By Nicole V. Gagné
What if GLAAD gave a war and nobody came? We may find out, thanks to an ABC sitcom scheduled to premiere January 3: “Work It,” the hijinks of two guys who disguise themselves as women in order to land jobs. GLAAD gagged at the pilot, declaring that the show “will reinforce the mistaken belief that transgender women are simply men pretending to be women.” Both HRC and GLAAD are demanding the show be cancelled.
But the troops don’t appear to be rallying for this one. Not many see the sense in going after a midseason replacement that plainly has “CANCELLED” written all over it.
“Maybe they need to understand that guys dressing in drag is not the same as trandgender. They are the ones confusing the two, not this stupid show. This is what they are getting a knot in their underwear over? Getting all up in arms about this instead of REAL issues is why many gay men and women are rolling their eyes,” from a post on Towleroad.com
Thirty years after “Bosom Buddies,” ABC still thinks viewers will bust a gut laughing when a man lumbers around in a dress and pumps. Smeared makeup? Ratty wig? What could possibly be funnier! But “Bosom Buddies” was only a two-season wonder, and there are a lot more channels now than there were in 1982. Why not let the marketplace reject this show? That’s preferable to censorship.
There is an incredibly remote chance that it could become a hit, and more networks would air lame drag sitcoms. But all that would do is take shock out of cross-dressing and further the acceptance of gender-variant people. It would also produce readier financing for something good — not just a classic drag farce like Tootsie, but also stories of transgender people told from the inside out like “Ma Vie en Rose.” It just takes a whole lot of manure to grow one “Ma Vie en Rose.”
“Work It” female characters come off dumb and silly since they can’t see through the characters dumb disguise, a misogynistic undercurrent that’s far more pernicious than the supposed harm “Work It” will inflict upon transgender women.
The only television programs that don’t detract from the real challenge transgender people face are the ones that actually show the real challenge transgender people face. Otherwise, television reinforces a worldview where trans people don’t exist — the worst detraction of them all.
Some LGBT people fear that GLAAD has become so politically correct that they can’t take a joke. “It is hypocritical to criticize this show after years of ignoring all the drag shows going on in clubs. Where is the outrage at the thousands of other drag queens out there who “mock transgendered people” by portraying men in dresses as something silly?”, said another commentator on Towleroad.
Nicole V. Gagné is a transgender woman who has written for allmovie.com, fandor.com, and filmjournal.com, as well as numerous magazines. Her most recent book is “Historical Dictionary Of Modern And Contemporary Classical Music” (Scarecrow Press, 2012).