The New Normal‘s “Gaydar;” it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Well, I guess it wasn’t that melodramatic of a show, but, to echo a little of what I said last week, there are some themes the show retreads often and sometimes not in the most imaginative way possible. Sure, a story about the gay and straight stereotypes, bending gender norms and accepting possible sexual fluidity is a great subject for an episode, but I think the episode handled some of those issues a little too ham-fisted for my liking. Here’s what I’m talking about:
David’s big confession: David admitting to being a bully to percieved gay kids because he didn’t want to be ridiculed is a really good character flaw to explore. But, for some reason, the show decided not to go into flashback with this particular scene. Sure, it wouldn’t be a hilarious flashback like Shania giving the gardener a Les Miz screener, but I think highlighting this dark period in David’s life would have gone much further in showing how conflicted he was a kid and how he lashed out because he felt like he wouldn’t be accepted. It’s just a thought. In any case, I do know that having David and Bryan say really cliche stuff–no matter how true it is–was a little painful. To quote my sister (who often watches the shows I review with me), “Stop beating a dead horse.”
Using stereotypes to combat stereotypes: What I found oddly funny about this episode is that for an episode so much about blurred sexuality norms, some standard constructs were used. I guess what I’m saying is that I could tell Bryce (John Stamos) was straight, despite his love for great hair and clothes, and Chris (Mark Consuelos) was gay because of the whole “Rocky thinks he’s interested in her” setup. I was actually really surprised no one made an off-color joke about Jane’s new hair. I did like her suit though; I’ve been trying to find some of those items (especially the tuxedo shirt) myself.
The christening gown argument: Like I said above, I like the idea of the episode exploring who is what, but can I make one thing plain? Who does David think would be calling the christening gown a “dress” anyway? Who does David think is going to ostracize his child for wearing what is obviously a christening gown? The kid’s going to be baptized in the Church, is he not? Then shouldn’t that expel any fear about someone thinking David’s baby boy is being forced to dabble in girls’ clothes?
Everyone who is in David and Bryan’s circles (heck, in most of the Western World) should know what a christening gown is, or at least understand what they generally look like. For generations, girls and boys have been baptized in those gowns. It’s part of the custom. I get why David is hung up on the “dress” aspect–he’s still got some self-esteem and acceptance issues to sort out with himself, after all–but I seriously doubt anyone would call the baby boy gay because he’s in a widely accepted religious clothing.
I accept that the episode had to introduce the idea of “gay vs. straight” somehow, but I don’t think an argument about the baby’s christening attire was the best way to go about it. We could have went in directly with Rocky’s relationship drama with Chris or Jane’s infatuation with Bryce, which leads me to one of the best moments of the night:
Jane’s big confession: When Jane told Bryce that she was obsessed about his sexuality because she’s attracted to him, that showed the real root of Jane’s overall xenophobia with the 21st century. Just like she said in the pilot, her husband was gay, and she felt betrayed by that. She probably felt betrayed by herself, too–she thought she had picked a man who was cultured and fun and loved her in the way she thought he loved her. But when she found out he was gay, she probably blamed herself for not seeing it the signs just as much as she blamed him for not being upfront about it. All she wants to do now is not make the same mistake again. Jane’s attraction to Bryce does help her stick her toe in the current times; with Bryce challenging her to either be stuck in her own closed-mindedness or step out and venture to be with him, the answer starts becoming clearer to Jane. Bryce’s surprisingly intense make-out session with Jane also helped.
It might seem like I didn’t like this episode. I did like most of it; I liked the dinner party/game show section of the show, and I liked Rocky and Chris both before and after the dinner debacle. I have a soft spot for Consuelos anyway, so I’ll always like him. And, as I said, I liked Jane’s new gender-bending look.
If I may end on a scientific note: The Kinsey Scale, created by Alfred Kinsey, shows that the majority of men and women do not fall in strict “heterosexual” or “homosexual” categories anyway. While we might sexually prefer one gender more than another, that doesn’t mean that we all don’t have some gray areas in our sexual makeup. In fact, it has been reported by both Kinsey and some recent studies concerning mid-life women that a sexual preference could change over time. It’s theorized that female sexuality is more fluid than men’s, which appears to be more rigidly fixed. But that doesn’t mean it’s entirely impossible for men, either. So, anyway, I say all of this to say that technically, stereotypical gender norms don’t really apply to anyone; one reason they’re adhered to is the need to have an ordered society.