'Mixology's Humor Is Super Sexist — But Is That Okay?
Oh mid-season series, what a tricky beast you are. Caught somewhere in between the land of the hopeful greenlight and TV oblivion, they're a hit and miss bunch of shows. Like ABC's Mixology — a definite miss in this humble author's opinion, mostly thanks to the show's unending sexist and (as Vulture's Margaret Lyons put it) rape-y machinations. Swaddled under the guise of a romantic comedy, Mixology is anything but. The comedy — from the directors of The Hangover because of course — takes a stand that women are bitches or sad, men are sex-obsessed idiots, and we're all like this so ha ha ha. A lot of people find this sort of stuff funny, though: but does that make it OK? Spoiler Alert: we think no.
The series presents itself as a high-concept comedy, and in one regard it is: its premise is creative, considering it centers on one night at a bar and the 10 people that meet-cute-ish it up. Some of the characters have the potential of being interesting and maybe even enjoyable were they in the hands of other writers. Beyond that: there's nary a cute thing to be found. The tone of the series is set up through its narrator, a guy named Bruce who's all too convinced that he knows the ~ways~ of the ladies and its all about the higher the heels, the lower the standards. Because we've needed to gamify women, natch. Bruce is no anomaly: there are so, so many people out there like him — heck, almost everyone on the show is like him (interesting, innit?) but if being sexist and unapologetically terrible is a sense of humor we're going to go ahead and excuse to some degree, is that a good enough excuse to craft an entire TV show on it and market it as "funny"?
There are several reasons as to why we're so inclined to hate like this. The show's mentality breeds an idea that there's a universality in how its characters operate. Or at least, people in this age group that go out to bars in hopes of something more. This is, on so many levels, straight up not true. It's not true that a lot, or even the vast majority of young people, are like this (this is how TV and movie people think young people act). Nor is it true that all people who go out to bars looking to score are this vapid, brusque, racist, sexist, and sorta-horrible. (Being "candid" with your friends isn't code for "terrible.") But if this is a world of misguided people that we're looking at — which I am more than for as an idea if successful in execution — we're going to need some sense that there's a real, live human underneath these tropes. Instead, all we get is a flashback where former pro-footballer Keyshawn Johnson declares of character Maya "you are the biggest bitch I've ever met, and Keyshawn Johnson has seen some bitches." OH, cool: put-down humor! Because there's isn't enough of that.
Except, to be frank, there is: and Mixology's brusque humor is a brand that's just not interesting or original enough (like, say, HBO's Veep) to base an entire series on. That the narrator finds a bar full of women to be nothing more than "a bunch of not-so-bright party girls," while other characters (like Ron) treat them as playthings he can barely remember. If it felt at all as though the show were knowingly nudging you to say "Look! Look how terrible this way of thinking and life is!" rather than calling all of the bad stuff "awesome," there might be a way to find something endearing about the show's premise. Instead it's all "which nun is more fuckable" jokes and oh hey by the way I have a restraining order against me from another lady (because "bitches be ca-ray-zay, highfivebro!")
Lyons put it perfectly in her review when she stated the following shining example of tone-deafness:
He also mentions in passing that a woman has a restraining order against him. I wish I could laugh at things like this, but I'm a woman, and I'm alive, and so instead of laughing at it, I actually have to spend my time avoiding being raped and worrying that if I ever were, the response would be "well, why'd you get so drunk?"
Plus, let's be real: this hackneyed version of a heightened reality is nothing more than a creative concept filled with lazy and offensive humor. And such disparate highbrow/lowbrow points really don't mesh. If a series is going to try and make you root for the people it's spent its entire 22 minutes mocking, you have to see, feel, and believe that the writers find valid and/or at least understandable reasons for why they're worth rooting for. Are people who make this many sexist jokes worth rooting for? Is saying "ha ha what a BITCH!" really a good enough punchline for anything? LISTEN, television: WE'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS. Seriously! It's not cute to hold the entire female half of your species in such low, uninformed regard. If you're writing a series that is, ostensibly, going to fall in a demographic that's widely held by women viewers, maybe it's time to treat the women as more than just playthings and smash pieces? Just a thought.