It Hurts To Be a Man
BY JUNE SHIN
Workaholics (2011), Comedy Central sitcom series, tells the story of three best friends Blake, Adam, and Ders are college drop-outs who live together and struggle to transition into working adults because they are unable to escape the mentality of college morons. “Man Up”, season 2 episode 9, start off with Blake, Adam, and Ders drinking beers at a bar for their work company’s karaoke night. Jillian, the crazy workaholic office manager, invite the boys to a Rihanna concert and the boys feel excited to go. Shortly after, Adam gets into a confrontation with a big, muscular tatooed bully, who pours a beer on his head. Blake and Ders clearly unable to fight back, Jillian runs over to their rescue as she threatens to break the bully’s “ding-dong” in half. Adam sobs loudly “I feel stupid!” as Jillian and the boys comfort him with his head soaked in beer. Watch this clip from the episode to see the action:
After the traumatic incident, the boys compare their male genitalia to a sheriff/police’s badges: “We got saved by a girl. We might as well cut our nuts off, and turn them into the dude sheriff, because we don’t deserve these badges that we call testicles” (Source). Ders replies, “We should just give our balls to that guy. I mean, he’s a man”. They continue to compare their physical abilities to the tough, burly looking bully who features the superior physical and vocal violence.
The theme of this episode, and pretty much the entire Workaholics series, is “man vs himself” and the pattern, which hilariously portrayed in the life of Adam, Blake, and Ders, of constantly fighting the internal struggle of being immature college boys and wanting to be someone they are not.
In this particular episode “Man Up”, the boys are challenged by the idea of gender order theory: “hegemonic masculinity” or “normative masculinity”. Blake, Ders, and Adam never had to worry about their manhood until someone stronger and more violent shows up, and all of a sudden it became a problem. The concept of “hegemonic masculinity” imposes an ideal set of characteristics such as aggression, violence, and emotional anger. Both the bully and Jillian embodied the dominant traits of “hegemonic masculinity”. Essentially, it was the beginning scene of Jillian and the bully fighting that developed a feeling of weakness in the inability to fight back within Blake, Adams, and Ders.
In order to regain their manhood, Adam, Blake, and Ders decide that the first step to proving their masculinity was to buy some weapons, hunt and kill something. They go to a hunting shop, buy a crossbow and set off on a hunting road trip. Adam encounters a raccoon and tries to summon the courage to kill it to prove himself a man.
Writer Erica Scharrer, mentions in her article “The Man In the Box: Masculinity and Race in Popular Television”, that one feature of hegemonic masculinity in American culture is “physical force and control”, in other words violent behaviors (Source). Scharrer also discusses the roles of male characters in police and crime television shows as “tough guys”. There is a stereotype for male roles that the ability to arrest, use weapons, and hunt down criminals makes them more masculine than other male roles in television.
Adam, Ders, and Blake desperately seeks what Scharrer’s describes as hegemonic masculinity as someone having “physical force and control”, hence the buying of the weapon and killing ideas. In the attempt to kill the raccoon, Adam falls to the ground and Ders skiddishly comes to his rescue and kicks the raccoon. Coincidentally, the raccoon ends up being a homeless man’s pet. The homeless becomes angry and forces Ders to go on a ride to the vet. Then, Adam and Blake go on a car chase and successfully saves Ders from the homeless man. Feeling a huge sense of win in their failure to be violent in killing, they all decide to go to the Rihanna concert.
By the end of the episode, Adam, Blake, and Ders realize they are not exactly violent and aggressive type of individuals. As a result of failing to use violence to regain their manhood, they were able to accept that the manhunt was a failure and going to the Rihanna concert was a much better idea. Workaholics values the ability to accept weakness, not violence. The comedy series view the world as a society who seeks to follow ideals of hegemonic masculinity in violent portrayals, but most men and boys will never fully attain live up to them, including Adam, Blake, and Ders.
Submission for the publication The Outtake.