Why Everybody Loves Raymond was the absolute worst.
Source: Everybody Loves Raymond Facebook
While drearily channel-hopping over breakfast and trying to avoid Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain before heading to work, or while waiting for Fraiser (which has its problems, too) on my days off, I'll sometimes catch an episode of 'endearing' American situational 'comedy' 'classic' Everybody Loves Raymond, featuring Ray Romano as the eponymous star.
Focussing on the perils of Raymond Barone's domestic life, the show's premise is that successful sports writer Raymond pretends to be suffocated by his overbearing mother Marie while simultaneously relishing in her undivided attention, meaning bitter and resentful older brother Robert goes unnoticed and unloved, father Frank displays a hyper-masculine and frightfully chauvinistic attitude to get what he wants (usually food cooked by obedient Marie at his demand), all the while stay-at-home wife Debra juggles maintaining the family home with dealing with her husband's petulance and constant scrutiny of her aptitude as a homemaker and mother from both Raymond and his family.
It's an easy mistake to assume this show aired during the 1970's, when television scripts were somewhat more bigoted - but the first episode debuted in 1996, and it ran until 2005. This contributes to the many, many reasons why it is such a ghastly show; even 12 years after the finale, it's a flagrantly tired script lacking any sort of depth or charisma carrying a loathsome family of characters which pander to outdated stereotypes of gender roles for the sake of a few cheap laughs. The shocking thing about this, is that this was a hugely successful show that continues to be shown on television today (albeit before 9:00am on weekdays rather than primetime) serving as an example of how accepted stereotypical tropes of domestic roles for men and women have prevailed, justified only by the fact they're fictional characters.
The relationship between insufferable succubus Raymond and his long-suffering wife Debra is exhausting, a rigid embodiment of love I find it difficult to believe people genuinely watched and erupted into enthralled laughter like the show's 'live' studio audience do. Debra is an intelligent woman whose skills and abilities are stifled by her husband's outright refusal for her to obtain and keep a job - I recall one episode when she spurs up the idea and creativity to write a children's book, but only with permission from Raymond, who rejects the proposition to help his wife and instead sets out to sabotage her book by writing his own rival story. Debra seemingly has regular moments of clarity to extents akin to a minor mental breakdown, in which she acknowledges that when she signed that dotted line, not only did she marry into a lifetime of annoyance caused by her manchild husband who is so devoid of all passion and compassion outside of the Holy Trinity of sex, food and watching sports that the only way to perk his feeble life up is to drag her's down, but also to the extended family who routinely invade their domestic privacy without any qualms or consideration.
I don't think I've ever seen an episode that eschews issues relating to gender completely, and I rarely catch an episode that isn't so painfully sexist it makes my skin crawl. In one half-hour episode alone, I counted at least seven sexist remarks, some of which included:
Debra: "You know what does it for me? A man who does the dishes."Raymond: "Nah, that doesn't do it for me. You know what does it for me? A woman who does the dishes... with another woman."
Frank: "You know your mother, when she gets upset she doesn't cook, and when she doesn't cook, I don't eat! You do the math!"
Marie's sister: "How could I be the centre of attention when you were doing the limbo in a sequin dress and push-up bra?"
Other diabolical Frank quotes include "women have the kitchen and the bedroom, men have the bathroom" in the episode Raymond 'gives' their bathroom to Debra, meaning he has to share with the kids; and "if he said she has a nice upstairs and an ample downstairs, I agree" reducing Angela, the woman Robert has been dating and whose many merits include an ability to speak four languages, to voyeurism fodder.
The representation of men is just as bad: Robert is constantly lambasted by his parents for being a 40 year-old divorcee until he meets Amy, and even then, they are insistent he make her his wife immediately just so he can finally be 'normal'; Frank regards Marie as some kind of scullery maid whose real value lies in her acumen for catering to his massive appetite and even bigger ego, and whose respect complex demands he have the finally say on trivial tasks deemed 'masculine', such as the colour Raymond's house should be painted; and Raymond, oh boy. He takes his privilege as a respected columnist for granted, he's a wretched husband and a diabolical father, and to top it all off, he is just so. So. Dull.
But maybe that's just my millennial misunderstanding, critiquing a comedy that was representative of its time and audience. Or, maybe, the beloved comedies of the 90's aren't as innocuous as first thought and are actually imbued with discouraging messages vis-a-vis home life, child rearing, marriage, employment and gendered behaviour. Channel 4 - have a word. Take this tripe off the morning schedule, please.