is never hurt again, she forbids any enjoyment of music.

But the boy cannot suppress his gift/love for music and continues to secretly practice his guitar.

Then, through a series of events, he ends up being sucked into the “Land of the Dead” where he goes on a quest to find the truth about his great-grandfather.

I won’t give any spoilers, but the resolution was refreshingly pro-male (or at least not anti-male) and pro-family.

This got me thinking…

Most Disney movies follow some variation of the “follow your heart” theme.

It seems that, in most stories, when a boy “follows his heart” it usually involves something like finding the truth about a missing father or ancestor, finding a lost treasure, doing something risky to save others, etc.

But when a girl “follows her heart” it typically involves rebelling against her parents and seeking a high-status position that is normally occupied by men.

This got me wondering if it would be possible to have a story structure that had the same appeal of Disney movies, but without the feminist rebellion theme.

I think it is possible, and it might look something like this:

  1. A child (boy or girl) has a unique gift that makes him/her different or is slow to “come of age” like the rest of the children
  2. The child faces ridicule and other difficulties due to being different from everyone else
  3. The parents (and particularly the father) help the child come to terms with his/her identity
  4. The child faces a test of courage
  5. The child passes the test and contributes to the greater good of the community.

I think stories like that would be just as compelling, if not more so, then the normal deluge of “girl power” narratives. And it would place the parents in an honorable role without making the story boring and devoid of drama.

Just some thoughts. Maybe one day the Disney empire will finally crumble and children’s movies can be redeemed…