Sitcom Singles: The Differential Portrayal of Single Men and Women in the Modern American Sitcom

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The average America watches more than 150 hours of television every month, or about five hours each day (“Americans,” 2009). Of the 25 top-rated shows for the week of February 8-14, 2010, six were sitcoms, averaging 5.84 million live viewers each (Seidman, 2010), to say nothing for the millions more who watched later on the Internet or their Digital Video Recorders. The modern sitcom is an undeniable force in America, and its influence extends beyond giving viewers new jokes to repeat at the water cooler the next day: whether Americans realize it or not, the media continues to socialize them, even as adults. It may appear at first glance that sitcoms are a relatively benign force in entertainment. However, the modern sitcom is more…show more content…
The observations and conclusions reached below were drawn from seven sitcoms airing the week of February 8-14, 2010. For the purpose of comparison, shows were chosen based on four key similarities: They were thirty minutes in length, live action, aired on a major broadcast network, and had at least one single main character who featured prominently in the episode. For these purposes, “single” was defined as someone not in a relationship, in a casual sexual relationship, or in a newly dating relationship. The shows chosen were 30 Rock, Cougar Town, Gary Unmarried, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and The Office. Full episode titles and air dates are given on an attached works cited page. Single women in sitcoms are, above all, insecure. This manifests itself in different ways, and to different levels: at best, they are neurotic; at worst, downright psychotic. On the “neurotic” end of the scale falls someone like Robin Cherbotsky of How I Met Your Mother, who is described as suffering from “constant, ego-shattering uncertainty,” as one moment she denounces her coworker Don as a buffoon and in the next chases after him shamelessly. Others’ neuroses are even more plain to see: Allison of Gary Unmarried refuses to let herself or her children eat any kind of processed or fattening foods and is an obsessive cleaner who is terrified of germs. Angela, of The Office, is as

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