I guess it started with The Honeymooners. You know, sitcom family equals fat husband, cute wife.
According to Jim. King of Queens. Grounded for Life. Still Standing. Hell, even The Simpsons. And the list goes on. What do they have in common? All star a sitcom husband who is fat and schlumpy and gross and whose wife is thin, cute, and oh-so-patient with her schlumpadump hubby.
So what's up with that?
Slate contributor Matt Feeney once pondered this paradox, writing, "Since these pairings could not conceivably reflect the sexual or romantic desires of the female protagonists, they look a bit like arranged marriages." But they're not. They're supposedly representative of free-choice American marriages. And that is so wrong.
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I remember taking a Human Sexuality class in college (yes, I took out student loans to listen to lectures on drag queens and masturbation -- the best money I ever spent, frankly), and one of the lectures focused on good looks and mutual attraction. Our professor said that research supported the idea that we tend to partner off with people who are equivalent to us in terms of attractiveness. So if you're a super-hot female, you're going to end up, most likely, with a super-hot male. If you're an average Joe, you'll pair up with an average Jane, and if you're crack-the-mirror ugly, you'll find true love with someone equally cursed.
If you observe couples in public, you'll find that this theory pretty much plays out. When a couple breaks the rules, typically the unattractive partner brings something besides looks to the table -- extreme wealth or fame, for example. (Think of the model/ugly musician conundrum. Or Hugh Hefner.)
That all makes sense, I think, but sitcom couples don't follow this logic. The husbands on these shows aren't funny, interesting, wealthy, or even nice. Instead, they moan and groan about their wives and families, sit around on the sofa a lot, and, in the case of Ralph Kramden, threaten physical violence. Ha ha.
I don't suspect this type of casting is ever going to change. I'm guessing the male writers and directors enjoy imagining themselves as the lazy buffoons who nonetheless end up with a hot wife they most likely don't deserve. I'm just wondering...who the hell watches this shit? If you could explain the paradox, I'd appreciate it.