Working Out My Feelings On “Work It”
This post was written in front of a live studio audience. This service is provided so you know exactly what to laugh at, exactly what to think, and exactly what to feel. And when.
So I did it, dear readers. I did it. I watched the pilot of Work It. All the way through. From beginning to end. Without gouging out my eyes LOL. And you know why I subjected myself to this? I do it for you, dear readers Awww. I watched it so you don’t have to LOL.
The show debuted on ABC on Tuesday night, after several months of gradually increasing controversy. It had been torn to shreds by critics, opposed by GLAAD with a full-page ad, generally acknowledged as offensive to almost any human being with even the slightest shred of understanding of gender, empathy and basic human decency LOL, and regarded as potentially the worst television show in the history of the medium.
Of course it aired anyway LOL.
What we all knew from the previews was this: the show, put forward by one of the head writers of Friends, who are apparently now regarded in Hollywood as incapable of doing wrong no matter how plainly horrible their ideas, is basically a remake of Bosom Buddies with the offensiveness amped up well beyond eleven LOL.
The premise comes basically from the thoroughly fallacious MRA concept that women are now the privileged class in society. That due to the recent economic downturn, dubbed here a “mancession” LOL, in tandem with feminism, has magically inverted the entire socio-cultural dynamics of gender such that now only women can get jobs while the men suffer in unemployment. So, in order to combat this awful (TOTALLY FICTIONAL) social disparity, two men adopt female identities for the purposes of finding jobs.
From that alone we can already see why this is a fucking horrible idea for a show and incredibly offensive. For starters, there’s the blatant falsehood of the supposed female privilege these guys are exploiting. Then we have the issue of the trivialization of the very, very real difficulties faced by trans women in finding employment LOL. I suppose the writers never took a look at the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Then you have the trivialization of the economic recession and, instead of associating it with Wall Street and the real estate bubble, somehow blames it on feminism, claims it only effects men, and uses it as a cheap narrative device to get some guys in HI-LAR-EE-US drag LOL. And all this… the MRA bullshit, the dismissal of workplace misogyny and the disadvantages of women in finding employment, the ridicule of trans women and total dismissal of the extreme discrimination we face in finding jobs, and the trivialization of the recession, all of it is simply as a frame for some cheap, broad, “men are like this, women are like that” jokes (you know… the very same kind Tim Allen was assaulting us with twenty years ago).
All that we can glean from the trailer alone. But to understand Work It for what it really was, to really get in there and examine this monstrosity, I had to actually watch it GASP. This was no easy task, and I was quite terrified of the abyss looking very deep into me, but I’m a blogger, dammit. I suffer for my “art” LOL.
I’d provide a spoiler alert if there were any quality to spoil.
The show begins with our lead character, a manly super hot manly man of manness OOOOOOOHHHHH WOO-WOO named Lee coming home from an unsuccessful job interview to his gorgeous, perfect, improbably docile and endlessly forgiving wife. His home is spacious and immaculate, filled with designer furniture and gorgeously decorated. From the pockets of his exceptionally well-tailored and fashionable suit, he hands his wife a collection of coffee creamer, salt and pepper packets, ketchup, etc. as a consolation prize for his unsuccessful interview. This is apparently to imply the abject poverty in which they live LOL. Despite the fancy suit. And the lavishly decorated home. And the fully stocked fridge he then retrieves a drink from.
The plot conveniently informs us that he’s been unemployed for a full year LOL, and that he is just now getting his last unemployment check. Scanning the set, one can’t help but feel “those must be some pretty damn impressive unemployment checks”. I’ve been unemployed for some time myself (despite presenting female! Can you believe that an XY, assigned-male-at-birth person presenting as female on a full-time basis can’t instantly and easily find work?! Amazing, isn’t it?!).
I took a quick gander around my surroundings. My tiny room rented in a rooming house. That I share with three skeevy guys (one of whom sometimes solicits me for sexual favours LOL), with three basement suites below. I looked at my shitty furniture, and my paltry wardrobe, and thought of what was in my fridge and cabinets. Some bread. Some peanut butter. Some noodles LOL. A carton of milk. Some coffee (Christmas present). Etc. Can you believe that an unemployed person doesn’t live in a beautiful, spacious home and have a fully-stocked fridge with beers available after a tough day of stealing coffee creamer? Inorite!!!
So, after they were done bludgeoning me over the head with blatantly offensive portrayals of the “hardship” of unemployment in this fictional universe, they move on to the bar. Where despite it being established that he just cut off his daughter’s cell-phone service to save money, he apparently has enough money to go out drinking with the guys and making gay jokes LOL on a consistent basis
Enter the MRA propaganda mouth of insanity, Brian, who tells his friends all about the “mancession” (can we PLEASE stop with all the neoloGUYsms for fuck’s sake?), and the growing matriarchy, where men will be reduced to nothing more than sex slaves. Yes, that’s what he says. But not the kind of sex men like (all men of course having the exact same sexual tastes LOL), but the kind with all that cuddling and kissing and actually sharing an emotional, trusting, intimate bond. LULZ LULZ LULZ. Dude makes various additional blatantly misogynist remarks. Blah blah blah. The other two guys accept this all completely at face value and in absolutely no way question for a single moment that perhaps his reasoning might be a tad flawed or his comments a tad misogynist. Though given what we’ve seen so far of how this universe operates, such as the incredible wealth of the unemployed, I think this is supposed to be some kind of topsy-turvy bizarro world, so maybe here the MRA is totally right and is actually the well-informed critical thinker with data to back up his claims LOL.
During this scene we also discover that Lee, our hero, and his buddy Angel APPLAUSE have a “deal” where if one of them gets a job, the other gets a job too. Because in this universe, that’s how things work. As soon as someone is hired in a new position, no matter what that position is, or what their qualifications (it should be noted that Lee is a salesman and Angel a mechanic LOL, so how exactly do they get to help one another’s careers directly? Oh yeah: Wibbly-wobbly topsy-turvy), they immediately have hiring power. Apparently.
So then we move on to the doctor’s office where Lee has just gotten a prostate exam. LOL LOL LOL. Here he overhears some women talking about new jobs that have become available at a pharmaceutical company, but “only for girls”. Shucks. And they manage to drive in a joke about how women get to fuck their way into promotions. GIANT LULZ. Then we find out his insurance has run out (lol) and he owes $900 for the exam.
Cue complete absence of commentary on the nature of the United States healthcare system and how it affects the poor and unemployed.
So Lee goes up to his wife’s bedroom to find some jewelry to hock LOL (rather than, say, cutting back on the bar-nights or moving into an apartment) and then, noticing his wife’s dress in the mirror, gets an idea. LOL LOL LOL SO FUCKING FUNNY AGHHHH GOD LOL LULZ AUDIENCE DYING LAUGHTER KILL ME MAKE THE LAUGHING STOP IT HURTS IT HURRRRRTS CROSS-DRESSING IS SO PAINFULLY HILARIOUS LOL HELP ME LOL LOL
Cut to the next scene where Lee is now in drag and has instantly landed an interview at the aforementioned branch of Big Pharma Inc. As he enters the room, guess what happens? Does the hiring manager read him? NOPE! Apparently, in this universe, being well over 6 feet tall, built like a linebacker, having visible beard shadow and extremely masculine facial structure is COMPLETELY MAGICALLY INVISIBLE LOL. All you have to do to pass is put on a dress and speak an octave higher in a strained voice!
So…. Thank you, ABC. Thank you for peeing all over the intense anxiety and work and stress and fear and physical risk and difficulty and political complications that the issue of passing vs. being read entails for trans women LOL. I really appreciate that issue being ignored. Honest. It’s refreshing to have someone be dismissive of the struggle of trans women for a change. Nice change of pace.
It gets worse, too.
Interviewer whips out the resume. So… apparently no need for ID? Or documentation? Legal name? Anything?
No? None of those horrible legal hassles I’m still going through that are causing me considerable difficulty in finding employment LOL? In this universe, that shit just doesn’t fucking matter, and an employer doesn’t even need your SSN? It’s all just based on a sense of trust?
Thanks again, ABC! I love having one of the principle difficulties of my actual daily life treated like it doesn’t exist LOL simply because it’s inconvenient for the narrative frame you’re setting up for a bunch of menstruation jokes LOL. Which yes, occur during this scene.
Lee also curtsies upon entering the room LOL. Because he apparently has only ever known or observed women from the 19th century. This wacky bizarro world is starting to seem kind of fun, actually.
And you know how he scores the job? He demonstrates knowledge of the existence of clinical trials!!! The interviewer is shocked and amazed and completely impressed, because WOW how would a woman know about smart, brainy boy-stuff like clinical trials? Actual quote from the scene, I kid you not: “most of the girls that come in here think clinical trials are what Lindsey Lohan deals with every few months.” LOL LOL LULZY LULZ
So he comes home to the perfect, gorgeous, improbably docile and endlessly forgiving wife who completely accepts and tolerates every painfully sexist comment he makes, and he invites her out to celebrate at the bar. She gets upset because, like ALL women, she wants that irrational girly stuff like a romantic just-us meal together LOL. He’s a MAN, though, and he’s in a hurry to go do man stuff, so he ignores it and darts out the door while casually saying he’ll “wake her up for sex later” (as though this is a customary element of their marriage).
And that’s when I remembered how earlier in the episode the men were complaining about the risk of becoming sex slaves. And that’s when another piece of me died LOL. That happened a lot during this. Probably the most soul-destroying 21 minutes of my life.
He goes to the bar. Angel gets mad because Lee says he can’t extend him the “deal”. Then we go back to the new office where we meet all of Lee’s new all-female co-workers. Including Freakishly Chipper Girl, Awkward But Miscast With An Actress Way Too Beautiful For The Character’s Informed Social Standing Girl, and Evil Posh Brit™.
Here we’re treated to some more lovely sexist jokes about how totally and completely different men are from women. Amongst them is stuff about how guys eat big grinders and girls eat salads LOL, and some stuff about waxing or whatever, and best of all a bit about how incredibly, intuitively perceptive women are. Such as noticing the tan line on Lee’s ringfinger. BUT THEY STILL DON’T NOTICE THE FACT THAT HE’S OBVIOUSLY PHYSIOLOGICALLY MALE (this does not actually get acknowledged by the show or in the joke, mind). Which again reminds me of the fear and anxiety I live with every single day because people DO notice that about me despite the fact that I look about five thousand fucking times more like a cis female than Lee. What with my having been on actual hormone replacement therapy for over a year. And my slight frame, feminine brow and jawline, tiny hands and wrists, painfully lazered-away beard shadow, etc. LOL.
And it extends beyond the office. We see Lee roaming around to a taco shop where no one bats an eyelash. No one stares. No one snickers. No one misgenders anyone. It all is just taken completely at face value in Work It World. I wish I lived in Work It World.
At the taco shack Lee runs into Angel (who is Puerto Rican LOL, so we’re treated to some cheap, tactless race-humour, in case the sexism and transphobia LOL weren’t offensive enough for you), who magically doesn’t recognize Lee, because I guess the passability magic of Work It World extends so much that even someone who is your best friend standing right in front of you can’t possibly imagine that if you’re wearing a skirt you could be anything other than a completely unknown cis woman.
Angel gets let in on the scheme. And we see flashbacks to Lee creating his disguise and having some initial difficulty figuring out how to present as female. Because GAWD MAKE-UP IS JUST SOOOOOO HARD. How could any man ever figure out how to apply lipstick without smearing it all over the lower half of his face. LOL LOL LULZ TO THE POWER OF LOLOCAUST IN A ROFLCOPTER.
We also notice that despite their wildly different builds, Work It World allows any man to fit into any woman’s clothes. He just needs to awkwardly get some laughs out of struggling first. Then the bizarro magic kicks in and PRESTO. Everyone knows bra straps fit a petite woman just as well as an extremely broad-chested man. They would never snap or dig into your skin or anything LOL. Not in Work It World!
Oh… and in the exchange between Angel and Lee where Lee tries to get him in on the scheme, we get our one acknowledgement of actual trans issues in the entire show:
Angel: “I don’t know, this thing is kind of frowned on in my culture.”
Lee: “And in my culture they love it?!”
LOL (of course)
In your culture, Lee, they are apparently completely incapable of noticing it. So STFU. I have to live in a culture where trans women get murdered.
Angel goes in for his job interview, where he blatantly sexually harasses the hiring manager. LOL. And what a surprise, is declined the job. But then said manager’s car breaks down GASP, and in another demonstration of Boy Knowledge That No Woman Could Possibly Know, Angel fixes the car and gets the job. Despite the earlier sexual harassment.
We also get treated to a joke about tucking and the risk of erections while tucked. …. (sigh)… lol.
And finally, our episode ends as the office girls go out to big dancey girls night out, Lee learns A Valuable Lesson™ about treating his wife respectfully, she and his daughter completely forgive him for everything ever, and we have established our lather, rinse, repeat formula. Sort of like Home Improvement, but with “seeing things from a woman’s point of view” as Wilson The Neighbour.
And that is Work It, episode one.
A literal monument to dismissing every struggle in my life. The challenges I face. Everything that has made things more difficult for me than people who had the luxury of being born with a simple gender. The pain, fear and hardship of my existence. It is here dismissed, ridiculed, used as fodder for obnoxiously bad jokes, and worst of all, used to prop up sexist, misogynistic myths that belittle all my political values and insult every woman, both cis and trans.
I wish I had a Valuable Lesson™ I could impart to you from all this. Beyond “don’t watch Work It”, anyway. But the real world, sadly, is not Work It World and does not work like Work It World. And I have to live with that fact (and all the brutal realities it entails) every day of my life, for the rest of my life.