The Effect of the Sitcom “Womaniser”
The character of the perennial womaniser: at their best they’re just mean, and at their worst they’re a serious hindrance to the feminist cause.
Let’s take a little look at Mr. Joey ‘How you doin’?’ Tribbiani. Sleeping with women here, there, everywhere, never calling them back – as you do. He’s the only Friend who ends the show on his own – do you think this was a feminist conspiracy on behalf of the writers? Joey redeems himself by just being hilarious and adorably stupid – ultimately, he’s an incredibly loveable guy, and despite his questionable treatment of women, he is loved by Friends fans as much as the rest of the group.
The same can’t really be said of How I Met Your Mother’s archetypal philanderer, Barney Stinson. He’s a serial liar, creating false identities in order to coerce women into bed. Barney has taken the form of an astronaut, a man with only a day to live, a lesbian (yep), an older version of himself from the future, a nuclear physicist with the ability to save man kind, the list goes on…
And then the poor, unwitting females who fall into his path are portrayed as idiotic bimbos. This negates any argument that, well, they did choose to sleep with him, because they didn’t; they were under the impression that they were sleeping with a famous philanthropist, or a Nobel Peace Prize winner, not a morally questionable jerk.
Still, you can’t deny it; these guys are funny. Barney Stinson’s character has been brilliantly received by critics and is credited with being one of the main reasons for the show’s success, which is easy to see. The token Lothario adds another dimension to the show and can always be relied upon to play devils’ advocate or be the voice of contention – they are, for the most part, harmless entertainment. The womanisers make for very interesting characters because their bountiful conquests have unquestionably been written hilariously. I laughed. And I’m a feminist.
However, it becomes really problematic when we see how such common portrayals of loveable womanisers have desensitised us to the bad treatment of women. Television shows which treat such behaviour with casual indifference prompt us to be more inclined to sweep it under the rug if a man we like sleeps with us and never calls us again. Saying, “oh it’s not the worst thing to happen”, “it happens all the time” – when we should really be furious at having been led on and then used in such an appalling manner.
It’s hugely damaging to women’s expectations of themselves. We’ve now been conditioned into blaming ourselves for not being interesting or pretty enough to keep a man’s attention for more than an evening, when that obviously isn’t the case. He’s either an idiot or an asshole.
Now, here’s a tip for when you’re not sure if some sexism is being done on you: if it’s not happening to men as well, it’s definitely, probably sexist. And the only real female counterpart to the televised serial womaniser is in Sex and the City’s resident femme fatale, Samantha. But oh my does she set my feminist senses a-tingling, in such a good way. She throws men about like they are slightly dirty laundry, with not a care in the world about who she might offend. But then she’s one woman, in a sea of lecherous, perverted men, on a mission to bed as many women as possible to feed their over-inflated ego. We need MORE.
I wonder what would happen if we women were to treat men the same way that Joey treats women. I think the world economy might collapse. High powered office blocks would be full of suited men staring longingly at their phones waiting desperately for their one night stand to ring them back. It would be the end of civilisation as we know it.
Television is one thing, but this behaviour has undeniably transitioned to real life. There are eternal ladies’ men who have so many notches in their bedpost it’s practically a toothpick. Is it a matter of pride, that they can say that their sexual conquests have more digits than her phone number, which they never dialled? Or do you think they are as disgusted with themselves as we are towards them?
This isn’t me berating the one night stand culture, oh no no no; sleep with whom you want, when you want, just make sure that if you do manage to bag an astronaut, ask to see his NASA ID first. Sleeping with someone on the understanding that you are both in it for casual sex should not be judged; but when that understanding hasn’t developed, you run a real chance of hurting someone.
There is something tragic about the man who can’t hold down woman for longer than a couple of hours of passion. The ones who then have to jump in and out of a bajillion vaginas to make themselves feel better and to convince themselves that they are the perfect lover and god’s gift to women everywhere, but are too frightened or socially inept to maintain a conversation longer than an erection. Poor men.
But spare a thought to those hundreds of women who are still hoping to get a call back from Joey Tribbiani.
Written by Chiara Milford