“Exfoliation, Cheese Courses, Emotional Honesty, and Paxil”

Masculinity, Neoliberalism, and Postfeminism in the US Hangout Sitcom

in Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities
Author:
Greg WolfmanRecent PhD Candidate, University of Huddersfield, England greg.wolfman.2010@my.bristol.ac.uk

Search for other papers by Greg Wolfman in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5284-3817
Restricted access

Abstract

This article applies a conjunctural analysis to four US “hangout sitcoms”—Friends, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, and New Girl—to examine the tensions faced by masculinities in a neoliberal era. After establishing the “hangout sitcom” subgenre, I use critical discourse analysis to unpack three male subject positions. The postfeminist male singleton reacts neurotically to a perceived loss of power with a desperate search for true love. The douchebag responds with excessive performances of both masculinity and neoliberal subjectivity, while the househusband's stable job and long-term heterosexual relationship reflect neoliberalism's relationships with intimacy and the family. I argue that the hangout sitcom, and specifically its representation of masculinities, offers an under-explored opportunity to examine the politics of masculinities, postfeminism, and neoliberalism.

Contributor Notes

Greg Wolfman recently completed his PhD at the University of Huddersfield exploring how the expected capabilities of neoliberal subjectivity come into tension with the masculine subject, producing a series of contradictory subject positions and contributing to the proliferation of men's lifestyles now on offer. His research is interested in placing men and masculinities in a neoliberal context, and the changes and adaptations men have been forced to confront as a result, empirically as well as in cultural representations. ORCID: 0000-0001-5284-3817. Email: greg.wolfman.2010@my.bristol.ac.uk

  • Collapse
  • Expand
  • Adamson, Maria. 2016. “Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and a ‘Successfully’ Balanced Femininity in Celebrity CEO Autobiographies.” Gender, Work and Organization 24 (3): 314327. doi:10.1111/gwao.12167.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Arthur, Erica. 2004. “Where Lester Burnham Falls Down: Exposing the Facade of Victimhood in American Beauty.” Men and Masculinities 7 (2): 127143. doi:10.1177/1097184X03257512.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Attallah, Paul. 2003. “The Unworthy Discourse: Situation Comedy in Television.” In Critiquing the Sitcom: A Reader, ed. J. Morreale, 91115. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Banet-Weiser, Sarah, Rosalind Gill, and Catherine Rottenberg. 2020. “Postfeminism, Popular Feminism and Neoliberal Feminism? Sarah Banet-Weiser, Rosalind Gill and Catherine Rottenberg in Conversation.” Feminist Theory 21 (1): 324. doi:10.1177/1464700119842555.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bartky, Sandra Lee. 1998. “Foucault, Feminization and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power.” In The Politics of Women's Bodies: Sexuality, Appearance and Behaviour, ed. Rose Weitz, 2545. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bauman, Zygmunt. 2003. Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds. Oxford: Polity.

  • Belsey, Catherine. 1994. Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Brabon, Benjamin A. 2007. “The Spectral Phallus: Re-Membering the Postfeminist Man.” In Postfeminist Gothic: Critical Interventions in Contemporary Culture, ed. Benjamin A. Brabon and Stephanie Genz, 5667. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brabon, Benjamin A. 2013. “‘Chuck Flick’: A Genealogy of the Postfeminist Male Singleton.” In Postfeminism and Contemporary Hollywood Cinema, ed. Joel Gwynne and Nadine Muller, 116130. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brecher, Bob. 2012. “The Family and Neoliberalism: Time to Revive a Critique.” Ethics and Social Welfare 6 (2):157167. doi:10.1080/17496535.2012.682503.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bridges, Tristan. 2014. “A Very “Gay” Straight? Hybrid Masculinities, Sexual Aesthetics, and the Changing Relationship between Masculinity and Homophobia.” Gender and Society 28 (1): 5882. doi:10.1177/0891243213503901.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brook, Vincent. 2010. “Virtual Ethnicity: Incorporation, Diversity, and the Contemporary ‘Jewish’ Sitcom.” Emergences 11 (2): 269285. doi:10.1080/10457220120098991.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brown, Wendy. 2006. “American Nightmare: Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, and De-democratization.” Political Theory 34 (6): 690714. doi:10.1177/0090591706293016.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brown, Wendy. 2015. Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble. 2nd ed. Oxford: Routledge.

  • Chidester, Phil. 2008. “May the Circle Stay Unbroken: Friends, the Presence of Absence, and the Rhetorical Reinforcement of Whiteness.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 25 (2): 157174. doi:10.1080/15295030802031772.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cobb, Shelley, Neil Ewen, and Hannah Hamad. 2018. “Friends Reconsidered: Cultural Politics, Intergenerationality, and Afterlives.” Television & New Media 19 (8): 683691. doi:10.1177/1527476418778426.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Connell, R. W. 2005. Masculinities. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Blackwell.

  • Cornwall, Andrea, Frank G. Karioris, and Nancy Lindisfarne, eds. 2016. Masculinities under Neoliberalism. London: Zed Books.

  • Creighton, Genevieve, Mariana Brussoni, John Oliffe, and Lise Olsen. 2014. “Fathers on Child's Play: Urban and Rural Canadian Perspectives.” Men and Masculinities 18 (5): 559580. doi:10.1177/1097184X14562610.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Duggan, Lisa. 2002. “The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism.” In Materializing Democracy: Toward a Revitalized Cultural Politics, ed. Russ Castranovo and Dana D. Nelson, 175194. London: Duke University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Duggan, Lisa. 2004. The Twilight of Equality?: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics and the Attack on Democracy. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

  • Eagleton-Pierce, Matthew. 2016. “On Individualism in the Neoliberal Period.” Paper presented as the PSA 66th Annual International Conference, Brighton, 21–23 March.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Edley, Nigel. 2001. “Analysing Masculinity: Interpretative Repertoires, Ideological Dilemmas and Subject Positions.” In Discourse as Data: A Guide for Analysis, ed. Margaret Wetherell, Stephanie Taylor, and Simeon J. Yates, 189228. London: Sage.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Elliott, Karla. 2016. “Caring Masculinities: Theorizing an Emerging Concepts.” Men and Masculinities 19 (3): 240259. doi:10.1177/1097184X15576203.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ewen, Neil. 2018. “‘If I Don't Input Those Numbers … It Doesn't Make Much of a Difference’: Insulated Precarity and Gendered Labor in Friends.” Television & New Media 19 (8): 724740. doi:10.1177/1527476418778425.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fiske, John. 2010. Television Culture. 2nd ed. Oxford: Routledge.

  • Frank, Thomas. 1998. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Garlick, Steve. 2020. “The Nature of Markets: On the Affinity between Masculinity and (Neo)Liberalism.” Journal of Cultural Economy 13 (5): 548560. doi:10.1080/17530350.2020.1741017.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Genz, Stephanie. 2009. Postfemininities in Popular Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Gill, Rosalind. 2007. “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of Sensibility.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 10 (2):147166. doi:10.1177/1367549407075898.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gill, Rosalind. 2017. “The Affective, Cultural and Psychic Life of Postfeminism: A Postfeminist Sensibility 10 Years On.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 20 (6): 606626. doi:10.1177/1367549417733003.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gill, Rosalind, and Christina Scharff, eds. 2011. New Femininities: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and Subjectivity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Goedecke, Klara. 2018. “‘Other Guys Don't Hang Out Like This’: Gendered Friendship Politics among Swedish Middle-Class Men.” PhD diss., Centrum för Genusvetenskap, Uppsala universitet.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Graeber, David. 2018. Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. London, Allen Lane.

  • Hakim, Jamie. 2016. “‘The Spornosexual’: The Affective Contradictions of Male Body-Work in Neoliberal Digital Culture.” Journal of Gender Studies 27 (2): 231241. doi:10.1080/09589236.2016.1217771.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hall, Stuart. 2017. Selected Political Writings: The Great Moving Right Show and Other Essays. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • Hamad, Hannah. 2018. “The One with the Feminist Critique: Revisiting Millennial Postfeminism with Friends.” Television & New Media 19 (8): 692707. doi:10.1177/1527476418779624.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hamamoto, Darrell Y. 1989. Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and Liberal Democratic Ideology, ed. J. Fred MacDonald, Media and Society. London: Praeger.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hanke, Robert. 1990. “Hegemonic Masculinity in thirtysomething.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 7 (3): 231248. doi:10.1080/15295039009360176.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ihnat, Gwen. 2014. “How Friends Changed the Sitcom Landscape.” The A.V. Club, Aug 18. https://www.avclub.com/how-friends-changed-the-sitcom-landscape-1798271378.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kutulas, Judy. 2016. “Who Rules the Roost? Sitcom Family Dynamics from the Cleavers to Modern Family.” In The Sitcom Reader: America Re-viewed, Still Skewed, ed. Mary M. Dalton and Laura R. Linder, 1730. New York: SUNY Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ludwig, Gundula. 2016. “Desiring Neoliberalism.” Sexuality Research and Social Policy 13 (3): 417427. doi:10.1007/s13178-016-0257-6.

  • Marc, David. 2005. “Origins of the Genre: In Search of the Radio Sitcom.” In The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed, ed. Mary M. Dalton and Laura R. Linder, 1524. Albany: State of University New York Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McGuigan, Jim. 2009. Cool Capitalism. London: Pluto Books.

  • McGuigan, Jim. 2013. Neoliberal Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • McGuigan, Jim. 2014. “The Neoliberal Self.” Culture Unbound 6 (1): 223240. doi:10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146223.

  • McRobbie, Angela. 2009. The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change. London: SAGE.

  • Neale, Stephen. 1980. Genre. Chippenham: Antony Rowe Ltd.

  • Neale, Steve. 1983. “Masculinity as Spectacle.” Screen 24 (6): 217. doi:10.1093/screen/24.6.2.

  • Negra, Diane. 2006. “Where the Boys Are: Postfeminism and the New Single Man.” FLOW.tv. http://www.flowjournal.org/2006/04/wedding-crashers-failure-to-launch-feminism-postfeminism-masculinity/ (accessed 7 September 2020).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • O'Neill, Rachel. 2014. “Whither Critical Masculinity Studies? Notes on Inclusive Masculinity Theory, Postfeminism, and Sexual Politics.” Men and Masculinities 18 (1): 100120. doi:10.1177/1097184X14553056.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Phipps, Alison. 2014. The Politics of the Body: Gender in a Neoliberal and Neoconservative Age. Cambridge: Polity.

  • Redman, Peter. 2001. “The Discipline of Love: Negotiation and Regulation in Boys’ Performance of a Romance-Based Heterosexual Masculinity.” Men and Masculinities 4 (2): 186200. doi:10.1177/1097184X01004002006.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rockler, Naomi R. 2006. “‘Be Your Own Windkeeper’: Friends, Feminism, and Rhetorical strategies of Depoliticization.” Women's Studies in Communication 29 (2): 244264. doi:10.1080/07491409.2006.10162500.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rossi, Ugo. 2017. Cities in Global Capitalism, Urban Futures. Cambridge: Polity.

  • Rubin, Gayle. 1975. “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the Political Economy of Sex.” In Toward and Anthropology of Women, ed. R. Rayna, 157210. New York: Monthly Review Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Salter, Anastasia, and Bridget Blodgett. 2017. Toxic Geek Masculinity in Media: Sexism, Trolling, and Identity Politics. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sandell, Jillian. 1998. “I'll Be There for You: Friends and the Fantasy of Alternative Families.” American Studies 39 (2): 141155.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sender, Katherine. 2006. “Queens for a Day: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the neoliberal project.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 23 (2): 131151. doi:10.1080/07393180600714505

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shaw, Kristen. 2015. “Negotiating Space, Class and Masculinity in How I Met Your Mother.” The Word Hoard 3 (1): 108114.

  • Spigel, Lynn. 1992. Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Stenbacka, Susanna. 2011. “Othering the Rural: About the Construction of Rural Masculinities and the Unspoken Urban Hegemonic Ideal in Swedish Media.” Journal of Rural Studies 27 (1): 235244. doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2011.05.006.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stratton, Jon. 2016. “Die Sheldon Die: The Big Bang Theory, Everyday Neoliberalism and Sheldon as Neoliberal Man.” Journal for Cultural Research 20 (2): 171188. doi:10.1080/14797585.2015.1123515.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thompson, Lauren Jade. 2015. “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit: Performing Masculinity in How I Met Your Mother.” Critical Studies in Television 10 (2): 2136. doi:10.7227/CST.10.2.3.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • van Dijk, Teun A. 1993. “Principles of Critical Discourse Analysis.” Discourse & Society 4 (2): 249283. doi:10.1177/0957926593004002006.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Venugopal, Rajesh. 2015. “Neoliberalism as a Concept.” Economy and Society 44 (2): 165187. doi:10.1080/03085147.2015.1013356.

  • Walker, Charlie, and Steven Roberts, eds. 2018. Masculinity, Labour, and Neoliberalism: Working-Class Men in International Perspective. Oxford: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Young, Iris Marion. 2005. On Female Experience: Throwing like a Girl and Other Essays, ed. Cheshire Calhoun, Studies in Feminist Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Apatow, Judd, dir. 2005. The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Universal Pictures. USA.

  • Bays, Carter, and Craig Thomas. 2005–2014. How I Met Your Mother. USA.

  • Collins, David, and Michael Williams. 2003–2007. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. USA.

  • Crane, David, and Marta Kauffman. 1994–2004. Friends. USA.

  • Daniels, Greg. 2005–2013. The Office. USA.

  • Daniels, Greg, and Michael Schur. 2009–2015. Parks and Recreation. USA.

  • David, Larry, and Jerry Seinfeld. 1989–1998. Seinfeld. USA.

  • Fincher, David. 1999. Fight Club. 20th Century Fox. USA.

  • Lawrence, Bill. 2001–2010. Scrubs. USA.

  • Lorre, Chuck, and Bill Prady. 2007–2019. The Big Bang Theory. USA.

  • Mendes, Sam, dir. 1999. American Beauty. Dreamworks Pictures. USA.

  • Meriwether, Elizabeth. 2011–2018. New Girl. USA.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 546 283 25
Full Text Views 39 28 1
PDF Downloads 42 32 1