Okay, so the point of this show is that the dudes are totally awful and the girlfriends are martyrs, horribly injured by the “tools” they’re dating. This relationship guru (with a British accent* a la Nanny 911 — but I think she’s a real therapist because she wears a lot of yellow and MY therapist wore a lot of yellow. Perhaps they go to the same shop?) gives the tools various tasks meant to teach them how to be better boyfriends. What gets me is that some of their behavior is actually emotional abuse — not just tool-ish behavior. By not naming this as such, it creates the idea that these kinds of controlling, frightening behaviors are individual, specific instances, instead of components of a pattern of behavior, where the goal is emotional and physical control over your partner’s actions.
The marriage mandate is strong with this show, up to and including the idea that the purpose of a long-term relationship is to eventually have kids. The overall goal is to rehabilitate each tool so that they can stay with their “fed-up” girlfriends. A heavy emphasis is placed on monogamy (where monogamy and mutual respect are interchangeable) and on gender divides. The viewer narratively identifies with the injured (craving monogamy and middle class acceptability) girlfriend and voyeuristically resents the male tool (the grotesque on the display, who is inappropriately sexual, non-monogamous, and lacks class mobility). A lot of this is about resisting nature — I’ve only seen this show on Hulu, but each segment there is bookended by one of those “Outsmart Mother Nature” tampon commercials, as though part of being an ideal female is constantly, constantly resisting the natural both in terms of the messiness of femininity and the rambunctiousness of the masculine.
BEST MOMENT (GIRLFRIENDS): When Kathleen the really pretty stripper (I covet her glasses like whoa) tells her jerk of a boyfriend that he will not be coming home with her because she needs to work on herself first. LOVE!!! But unfortunately, there’s NO MONOLOGUES or any in-show explanation for WTF that refers to, EVEN THOUGH that’s a super important epiphany!! Gah. More of that? This would have been a phenom show.
BEST MOMENT (TOOLS): About halfway through the season, when the tools start hugging ish out. I love it! Is that non-toolish behavior though, in the context of the show? They hug on Entourage and those guys are jerks — that’s the dang-gone point of the show. Considering that part of the show’s point is to convert jerks into real men, I suspect that no, they’re not supposed to hug each other… just their girls. Heterosexual men are only supposed to be vulnerable/gentle with “their” women. In fact, a lot of this show is about being a man — they even have the tools pick beets in overalls for a couple of hours, because real man are capable of an honest day’s work.
WORST MOMENT (GIRLFRIENDS): The constant insistence that it’s the man’s job to show his girl a good time.
WORST MOMENT (TOOLS): The constant possessiveness and territoriality over the women in their lives.
What’s making shows like this so popular? Part of me suspects that this is an extension of the whole fetishization of marriage going on… but what do you think? There’s some weird stuff with class/gender going on, but it’s so many layers of fail that all I can is twitch.
*Why must the British teach Americans how to act?