The New Normal: Racist, Homophobic and Unfunny

by: Timothy 

I don’t really talk about TV other than to say that it is brilliant because it also happens to be Louie and/or RuPaul’s Drag Race. But allow me to speak of The New Normal.

This is a harmful show that refuses to wink.

Two beautiful white men (Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells)—1 who is into football and is a doctor and 1 who is viciously and stereotypically gay to the Nth degree—decide to have a baby while the birth mother’s grandma (Ellen Barkin) says racist, homophobic, and generally misanthropic statements whenever she can without impunity except by the sassy and brassy African American female assistant to one of the beautiful white gay soon-to-be-fathers (but more on her in a bit).

The birth mother (Georgia King) is a beautiful but down on her luck white woman who “forgot how to dream.” All she wants is to help two loving gay people to have a chance at their dreams and agrees to have a baby with the beautiful white gay men so that she can use the 35k the gays are giving her to dream big for her and her child (Bebe Wood). The birth mother’s daughter (11 or 12 years old by tv standards), by the way, is unable to pull herself from any type of social media for any longer than 5 seconds and even then only to make a boring and uninspired quip about social media.

Then there is the Asian hooker stereotype with whom the birth mother’s useless heterosexual boyfriend is caught having sex. The Asian hooker stereotype even attempts to get the useless heterosexual boyfriend off by talking about how powerful America is. All the while keeping a bored facial expression plastered on her face. The heterosexual boyfriend and the Asian hooker stereotype are having sex during the 6 minutes it has taken for the birth mother to come back to reclaim her forgotten name tag (presumably a requirement at the low-wage, demeaning job she works at).

Oh and the gay stereotype’s African American female assistant who is overtly and shamelessly materialistic and the star of Real Housewives of Atlanta (NeNe Leakes) tells the birth mother’s racist grandma to take her racist attitudes and go back to the south without any indication of irony.

These are the characters that we are going to see week after week in The New Normal. You should know that this is the nice version of this post. The first version had many many more f-bombs and s-splatters throughout. Think Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.

I keep thinking about Modern Family—a show I occasionally watch—and the white, financially stable gay couple with a baby. Mitchell (Jesse Tyler) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) are based in stereotypes but are nowhere near as enraging. Perhaps a blog on the comparisons is better written by someone who is more familiar with Modern Family? It’s a blog worth writing.

But allow me three of the strongest criticisms of this show that I believe will be the most persuasive in convincing you that you should not watch it beyond the first episode.

1. This show is racist. The juvenile “eye rolling” of the white people in the show as a response to the grandmother’s racist comments is an inappropriate response to racism. This coupled with the fact that only the sassy and brassy African American stereotype is allowed to directly confront the racist grandmother, sends a false message that fight against racism is best fought by African Americans and that racism only impacts African Americans. The scenes with the Asian hooker stereotype are so enraging that I can’t, in good faith, write about the harm without lapsing into Andy Rooney rage. This alone should justify a boycott of The New Normal.

2. The show is homophobic. By continuing yet another example of a wealthy, beautifully white male couple the show presents a false picture of the vast majority of the LGBT and queer community. By showing a butch lesbian couple holding baby as the model of a lesbian “new normal,” the show advances stereotypes of lesbian parenthood that is inappropriate. Reducing the homosexual community to anything but the most boring and obvious stereotypes is homophobic in the eyes of this blogger. And I do not care that Ryan Murphy is gay. He has a responsibility to not write and produce such harmful and uninspired crap. Failing in that responsibility is a display of homophobia.

3. The show is created and perpetuated by cowards. I don’t have a problem with casting anyone in this show. I do not blame the actors for trying to find work. I blame the producers and writers who presented this vile show as an opportunity for actors needing a break or lending their support to what could have been a powerful show. It takes a coward to write something so horrible and boring without any gesture of responsibility.

4. The show is boring and unfunny. I know I said 3, but I can’t help myself right now. Let it not go unsaid that this show is profoundly unfunny.

So, by all means watch the first episode of The New Normal. It’s available for free on NBC.com. Watch it but then vow to never watch it again. Let the rage you feel about the harm this show will cause move you to write a better, more honest and entertaining show.

Timothy  is a teacher of writing  He is an occasional Twitter user and obsessive FaceBook checker. When he grows up he wants to be Barney Frank during the 1980s or Rachel Maddow at any point in her life.

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4 responses to “The New Normal: Racist, Homophobic and Unfunny

  1. I think the queer family in Modern Family is far less enraging and more engaging than this new show because, as problematic as their actions can be sometimes, they at least aren’t streotypical to an extreme degree. Cam and Mitchell don’t look ‘perfect’ and they go thru life much like other human beings do: they go to work, they have family issues, they fight with each other…and even though they are gay, that is only one characteristic that they possess, not something that defines them. It’s interesting to note that Mitchell is really into football too…but his character is far more endearing than the new normal character your describing here. I think the fact that he doesn’t look like something out of a gay lifestyle rag really helps.

    If you’ve seen Ryan Murphy’s other oeuvre (ok, I’m really talking about Glee here), then this sort of thing is fairly typical of his work. Basically, gays are bullied and oppressed (which duh, we alrdy know) and so then we have to respond to such treatment by being bullies ourselves and beating the bullies (and incidentally the audience) with our not so subtle scream for acceptance. Glee’s second and third seasons really gets dragged down by this not-subtle rageshout for inclusion.

    That show is also full of problematic streotypes and ethnic ‘jokes’ that Murphy (and I suppose the vast majority of the white audience who watches Glee), but I think it’s easier to swallow with that show since it is a shot that is supposed to be taken as ironic and comedic most of the time. But I do see your point. I can only stomach so much of what Murphy deems as ‘progressive’.

  2. Pingback: The New Normal: My Take | I Get a Bit Obsessive·

  3. This show just illustrates the truth about all the things you hate about it. When racism is heard people do just roll their eyes at the situtation and ignore it. Racism against Blacks is still an issue that we (yes I’m black) have to deal with everyday and we stand up for ourselves. That is what NeNe Leakes’ character symbolizes. The gay couple may not accurately represent all of the LGBT community, but they do represent some couples. The challenges of being gay will never go away and, as I can only imagine, can be difficult to deal with. The grandmother says all the racist and homophobic things people think and say in secret. I think this show is more about the awareness of the situations, it’s not sugar coating it and making everything and everyone seem perfect. I am not keen on some of the jokes and things said, but I do realize that it is also the reality and perception of others.

    • @ACook- out of curiosity, did you watch the show? I only ask because to highlight Nene Leaks’ character as highlighting the racism in others is problematic given that her entire character is based on an offensive stereotype. She is constantly stealing from her boss in order to buy rhinestone blinged out items… And that’s only ONE aspect of her characterisation I find offensive. She is no more a sounding board for the racist banter than she is, herself, a cutout carved from the most offensive stereotypes about black women you could brainstorm in 60 seconds. I agree with what you say about racism still being pervasive & problematic in our society, but regurgitating the most extreme & vile racist & homophobic invective imaginable & neither truly confronting nor questioning it, but instead asking the audience to laugh at it is NOT helpful to any cause.

      A note about Modern Family- the gay couple is actually beautifully dimensionalized. There are aspects you could accuse of stereotype, but I guarantee that for every stereotype a character has, he also breaks stereotype in a number of other ways. Someone mentioned football: Cam is the stay at home parent, has many effeminate tendencies, but also was a football player & loves sports. That’s only one superficial example, but it is where these shows differ. The gay couple- as with all the characters- in “new normal”are one dimensional, & that lone dimension was baseline stereotype.

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