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Category: Art and Entertainment, Feminism, Media, WMC

Last Man Standing Offers No Good Cues for Manhood

| November 8, 2011

Written by Susan Campbell, originally posted to our Sexy or Sexism? blog

Something happened to Tim Allen since his 1990s hit ABC sitcom, "Home Improvement."

In that show, which drew consistently high numbers of viewers, Tim Allen, an affable and often-confused host of a home improvement television show, with his wife raised three rambunctious sons.

In Allen's latest project, "Last Man Standing," Mike Baxter and his wife are raising three daughters -- one of whom is a single parent, with her toddler son in tow. Baxter works at an outdoor sports store.

But there's something decidedly jaded about this latest attempt at defining American manhood -- which, with "Man Up!" and "How to Be a Gentleman," seems to be a theme of this fall's new season lineup. The first time we see Mike Baxter, he comes home from some exotic clime, and he heaves a large fish onto the table for his wife to clean and cook -- or so we suppose because her response is something along the lines of "What am I supposed to do with that?" Get it? This is a man we're talking about. He walks into his workplace and says, happily, "It smells like balls in here." See? Manly.

But this American all-man's wings are clipped. His boss tells him his fabulous trips into the jungle are over, and now he must make web videos to encourage the younger crowd to spend money at the store. He makes videos, but they're mostly just rants and some of them are quite telling. As with so many other new television shows this fall, we seek the meaning of manhood by eliminating what it is not. According to Mike Baxter, manhood is emphatically not:

  • Soccer players who wear too much hair gel.
  • Day care centers where the activity includes children with two fathers -- who make muffins.  In reaction, Baxter snatches his grandson home and explains to his daughter -- the child's mother -- that such a place will reduce the boy to growing up one day to dance on a parade float. The only time a man should be dancing, he says, is when someone is shooting at his feet.
  • Anything remotely involved with a tanning salon.

"Nice backbone, Susan," he says to a character who won't confront his girlfriend. Now that hurt.

Not really. I didn't feel a thing.

Like so many of the other lame shows, "Last Man's" website includes a blog that includes bromides such as: "Women are like pit bulls with behavior like that: They latch onto it and never let go until one of you is dead."

Har-har! Big fun!

Not really. I hope for all American men that they are not taking cues from this show. I'm pretty sure it's offering no good answers.

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