by: Alison Bartlett
In last Sunday’s series premiere of Fox’s new cartoon, “Allen Gregory,” the recently skinny Jonah Hill voices the title character, a pretentious and precocious 7 year-old forced to begin public school after his “super gay” dad, Richard DeLongpre (French Stewart), squanders their considerable life-savings on who knows what. What will his second-grade classmates think of a briefcase instead of a lunch box? A seersucker suit instead of cargo shorts? His entrance into public school, in a general pilot episode manner, allows the show to introduce the cast: Jeremy, his father’s life partner slash man-toy (Nat Faxon); Principal Gottlieb (Renee Taylor), of whom Allen has some rather graphic fantasies; and Gina Winthrop (Leslie Mann), his exasperated teacher more, who Allen insists upon referring to by her first name. Throw in a dash of adopted Cambodian sister Julie (Joy Osmanski) and pepper with your usual gang of grade-schoolers and you got yourself a stew going. On paper, it has the potential to be one of the most forward-thinking, witty shows on television. Then why was it universally panned by critics? As this show is airing on the Fox network, it joins the formidably successful of its “animation domination.” Allen Gregory is sandwiched between The Simpson’s and Family Guy, and honestly, it seemed to fit right into the formula. Just like these other shows, we get generalizations of populations of people, from the rich and powerful to “the gays”. We are immediately introduced to Richard – while he is verbally berating Jeremy in front of a house party full of their friends. (Awkward.) This first glance shows just how little Richard cares about his family and really only cares about what people think of him and his status. “The DeLongpre’s have always had money. Who said anything about money problems?” Richard retorts, when asked by his partner why Richard must now, all of a sudden, get a job. Then we meet Julie, who was “plucked out of the desert or sea or something” and put into the virtual shopping cart that is adoption. While the other characters applaud Richard’s charity toward this young, Cambodian “urchin,” Julie is clearly not amused. In this way, the show lampoons the idea of Richard being the hero; saving Julie, worshipping Jeremy for his beauty, and molding Allen Gregory in his own likeness. (Because of his mini-Richard status, A.G. even gets to sit shotgun while Jeremy is cramped in the backseat. Although all parents show favor towards their children, this is probably a bit excessive.) While the first episode deals mostly with Allen Gregory and his first day at school, what we see in his home life reads like a generic gay stereotype from the point of view of a crotchety old man: Richard is just that—rich. He cares about his status in society more than love for his family – even adopting a child to Bono himself into chic-ness. (Apparently, nothing says gay stereotype like a little girl from the Orient.) He teaches his son – possibly just by osmosis and not actually on purpose – that being rude and trite and assertive to the point of aggressive is the only way to get what you want—and Jeremy is a perfect example. Jeremy is more like a pool boy in Richard’s eyes. He is just eye candy. His stomach is like a “supple, leather drum.” Jeremy has very valuable opinions and clearly has Allen Gregory and Richard’s best interests at heart, but the show constantly overlooks him for much more extravagant and absurd ideas. For instance, while Jeremy is having a heart-to-heart with A.G. over his failed first day, we learn that he is actually a straight man. Five years ago, he had a loving wife and kids, but a “rich gay” basically stalked him and wouldn’t rest until he got his trophy. You can see that Jeremy still longs for the life he left behind. The allusions to Jeremy not really being comfortable with Richard’s sexual advances kinda let the cat out of the bag before he revealed it, but we do not yet know why he left his family. Although its relevance for the show is questionable, it does show that Richard is willing to do anything to get what he wants, especially buying people outright. Perhaps the show’s creator is trying to say that gays can make any man want them, if they stalk/bribe them long enough, and that straight men are just dumb and lazy and greedy enough to do it. (So beware, straight men of Earth! You could be under the thumb of a scheming gay man right now and not even know it. ) And, I think this goes without saying, but what person allows a 7 year-old to drink Pinot? I mean, they’re gay, not irresponsible. If any straight parent would do that on television, the FCC would have a field day. Is this how our country perceives the LGBTQ community? Flamboyant to the point of irritating? Loving to the point of smothering? Irresponsible egotistical maniacs? I am interested to see how all of the characters morph and how the writers continue to portray the stereotype-happy Richard with the much more muted Jeremy. As this is only the pilot episode – and many shows have improved considerably during the course of their run – time may resolve these characterization flaws. At one point during the pilot, a child in the background yelled out: “It Gets Better.” As the message of the pilot boils down to “Be you, and it will all work out in the end,” I hope for the same for this show. It really could get better. Alison Bartlett is a 2007 Graduate of Ohio University. She has a BA in Social Work and is a former Campaign Director for Grassroots Campaigns Chicago. Alison is an avid singer and is a member of the alt-country duo “Dead and Lovely”. Alison loves to spend her time watching sports, reading The Daily Beast and nurturing her three cats. Yes, three. She has a loving spouse who enjoys debating politics or social justice issues whenever possible. She recently met George Lucas and felt the force within her, allowing her to die a happy Jedi. She loves to read and loves TV and movie trivia.