Last Man Standing, stars Tim Allen as Mike Baxter in a Comedy Television show already on its 3rd season, airs on Friday nights on ABC network. The Baxter’s, which include a multi-talented veteran cast, Hector Elizondo and Nancy Travis, and to the upcoming talent and young actors, Amanda Fuller and Molly Ephraim, of the ABC’s Comedic Television show the “Last Man Standing” is about, what every family in America deals with and struggles throughout their daily lives. As every other “Head of the Household’s” struggles, Mike Baxter’s “Man’s man” ideals and beliefs are constantly rearranged in what we may all sympathetically agree with as “compromises and adjustments” in order to keep our own family bonded together.
It’s pretty easy to describe Tim Allen’s character as Mike Baxter, especially if you’ve seen his last TV show “Home Improvement”. For others who have never seen this particular show, well, Mike Baxter is an ideal “Man’s man”, a typical “I’m the man of the house” man who has three (3) grown daughters, Kristin, Mandy, and Eve accordingly from eldest to the youngest. There are a few episodes that I can name but I particularly would like to focus on the “Tasers” episode. In this particular episode and fortunately enough, appropriate for this week’s Valentine’s Day; Mike Baxter, as you can imagine, would be the last person to adhere nor conform, let alone utter the words “Valentine’s Day” for this day, invented by the “Flower Reading Card Cartel”, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Man_Standing_%28U.S._TV_series%29). Mike, an “Outdoor Man’s” man, decided to surprise his wife, Vanessa, by ordering an impressive bouquet of flowers to be delivered at his house. Mike’s female dominated house, automatically assumed that the bouquet of flowers delivered was meant for one of the daughters and not their mother, when the card was unexpectedly misplaced. Much to Mike’s appeal to Vanessa that the flowers came from him, she laughed, ignored, and waved him off. Needless to say, Mike’s 3 girls got in to a lot of trouble caused by these assumptions, and even after the “card” accompaniment turned up, Mike still held up to his “man’s man” image, hence, the compromising.
Nancy Signorelli, wrote in her article “A Content Analysis” that appearances, relationships, and careers are often stereotypically favored by teenage girls. The TV show “Last Man Standing” is just one of the many other shows that do not complement Dr. Signorelli’s article and in my honest opinion, gave a biased opinion on the subject where it proposed an image of “I’m Man, you Woman”. “Women are portrayed as spending much of their time dating and talking about the opposite sex while men are primarily seen working and concerned about their success,” (Signorelli, Nancy, Ph.D., A Content Analysis: Reflection of Girls in the Media A Study of Television, Shows and Commercials, Movies, Music Videos, and Teen Magazine Articles and Ads, Apr 1997), is what I believed to be an inconsistent and inaccurate presumption because there are shows that are depicted quite in contradiction such as “Sex and the City” among others, or even sportscaster like Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews who are far from what has been depicted.
The Middle, a television show narrated by a middle-aged housewife, features snippets of modern America’s “typical” family. In the episode The Jump, Frankie is exhausted by her family’s incessant ridicule and decides to take in a lost puppy. Meanwhile, her son Axl is failing most of his college courses, and her uncoordinated daughter Sue joins the varsity volleyball team. In another episode of The Middle, titled The Kiss, Frankie and her husband have a vacation in a friend’s home with temperamental appliances. And Axl and his friends decide to go on a road-trip to check up on an ex-girlfriend.
The Middle’s uses Frankie as a representation of an average mother of three teenagers. She previously worked as a nurse at a dentist office until it closed down. With fate deciding for her to depend on her husband’s income for the time being, she goes back to school to get a higher dentistry degree. Petite, calm and sensitive Frankie Heck is an easy target for ridicule from her children. This sad disrespect for elders is covered up by the comedic intervention of a stray dog that Frankie takes in and dubs “Colin Firth,” most likely after her celebrity crush. When she asks her husband to stop the children’s teasing, he brushes it off, saying that is how they show their affection with which she replies, “Affection? Really? I always thought of affection as, you know –I don’t know—a hug?” (The Jump). Nevertheless, she looks up to her husband, not only because he is over a head taller than her, but because she finds her value in him. In the episode The Kiss, she plans a romantic getaway for her and her husband, but the house is too high-tech for them and she gets upset when everything isn’t going according to her plan. Frankie is an emotional, relatable woman who is constantly being belittled even though she is the star of the show.
On the other hand, Frankie’s son Axl is an attractive, unintelligent, girl-crazed, college aged student. He spends his time living for the moment, rather than studying, and is rewarded for it with girls and parties. He is irresponsible, manipulative and no one expects anything better from him because he is a hormonal teenaged boy. In The Kiss, Axl decides that he wants to visit his ex-girlfriend several states away. He and two of his college friends drive out on a whim, but end up going out to eat and then heading home without seeing her. When home for winter break, in The Jump, Axl is always seeking for opportunities to trick his younger siblings into doing his work for him. He is completely self-confident, but hopelessly dependent, and has to ask his younger brother for help when he discovers that he is failing three out of his four college courses. However, isn’t of simply asking for help, he feels he has to trick his brother into helping him. Thus, Axl proposes the idea using a game-like approach, “Pretend I’m an alien and I don’t know anything about math and you’ve got to make me understand in it… um… one day.” (The Jump). He gets everything he wants and never has to humble himself or learn a lesson. Society has made Axl’s behavior completely acceptable.
In Planned Parenthood’s article on Gender Identity, the claim is made that there are indeed more similarities between men and women than differences, but that society has decided that certain traits make you more or less masculine and feminine. Television shows such as The Middle, exaggerate these personality traits to make light of everyday situations. However, children take in these gender differences and apply it to their lives. (Gender Identity). Women can have many personality traits, usually defined by their relationship to other characters, while most men are defined as easy-going, self-confident, and brawny. Frankie’s character, as a mom, automatically makes her thoughtful, uptight, and less flirtatious than any single woman’s character; whereas Axl is simply a teenaged boy, an obnoxious, rebellious, and embarrassing example, but in total agreement with society’s list of acceptable traits in a man. It is discouraging to still see these lacking male figures dominating in so many shows today, while intelligent, respectful women are continuously fighting for equality.
1. Cullins, Vanessa. "Gender & Gender Identity." Gender Identity. Planned Parenthood, Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <http://www.plannedparenthood.org>.
2. “The Jump.” The Middle. ABC. 13 Nov. 2013. Television.
3. “The Kiss.” The Middle. ABC. 04 Dec. 2013. Television.
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Right away, I can see how the seasoned cast of Last Man Standing really makes the show a hit, especially Tim Allen as the lead. He is definitely one of America’s most favorite actors since his show, “Home Improvement”. The Valentine’s Day episode you chose to discuss is very fitting to highlight the gender roles and the ‘manly’ personalities of the characters. Sine Valentine’s Day is more of a female-oriented holiday, it is interesting to see how the male characters deal with the holiday. It is safe to say that many family based television shows portray a man that leads the family and the woman is the sensitive nurturer....