Last night I watched a promising new comedy on ABC called Happy Endings. Here’s the quick premise: Alex and Dave were all set to get married when she leaves him at the altar. Now their group of friends–Max, Brad, Jane, and Penny–worry whether or not this break up will pull their group of friends apart. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s basically the show.
Since it was a mid-season replacement with virtually no-name actors (or at least no-name to me) I didn’t have high hopes. I was pleasantly surprised after the pilot and the bonus episode that followed it. Max’s character is hilarious. He’s an openly gay guy, but he’s not openly gay like Jack from Will and Grace. One of his lines in the pilot was something along the lines of “something something…and I had sex with a dude last night.” It was such a change from the “Sex & the City type gay character” that I commented about it. Then in the second episode, the characters commented about it too. There was some great meta humor about how Max isn’t gay enough because he’s not a gay stereotype.
I enjoyed his character, but during one scene I paused the show, turned to my girlfriend, and said, “I bet no matter what happens in the rest of the episode, there will be people who get upset and complain.” All the friends are at Penny’s birthday dinner–just after Dave and Alex’s disastrous non-wedding–and Max is convinced that Penny’s date is gay. He makes little comments to the guy and comes across pretty strong with the whole hitting on the guy vibe. The date gets freaked out and leaves after other events have further ruined the evening.
Here’s where the PC loop comes in. And by PC I mean political correctness. Facetiously, I said how some people would get upset by how low key Max’s gayness was. He acts pretty much like any other sitcom secondary character–a little like Barney from How I Met Your Mother but with guys instead of women. So one side was going to get upset because he wasn’t “gay enough” whatever that means. Then the other side was going to complain because of how strongly he hit on that one guy. Anti-gays could use that to justify their ridiculous fears that that’s what all gay men are like–they’re just waiting for the chance to hit on you, maybe rape you, and force you to join their gay club or something. So even pro-gay people would get upset because Max’s character continued the stereotype of the “aggressive gay man.”
So in order to avoid upsetting people of various camps, PC steps in. Oh yes, political correctness. I was exaggerating, but really I’m sure there was some person (maybe just one) out there who watched Happy Endings that was upset by Max’s character. How do you avoid upsetting people? PC is supposed to solve that, but at the same time like I demonstrated in the previous paragraph you can get stuck in an endless PC loop. You try to appease somebody, but somebody else takes offense at your appeasement. It’s all highly ridiculous.
Max was a funny character. Happy Endings was a funny show. I liked how he openly admitted to being gay within the first few minutes of the show. Now I will get upset if his character doesn’t grow at all–not as a gay or straight or whatever man, but as a person. It’s hinted that he has some insecurities about his weight and parental issues. Those things need to be explored because that’s what will flesh him out as a character. Those kinds of things are what make characters grow. As long as Max doesn’t stay one note I’ll consider myself appeased…until I find something else to get offended by. That’s how modern culture works, right?