After watching the pilot of ABC's soon-to-air sitcom Work It, I think the first thing they should do is re-title this piece of crap. A better title, with all due deference to another very gay-friendly ABC franchise, may be Desperate Network.
The fact that the production companies behind this show, Bonanza Productions and Summer School Productions, are best known for The Vampire Diaries and science fiction shows, respectively, makes it clear they are not the best fit for this show. These folks should stick with vampires and aliens, which are more believable than any of the idiotic stereotypes and tired, sexist, racist, and transphobic caricatures in this program.
So what the hell was ABC thinking? After seeing the show for myself, the petitions by GLAAD, HRC, and others to get this program pulled make a lot of sense to me. What rubs salt in the wound is that this is ABC, which airs Modern Family and Desperate Housewives and recently included Chaz Bono on the wildly popular Dancing with the Stars, thus boosting the visibility of real transgender people more than we have ever seen on primetime television.
But here's the issue: as usual, LGBT people (and yes, this show should offend the entire acronym) are only part of a long list of potentially allied minority groups that should be offended by this show. In fact, I would say that we have to get in line to be offended. Women, single parents, people out of work in this time of economic crisis, people of color, and more should all be cringing right now. As my dad used to say, these folks aren't prejudiced; they make fun of everyone.
Here are some of my thoughts and some food for thought. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when HRC and GLAAD -- and hopefully others -- meet with ABC, partly because I would love to hear their defense of this, and also because you just know some of the folks involved in this, from creators to actors, are members of the populations who are rightly up in arms.
When you get right down to it, this is really about sexism, which, as I am fond of saying, merely provides the roots from which the flower of homophobia blooms. From that comes the following questions, and my answers. I'd love to hear more from you about your thoughts regarding these questions, which I asked myself as I watched.
Is this a transgender issue?
Yes. Sadly, we have very far to go to educate the public on trans issues. Far too many people still see transgender women as simply "men in dresses," particularly those who transition later in life and do not "pass." For them this show is downright dangerous. The recent promo ad depicting the two main characters hiking up their skirts while at urinals plays on the most base fear of the "bathroom issue" that we face constantly in the media, in court, and at the ballot box. ABC is better than this kind of inflammatory and degrading representation of a part of our community that is the target of so much discrimination and violence. Never mind the near-complete lack of protections for trans people in the workplace, a point that we as a community need to focus a lot more energy on, both nationally and locally.
Is this something gay people should care about?
The main character's wife chastises her husband for comparing a prostate exam to the pinball machine scene in The Accused, in which a woman is gang-raped. All you gay men who think this is funny or that it isn't something we should care about, take note: we are still all one big "gay" to a lot of people; this is not about "those transgender people," nor is it "not a gay issue" just because these are straight men in dresses.
A few other choice lines in the pilot:
One character opines about "women taking over the workplace" and eventually reducing men to "sex slaves" forced to "kiss, cuddle, and talk." Right. All I could think was, "Hey, 1970 called, and they want their sitcom back."
Even the female characters get into the game. While interviewing dressed as a woman, the main character's potential boss, a woman, is so impressed with his knowledge of drug trials for one of their products that she quips, "Usually our girls think a clinical trial is something Lindsay Lohan goes through." Laughing yet?
Want another lovely line? Here's the female drug rep explaining why their company is only hiring women: "We find the doctors prefer to 'nail' the drug reps more when they are girls." Someone might want to look at the percentages of female and gay, for starters.
And let's not forget people of color, another easy mark. When Angel, the best friend of our main character, says he wants in on the charade, he says, "I'm Puerto Rican. I would be great at seeing drugs."
And let's not start counting the jokes involving tits, tucking, ace bandages falling out of skirts at the "worst possible moment" on the dance floor, and other "shooting fish in a barrel" jokes that make for easy punching-bag moments. People are getting paid to write these jokes, folks, when they should be the ones looking for work. That is the travesty here.
So when our organizations get that meeting, I hope they go armed for bear and with some transgender people to tell their stories about their live, which are no laughing matter. Taking along some allies, particularly women's organizations, would be a smart move, as well.
And I hope we go to the folks who advertise on ABC and let them know what they'll be supporting. In my experience all the attention, education, and activism in the world doesn't get a network exec's attention as much as a phone call from a major advertiser asking what the hell is going on and threatening to pull their support.
One final question: is it just me or does it annoy you that RuPaul's song "Supermodel" is used in the promos, and the Black Eyed Peas, progressive supporters of LGBT equality, are singing about "lovely lady lumps" during the tedious and trite scene where the boys are trying their best to wear women's clothes? If they have not given permission, they should be making a fuss, and if they did, they should pull out now. How dare they take one of the LGBT community's favorite phrases of encouragement and use it for this show? We need to "work it" ourselves here and make our voices heard. Kudos to GLAAD, HRC, and others for making their concerns known.
My predictions is that this show may well never air, but let's take it as an opportunity to form some coalitions and do some education. Let's "work it" ourselves, for everyone who should be offended by this throwback of a show that is truly cringeworthy.
Follow Cathy Renna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cathyrenna