Zero-Sum Indeed

In the New York Times-owned Boston Globe, Joanna Weiss writes, “On TV, men are the new weaker sex“:

In one sense, this is gender-bending stuff as old as Shakespeare, imagining what things might be like if men were more like women, and vice versa. But on ABC, role-reversal is pursued with such vigor that it feels like a social mission: a feverish, wholly off-putting attempt to break free of the boy-meets-girl formula.

Nowhere is that clearer than on “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC’s wildly-popular lead-in to “Big Shots,” where the character of Derek Shepherd – once known as “McDreamy” – has completed his transition from guy-the-heroine-pines-for-in-spite-of-herself to simpering McWeenie. When he was introduced in season one – a neurosurgeon seducing medical intern Meredith Grey at a bar – Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) was the classic TV bad boy. He was distant and commitment-phobic. He nursed a deep dark secret. He was “McDreamy” because he was a fantasy: attractive but unattainable.

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On “Grey’s,” in short, empowerment has become a zero-sum game. And a show that once found creative ways to ogle men has evolved into a show that wants to see them punished or demeaned. Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), the womanizing plastic surgeon dubbed “McSteamy,” is now in pursuit of Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith), a hard-charging heart surgeon who calls Sloan and Shepherd “Pretty and Prettier.” And of late, the male character most successful in romance is George O’Malley, the nerdy intern who is going through a remedial year. One of the other characters nicknamed him “Bambi.”


This has been a topic that Glenn Reynolds has discussed at length for years at Instapundit. It is indeed a zero-sum game–just not the one Hollywood and the networks think it is.

Update: Much more on this topic in a recent post from the Anchoress: “Stupid men, Stupid Parents, Stupid Madison Avenue.”

Related: “Ideology trumps the marketplace with these networks, unfortunately”, Brent Bozell notes. “They’ve been bleeding audiences since 1994. They’ve lost 50% of their audiences, and yet they continue the same way they’ve been going.”

Ideology also trumps the marketplace when it comes to big-screen Hollywood as well, of course. Arguably, even more so.


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