We live in a society where abuse has become common place, and a subject for comedy. There are many television shows that have normalized domestic violence by making it the brunt of jokes.
- “Everybody Loves Raymond“: The matriarch, Marie, is abusive to everyone. She disrespects Raymond’s wife, insults her husband, infanticizes her children, and clearly favors Ray over his brother. And, the audience laughs. It’s funny because Marie is abusing the men in her life. She has complete control over the families, even after they are married and move out of the home and despite the efforts of her daughters in law to set boundaries – she completely ignores boundaries. As a true narcissist, Marie doesn’t believe boundaries apply to her. If the front door is locked, she reaches her hand through the mailbox slot or walks in the back door. If someone else cooks a meal, she brings her own home made food and insists it be served because it is better. She has no consideration for the feelings of others and when confronted with her attitude and behavior, she gets upset and cries that no one likes her, everybody hates her and she is completely unappreciated. Marie is the epitome of a verbally, and emotionally abusive person. But everybody laughs. It truly is not funny.
- “Simpsons“: I don’t think there is anyone who would argue the relationships in Simpsons are healthy representations. Homer is lazy, demanding, crude, offensive, insulting and more. He expects his wife and children to wait on him hand and foot. Bart is a replica of his father and treats others as though they have less value than him, particularly the women in his family. The Simpson males personify misogyny. And they are popular, loved and laughed at weekly.
- “King of Queens“: The family represented in this show are highly dysfunctional. You have a husband, wife and her father living in the same home. The father is constantly insulting his daughter and her husband, interfering in their marriage and decisions. He often manipulates and guilt’s them into doing what he wants, when he wants it. He has nothing nice to say about anyone. Frequently throughout the show Doug is represented as a bumbling idiot and Carrie is sarcastic and cruel when she speaks to him. This show does not represent healthy relationships.
There are so many more examples we can pull out: “Married Without Children”, “All in the Family”, “Everybody Hates Chris” (that’s not even hidden, it’s in the title!), “Family Guy”, etc. While I understand that relational conflict can be humorous, we need to stop disguising abuse as funny. It’s not a laughing matter. Abuse is a pattern of behaviors, not individual incidents. When a running sitcom consistently shows a single relationship in an abusive light and we keep laughing, there is a problem within our society.
Taking it out of TV and movies for a minute, how often have you observed a couple you know insulting each other… joking around “I’m just kidding”. I remember Lily’s husband constantly put her down in public and, if called on it, would say “I’m just joking”. He insulted her cooking, her driving, her parenting, her looks… the list goes on. She was a beautiful woman, skilled driver, loving mother and excellent cook. He wasn’t joking, he was demeaning her and their friends laughed.
Far too many comedy shows make light of emotional and verbal abuse, making it a source of humor. Let’s start paying attention to what we’re watching, take off the blinders and recognize when abuse is being portrayed as humor. There is nothing humorous about domestic violence of any kind. We have to stop laughing about it! The more we laugh, the more “normal” and acceptable it becomes.
Please share in the comments TV shows or movies that you have observed normalizing and glamorizing abusive relationships.