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It's Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Critical analysis of the use of Discriminaiton in the Media as a tool for comedy.
by

Fraz Fayyaz

on 1 December 2013

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Transcript of It's Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Introduction
Charlotte Bunch, an American author, activist, and organizer in women's and human rights movements once said, “Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture” (2013, brainyquote.com). Discrimination is an unfortunate part of reality and it comes in many forms. What is worse is that the media tends to downplay the seriousness of discrimination by occasionally using discrimination as a tool for comedy. By doing so, the media inadvertently reinforces discrimination. This paper will argue that due to stereotyping, heteronormativity, and sexism seen in the media, it is difficult for society to progress beyond prejudicial practises and discrimination. Stereotyping, heteronormativity, and sexism is seen a lot in the media, however, this paper will focus on one television show to analyze:
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
. This show revolves around four extremely odd friends who own an Irish bar in Philadelphia. With the help of the textbook Critical Media Studies: An Introduction, this paper will analyze examples of stereotyping, heteronormativity, and sexism seen in the show. As one grows up, they start to realise that the media tends to broadcast false representations of certain individuals and groups; however, younger audiences do not always know this. These children are reinforced with false prejudices and these same children are our future generation. In order for society to progress beyond these prejudicial practises and discrimination, media must first stop broadcasting prejudicial practises and discrimination as a tool for comedy and start legitimizing them by showing them to the broader public.
The Gang Gets Racist
Stereotyping
According to Brian Ott and Robert Mack (2010), the authors of Critical Media Studies: An Introduction, stereotyping is “the process of constructing misleading and reductionist representations of a minority racial group, often wholly defining members of the group by a small number of characteristics” (p.140). Applying Ott and Mack’s definition of stereotyping to the show
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
is quite simple. Right off the bat in the very first scene of the very first show, actor Rob McElhenney, in the character of Mac, tells a black man “We don’t want any trouble.” This happens as soon as the black man walks into their bar after they have closed shop. One of the stereotypes is that black people tend to steal and since the main characters were closing the bar, they assumed the black man was going to rob them. Similar scenes of stereotyping are shown on innumerable amounts of other shows and young children are prone to watching them. Another stereotype portrayed in this scene is the stereotype of all black people being related. When Mac says they have a lot of African Americans coming into their bar, he follows his statement up by telling the black man that he “might know some of them.” Although black people being related to each other is not necessarily a negative stereotype, it is a misrepresentation of a whole race nonetheless, As Ott and Mack note, “Racial stereotypes are not always a negative reflection of a culture, but all stereotypes overlook the inherent complexity of a racial group and present media consumers with simplified and flawed representations” (p. 140). This quote proves that media consumers are affected by these stereotypes portrayed on television, especially young children who may not know better. Furthermore, Ott and Mack (2010) argue that “media stereotypes by definition make value judgements about the worth, taste, and morality of another culture, and in doing so they can influence our attitudes, behaviours, and actions toward members of that culture” (p.140). This quote further proves that due to stereotypes portrayed in the media, consumers are affected and brainwashed to a certain extent to believe that these stereotypes are true. Thus, due to the stereotyping seen in the media, it is difficult for society to progress beyond prejudicial practises and discrimination.
The Gangs Gay Bar
Heteronormativity
Heteronormativity, according to Ott and Mack (2010), is “the system of inequity derived from the heterosexual/homosexual binary. It refers to a diverse set of social practices that function to perpetuate the heterosexual/homosexual binary and privilege heterosexuality” (p.198). A key scene from the series shows that it reinforces the heterosexual/homosexual binary, and with deeply disturbing implications. In episode one of the first season, the main characters get help from someone so that they can promote their bar. When they realize that the promoter did very well in bringing in customers, they are all very happy; however, they start to realize that there are a lot of guys in the bar. They then are told that they are supposedly running the “hottest gay bar” in Philadelphia. This does not sit well with them so they decide to stop. Although heteronormativity is the lack of homosexuals shown in the media, it also highlights the fact that when homosexuals are shown in the media, they are misrepresented. This particular scene represents the monogamous/promiscuous link between heterosexuals and homosexuals very well. As Ott and Mack argue “on top of drawing clear distinctions between heterosexuality and homosexuality, the American media also tend to characterize the very nature of these categories by linking heterosexuality to monogamy and homosexuality to promiscuity” (p. 201). In this scene, a group of gay men are shown flirting with one of the main characters Dennis, played by Glenn Howerton, which falsely indicates that all gay men are promiscuous. Furthermore, when the promoter for the bar, who happens to be gay, takes Dennis out to show him the line, the promoter looks at Dennis in a very perverted manner while he has his arm around him. It is unfortunate that the media does not portray homosexuals in the media and it is worse when the media misrepresents homosexuals in the media. As mentioned before, media stereotypes can influence the attitude and behaviour of the consumer towards members of a certain group, especially young children, and due to this heteronormativity seen in the media, it is difficult for society to progress beyond prejudicial practises and discrimination.
The Gang Solves the Oil Crisis
Sexism
Sexism, according to Ott and Mack (2010), is “discrimination based upon a person’s sex” (p.178). Usually, more than often, sexism is directed towards woman. Not surprisingly,
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
is replete with examples of sexism. In this scene, the guys go to a bank to get a loan so they can buy gasoline and sell it in the future for a profit. When the woman rejects their loan proposal, Dennis shows her a graph which also has woman in bikinis drawn on the sides. She is confused and the characters tell her that they thought they would be talking to a male. When they find out her boss is also a female, they are shocked. The characters assumed that the boss would be a male because, unfortunately, the truth is that woman are not given as many opportunities in the workplace as men. As Ott and Mack note, “Women who do attempt to enter the upper echelons of the working world by pursuing management positions often come up against the glass ceiling or informal, gendered workplace policies that allow women to progress only so far in promotion” (p. 192). Young children watching sexism in the media are taught that women are not equal to men and if they are in the same position as a man, she is treated poorly because of it. After the characters are rejected, Dennis tries to seduce the woman in order to change her mind. The other two characters, Mac and Charlie, also decide to try to seduce her. This is a perfect example of the sexual subject/sexual object binary that is portrayed in media, “Masculine stereotypes of strength, ability, and intelligence often translate into media images of sexual subjectivity. In other words, media texts tend to identify men as sexually powerful and pursuant...... On the other hand, feminine stereotypes of weakness and emotion give rise to the sexual objectification of women.” (Ott & Mack, 2010, p. 186). Due to this binary, it is hard to recall a romantic movie in which the female pursues the male, especially a movie which would have been made in the 20th Century.
Conclusion
After analyzing stereotyping, heteronormativity, and sexism seen in the media, it is evident that discrimination is in fact utilized as a tool for comedy. Due to this media convention, it is difficult for society to progress beyond these prejudicial practises unless if the media changes this convention. To reiterate, Charlotte Bunch said that “Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture” (2013, brainyquote.com). In this case, the culture that needs changing is the media culture.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
is just one show. TV shows such as
The Simpsons
,
Family Guy
, and
South Park
also use discrimination as a tool for comedy and the worst part is that The Simpsons, and even Family Guy, have a very young audience. This is unfortunate and the only way that society can progress beyond these prejudicial practises and discrimination in the real world is if the media changes this convention first in the media world.
it's N T Always
Sunny in Philadelphia:
An Analysis of Discrimination
in the Media

By: Fraz Fayyaz
References
Ott, B. L., & Mack, R. L. (2010). Critical media studies: an introduction. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.
The following scene depicts stereotyping
in
Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia
.
The following scene depicts heteronormativity
in
Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia
.
The following scene depicts sexism
in
Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia
.
Full transcript