Last night, I watched the pilot for The New Normal, a series that purports to answer the question “What makes a family?” That should have been my first clue: when you hang a family on the wall in the first act of the sitcom, by the last act, you’ve got to celebrate it.
At any rate, I’d heard an interview with one of the actors from the show, who used the phrase “equal opportunity offender” to describe Ellen Barkin’s character, a noxious real housewife figure from whose lips issue some pretty vile stuff (the other characters do to, as in one white man’s characterization of Obama as “Halfrican American.”
Over the years, I’ve heard this phrase applied to South Park a lot, especially by students. The logic of it is that as long as a white character derides all racial and ethnic groups, women, queer people, and immigrants, it’s okay to laugh at it as in “Ha ha, hate is funny as long as it’s spread evenly and doesn’t just single one group out.” But The New Normal isn’t either as smart, funny, or politically confusing as South Park, at least from what I saw on the first episode and I daresay that it’s not really an equal opportunity offender because I suspect that it won’t be making fun of, say, white bankers, heterosexual couples, and all those at the center of the equation. Because the New Normal wants nothing more than the Old Order, with a surplus of dads (isn’t that cute when men want to have babies and do it all themselves), women who either reproduce homophobia (Barkin refers to gay men as “ass campers” and “salami smokers”), and a luminous and fecund young blond white woman whose body will turn them into a family.