Why is Marriage Portrayed so Negatively on TV?

jeff dunham and walter

Image from commons.wikimedia.org

My husband was watching a Jeff Dunham special on TV the other day, and one of the show’s characters, Walter (a grumpy old man puppet), made a remark that really made me upset. He was talking about his wife said something to the effect of, “When you’re dating, all you want to do is make out in the car. When you’re married, all you want to do is run her over with the car.”

Now, I know it’s just a joke coming from a silly puppet, but I think that’s completely besides the point. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve heard someone on TV make a remark about how much they hate their wife. Al Bundy made some kind of comment to that effect each episode of Married With Children. More common themes include men complaining about how all their women do is whine and nag, spend all their husbands’ money, and took their freedom and fun away.

Is it becoming OK to despise your wife? To the point you joke about killing her?! What on earth does it say to still be married to this woman then? I would hope that if a marriage got to that point where you can’t stand your spouse you would no longer be together. Although I do believe divorce is becoming too much of an easy escape in times of trouble these days, but that’s a whole separate blog post.

That comment from Walter was even more painful for me, thinking of how a man, an actual man (Jeff Dunham) wrote that joke. Jeff himself was married for many years, and now is divorced. Maybe he’s just bitter and writing jokes fueled from that emotion, but that doesn’t make it right. Or funny.

I know there’s plenty of other shows on TV that do portray marriage in a better light, or at least in a more real way, but those are few and far between, and I doubt many impressionable youth are tuning in to those shows. I’d like to think that these off-color comments are not making their way into the minds of young people (and adults!), but I’m sure to some extent they are. The more you see or hear something, the more you start to believe it.

It makes me sad to see marriage, which is such a wonderful thing, joked about. Marriage is hard and each couple will have their arguments and issues, but never should it be OK to make comments about how much you hate your spouse. Marriage is sacred. You say your vows to this person to love and honor them till death do you part. (Cue another joke from Walter about the death part.) I don’t know about you, but I meant mine.

Is marriage just a big joke to Hollywood? Doing some quick Googling while writing this post, I found an article that said television can affect how we feel about marriage and our own spouse. I know it’s true to some extent for me. I love the TV show, King of Queens, and in that show, the wife Carrie is often nagging and making fun of her own husband, calling him fatty and other less than loving things. I don’t call my husband names, but I do find myself nagging more than I should, possibly because I see it so much on TV, so it becomes more “acceptable.”

But at what point did it ever become acceptable to make marriage a giant joke? Your spouse the object of ridicule and hateful remarks? I, for one, don’t like it one bit. Not that I know what to do about it, or what my point was writing this post, but I just wanted to get that off my chest. Phew.

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28 thoughts on “Why is Marriage Portrayed so Negatively on TV?

  1. I get frustrated by this too! I think it’s rather disrespectful to spouses when it is a married person making these jokes. But just remember all those couples that have been married 50+ years who will tell you how amazing marriage is and who still love their spouse completely!

    • That’s true, it does make me appreciate the good, solid relationships that are out there. I just wish those types of stories were more visible in the media! Oh well, that doesn’t get the ratings these days, I suppose.

  2. You’re so right. I think that part of it is that people love to unite over negativity. What fun is it for TV shows to portray happy marriages when misery loves company? Or, if the marriages are too happy, they look unattainable and fairy-tale like? I get that people are just tying to be funny but yeah, enough overdramatizing about the difficulty of marriage, already!

    • Good point – misery sure does love company. And that makes “good TV” in the eyes of Hollywood I guess. Well, hey, at least it makes me appreciate the shows that are somewhat normal and real, but more than that, the actual real relationships with real couples that I know. I should spend more time with them rather than watching some of the garbage that’s on TV.

  3. I’m pretty confident that I would never catch D saying something so demeaning about me. However, I think this kind of mentality is a bias and, quite frankly, too many people think it’s funny or cute. It isn’t. And it could also be condoning that type of talk about wives from their husbands. I’ve seen the same vice versa, too. I’m with you on this one!

    • You’re right, it’s NOT funny or cute, and it does go both ways. And if any viewers buy into it and laugh at those jokes/situations, I feel bad for them. It’s hard not to be influenced when you see so much of something, but that’s why it’s important to remind yourself of what you have and keep yourself in check. Haha, check yourself before you wreck yourself!

  4. You bring up a lot of good points! You never really do see a successful, healthy marriage on television. Only in the movies do you see the fairy tales and marriages with love that seem to defeat all odds. Perhaps that’s a whole other angle to this drama? I agree though that I think it gives men an unrealistic view of how wives will act and should thus be treated in response

    • Right! The flip side is the total opposite – a marriage that is perfect and unattainable because they have no real problems. There’s a few shows that have what I consider a “normal” marriage, but I can count them on one hand probably, and that’s sad. But like another commenter said, a normal marriage wouldn’t be very entertaining.

    • You really don’t too often, and that makes me sad. Where’s the good role models anymore?! But you’re right, the other side is something that’s unrealistic and perfect. How ’bout just a real relationship, is that too much to ask for?!

  5. I completely feel you on this post. My husband and I actually talk about this frequently- how marriage is portrayed, and the affect it has on society/people’s lives. One of the things we frequently see is when we try to watch a new TV show, and the husband/wife is consistently cheating on their spouse- we instantly stop watching. It seems like nowadays, the “norm” is to dislike your spouse, or to cheat on something. That is something we don’t see eye-to-eye with, and never want to see eye-to-eye with, so instantly have a distaste for (and stop watching) those types of shows. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more TV shows portrayed marriage in the positive light it should be portrayed in?! (although, if it was portrayed more positively, we would probably watch more TV instead of simply enjoying each others presence over coffee/a walk/anything, so perhaps it is a good thing!) Its so hard to feel like you are in the minority by having a good marriage- and I think thats what TV does to you.

    • That too – there is so much cheating! So much disrespect in so many areas. I like that idea to just abandon shows that portray those things, especially like they’re no big deal. I’m even having some issues with Grey’s Anatomy now – I don’t like how April flip flopped on those two guys, and though “she followed her heart,” she never should have agreed to marry the EMT guy if she knew she still had feelings for Avery! Ugh! I mean, I get you have to get ratings somehow, but there’s gotta be better things to poke fun at. I can think of plenty of plot ideas for TV that involve stable and loving relationships. I’m glad I’m not the only one bothered by this. Thanks for weighing in!

  6. Ugh! I agree with you 100%. It drives me crazy how marriage is such a big joke. We saw Jerry Seinfeld live a couple weeks ago and he did a whole bit about marriage. Yeah, it was funny, but it also kinda hurt and made me sad, you know?

    • Totally! It seems as if few in the spotlight actually respect marriage itself – let alone their spouses/significant others – anymore, and it’s terribly sad. There’s plenty of things you can joke about marriage that don’t hurt or offend someone. Silly situations happen in life, but instead of talking about endearing stuff like that, they have to just blatantly disrespect marriage as an institution and hurt the feelings of their spouses. I guess that’s why I like potty jokes – it’s funny but doesn’t hurt anyone.

  7. Shows, movies and music that portray women (wives or not) in this light really bug me. I love that you wrote this post.

    I think that we often find too much camaraderie in spousal “war stories” that it has damaged the way society views marriage. Because of this, I’m very careful to keep any arguments and disagreements with my husband off the internet. (I think similarly about the way in-law drama is portrayed).

  8. I think you’re right! But, I also think that tv has to go from one extreme to the other. People aren’t going to tune into a show that is a normal, stable marriage because it’s not interesting (at least to the general population.) A love that defies all odds? You’ve got a great romance there. A husband and wife that make scathing-hilarious remarks to each other? A comedy. It’s hard to keep an audience engaged if the couple is just happy. There’s no story there.

    • It certainly does. If things aren’t awful, then they’re great and also unrealistic. I guess I just wish that there could be a somewhat normal family/marriage portrayed that uses actual funny situations in life to make jokes instead. There’s plenty of hilarious scenarios that happen every day that don’t involve hurting someone else. I think Modern Family does a pretty decent job of this. Gloria bugs me a lot of the time, but I do like the way Phil and Claire are portrayed.

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  10. First, puppets are creepy. Second, I agree with ya here. It’s so sad that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Wonder what plays into that…

    ~Ashley @ A Cute Angle
    acutelifestyle.blogspot.com
    *100 Books to Read in a Lifestime GIveaway happening now!*

  11. Marriage is really a joke everywhere now and it’s sad to me. I guess Im old fashioned, but I think marriage is great. I love being married. It’s not taken seriously anymore and people don’t really care.

    • I don’t think that’s old fashioned (although I sometimes think that too, and it’s hard not to when you feel in the minority), I think it’s just the truth! I mean, why get married if you’re not going to commit your life to truly loving and honoring your spouse? I just don’t get it.

  12. This disappoints me all the time! I love Modern Family because even though there are lots of moments where you see characters nagging each other, the overarching theme in each marriage is love and friendship. I wish more media would feature friendship in marriage and show love between characters. That’s what marriage should be founded on, and it has just been turned into the “ball and chain” sort of prison sentence over the years. Perfect strangers actually asked me during our engagement why on Earth I was getting married and it was so disheartening to hear so many people feel so negatively towards marriage that they would actually question a stranger’s choice to marry!

    • That’s true – Modern Family is one of the few shows out there that often proves you can be funny without being downright rude, and while Gloria seems a little too over the top for me, I like the values the show tries to portray. That’s my point too, that I didn’t convey super well, that you can still have funny situations in a marriage or family that isn’t hurtful to spouses.
      I can’t believe people asked you why you were getting married! I mean, you can believe what you want when it comes to marriage or any situation, but no one has any right to question or judge someone else’s choices.

  13. I think it’s true that marriage is very negatively portrayed on tv–neither husbands nor wives are portrayed as a good thing to have, really!

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