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Work It wipes out

| Jan 9, 2012
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Stars of Work It

ABC’s controversial crossdressing sitcom, Work It, premiered last Tuesday. Unfortunately Work It will probably air again this Tuesday. I say unfortunately as the show has very little to commend it. The laugh track seemed to find most of the unfunny jokes, and the sight of two men in women’s business attire, very amusing. In the course of the half hour I endured the laugh track had a great time. I laughed three times. If you only laugh three times during a half hour show how long will that show stick around?

The premise of the show is that Lee has been out of work for over a year. He’s in dire straits. His last unemployment check just arrived. He’s had to cancel his daughter’s cell phone. He’s bringing home sugar packets, ketchup and soy sauce from fast food restaurants to shore up their food supply. Things are at the brink of collapse.

His wife urges him to get a physical before his health insurance lapses. He goes to the doctor’s office and we are treated to a lame prostrate exam joke or two. On his way out he learns that his health insurance has lapsed and he owes the doctor $900.

Leaving in despair he overhears the receptionist talking with a young woman who turns out to be a drug company representative. She mentions that her company is hiring. Lee butts into their conversation and tells her he’s a salesman and needs a job. She says the company only hires women. When asked why she says  “We’ve had some guys, but the doctors seem to want to nail them less.” The laugh track found that hilarious. I, like Queen Victoria, was not amused.

There was some stuff earlier about how women are taking all the jobs. Now Lee has evidence that it’s true and one day while trying to figure out which items of his wife’s jewelry he should sell to pay his doctor bill he happens to see his face reflected in a mirror above one of his wife’s dresses. The next scene has him all dressed up and applying for the drug company job. It’s pretty handy that Lee’s name is gender neutral but don’t you have to show some kind of identification that might have your gender on it? He nails the job interview by knowing everything about the company’s products and the next thing you know he’s the new girl in the office.

The women there do comment that Lee is a tall woman (one of the jokes that made me laugh revolved around that) but they all accept “her” as another woman. He towers over the other employees and they would have to be seriously gullible, or blind, to accept him as a female.

There are too many holes in the concept to go into them all. The most offensive are: The premise that women are taking all the jobs. If you live on this planet you know that’s not true. Then we’re expected to believe that with no help from anyone who knows how to impersonate a woman Lee, and then his out of work friend Angel (right, another gender neutral name), can dress up as women, get hired as drug reps, and then go to work for full days, five days a week — while Lee hides the nature of his work attire from his wife and family. And lastly, unfunny jokes. When you hear the joke and rather than eliciting a laugh you have a greater desire to scratch, yawn or turn off the television and go to bed, you know the joke didn’t work.

GLAAD and other GLBT organizations have attacked the show as offensive to transgender people. I would expand that to include anyone with a brain. Do you breath? Then this show should offend you.

Addressing transgender issues specifically — the premise that two men can dress as women and pass so completely that they get jobs as drug reps is an insult to the many transgender women who can’t get work because employers see them as men dressing like women. If the story had been handled better maybe two straight men could dress up and learn about the problems women, trans and otherwise, face when they enter the job market. But the producers and writers didn’t bother to go that route, moving instead to lame jokes, stereotypes, and sight gags about smeared, misapplied makeup. Sure it’s supposed to be a comedy but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t educate the audience about real problems. But Work It is not educational. It damages transgender women by making it look like it is so darned easy to become a woman and get a job. It’s misogynistic and full of gender stereotypes. And Work It is not that funny, either. We can only hope that ABC listens to GLAAD and pulls it soon before it does anymore damage.


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angela_g

About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Association, Inc., the former editor of that organization's newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She wrote the Diva of Dish column for TGF in the late 1990s and was the Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She is currently the Editor of TGF. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows. In her idle hours she keeps busy producing her monthly TG parties, Angela's Laptop Lounge.

Comments (8)

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  1. vallin vallin says:

    The funniest line on ‘Bosom Buddies’ was when Tom Hanks’ character WASN’T in drag. It was at an art show, and some critic made a pedantic comment about a painting of a big red dot. To which Hanks replied: “IT’S THE FLAG OF JAPAN!”

  2. michellehart michellehart says:

    So glad to hear that it was pulled. The writers should have looked at Bosom Buddies and Some like it hot and how it seemed to reflect (or at least try) on the every day life of someone transitioning (and yes I know that they were only using the situation to get cheap rent in BBs and jobs in SLIH). But many of the situations in those shows rang true to life. Those shows were well written, not about dressing but friends.

    This show was just nasty as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t funny or cute in any way. For two directors involved with hits like Friends and Rules of engagement, these two should be ashameded.

  3. angela_g angela_g says:

    Yes Linda, there was a second episode but we will never get to see the third. ABC has pulled the show from it’s lineup. It wasn’t good taste that killed the beast. It was poor ratings.

  4. Linda Jensen Linda Jensen says:

    My wife and I watched the first episode of Work It. Has there been a second? Her reaction was that the humor seemed ‘forced’. We felt it wasn’t the worst sitcom ever but it certainly was not up to our current favorites: re-runs of Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory.
    Sure the premise has been done before but to be fair they are working in some interesting characterizations that could help carry the show through a few more episodes – the needy single mom in the office and the daughter at home, for example.
    For us in this community we’ve got to accept that it is not a comedy based on a character’s desire to transition or to crossdress. It is a comedy about a husband and father at the end of his financial rope doing what he has to do to survive. I would like to see the former but in fairness I think most of North America can relate better to the latter.

  5. says:

    I hate to be the odd man out here, but I thought the show was funny. Having read the negative review and the negative comments, I watched the pilot on ABC.com fully prepared to hate it. I found it so entertaining that I watched the next episode as well.

    Of course they don’t pass, but that’s the dirty little secret; in the real world of women, every woman has at least one fatal flaw in the eyes of every other woman beholding her. What rang true to me (at least from my own experience)is how the various women in the office reacted, adjusted, and began their work of molding the two ugly ducklings into a more reasonable facsimile of femininity. On my first job after transition, some were catty, some were motherly, and some became immediate friends. Each in her own way contributed to my development and maturity.

    To be fair, when I saw Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Bosom Buddies (Tom Hanks no less), it was early on in my transition, and I remember being very upset about each of them. But that was three decades ago for me. I’m not as personally involved now as I was then.

  6. josiecd josiecd says:

    Reviews seem to be pretty consistent, I blogged about it myself actually (http://orneryredhead.blogspot.com/2012/01/pilot-for-abc-situation-comedy-work-it.html). Very sexist, very lame, trivializes transgenders in the workplace….

    Fortunately, something this hackneyed can’t possibly last very long.

  7. Gina-Vizavi Gina-Vizavi says:

    Forget the hackneyed humor, isn’t this plotline a little familiar(Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire), is that all they’ve got? Oh, yes, humor about gender stereotypes (yawn) that should have been in thrown in the ash bin of history a long time ago. Glad I missed it. Thanks for the heads up Angela.

    Gina

  8. says:

    Thank you Angela for confirming what I thought would be the case! A piece of bad satire based on stereotypes we were to throw out in the sixties. No I didn’t watch it and would watch it advised my friends to not watch it and wrote the producers of this show to pull it.

    Another of my reasons for feeling as I do, which to my dismay was rebuffed by some in the T communities, is: The entire premise that a man in a dress is continued to be proliferated as a form of humor, and with out any real context/storyline/depth, that it is done at the expense of a person/s born and attach a male label who must struggle with the idea that the rest of the world think she’s a joke.

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