“The Man Show” vs. “Sex in the City”

I’ve admitted it before, but here it is again: I’ve seen every episode of “Sex in the City.” It wasn’t my choice, but in the interest of keeping the peace in a prior relationship, it was on the tube, and after a while I started paying attention.

In a vain attempt to keep my man card from being revoked, I’ve also watched a number of “The Man Show” episodes which, generally speaking, most women I’ve spoken with found sexist and misogynistic (no, really!) As the result of a recent conversation, it suddenly hit me that these two programs are actually opposite sides of the same coin: a gender-biased view of their skewed microcosm.

“The Man Show” started very tongue in cheek, more or less suggesting that, if two average guys could go through life and didn’t have to answer to wives or girlfriends for their actions, this is how they’d do it (the lazy man inventions were the best). This was even made more absurd with the ready and willing cheerleader-like “Juggies,” ladies happily serving seedy audience members mugs of beer who then afterward spent the credits jumping on trampolines in their underwear. It was so unbelievably tacky and over the top that no one reasonably intelligent could take it seriously, but as the show stretched on, they couldn’t keep the level of absurdity above the actual “degradation of women” line and the show seemed to naturally die out on its own.

“Sex in the City,” on the other hand, was originally a spoof of the NY singles culture that ended up carrying the torch instead of showing how often it was dropped. Men were the trophies, picked and passed over by four empowered women often torn between conquest and cohabitation. The first couple seasons actually brought up some serious relationship issues as well as pointing out how ridiculous the things that people concerned themselves with or placed value upon really were. By the third season, the mirror held up to single society was transparent, replaced with a rom-com that happened to feature the original players as part of a how-to guide. To do that, however, the characters evolved past their one-dimensional footnotes and headed into long-term relationship territory, as if that were the only choice for empowered women once they turned forty and were considered too old for the single’s party scene.

I guess the real question is what actual influence either show actually had on our culture at all. Is there a rural Midwestern town somewhere where a couple of guys watching reruns of “The Man Show” are thinking “Where can we order one of those?” while the women huddle around “Sex in the City” and wonder if their local bartender knows how to make a Cosmopolitan?

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