In the new sitcom, Tim Allen‘s character warns that a young boy taught tolerance will likely end up dancing on a gay pride parade float — a joke many critics think goes too far
Tim Allen’s much-maligned new sitcom, Last Man Standing, debuted to solid ratings Tuesday night. Nearly 13 million American viewers tuned-in to watch Allen’s he-man dad wax nostalgic for the days when men didn’t get fake tans, watch Glee, or eat pumpkin muffins. Though critics have already lambasted the show for its tired cliches and unfunny stereotypes, now they’re zeroing in on one particular homophobic joke. When Allen’s character finds out that his daughter plans to send his grandson, Boyd, to a daycare that teaches “sensitivity and tolerance,” he warns her ominously: “You know how that ends up: Boyd dancing on a float.” The shot at gay pride parades and LGBT acceptance has some bloggers up in arms. Did the show go too far?
It’s “offensive and irresponsible”: “It’s hard not to look at this as a blatantly homophobic jab,” says Tanner Stransky at Entertainment Weekly. This tasteless joke — airing on a family sitcom — could negatively affect young viewers who are questioning their sexuality. The implication is not only that there’s something wrong with dancing on the float, but something wrong with being gay. It’s “damaging and hurtful to the gay community.”
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And is part of a larger issue with the show: The joke is a symptom of the real problem with Last Man Standing, says Louis Peitzman at Crushable: Its offensive take on masculinity. All of the gay jokes are rooted in the idea that effeminacy is toxic, “that there’s nothing worse than acting like a woman.” The notion that a man’s man is a real man is exceedingly dated, and not particularly funny. “There are far worse things than growing up to dance on a float.” For example, “growing up to be” someone “who doesn’t respect difference.”
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But all’s fair in bad comedy: “Heaven forbid gay people receive the same satiric treatment as white, Christian, conservative males or any other group,” says John Nolte at Big Hollywood. The joke is no different from the innumerable shots taken at conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Christians at a rapid-fire rate on every TV comedy. It’s hardly fair to protect one particular group from bad sitcom humor. “We want everyone mocked, ridiculed, and satirized.”
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