“I Love Lucy” and Modern Sitcoms

There’s going to be a longer post on this, it’s an interesting subject, but I’ll just post this for now.

In “I Love Lucy” when Lucy gets spanked at the end of some episodes I notice a range of reactions. Some people feel mildly embarrassed, like they really shouldn’t be thinking this is funny. Some people look at it with a sort of fond nostalgia, like they’re saying, “Haha, see what those sexist people looked at as funny! But we’re different now!”. Some people get genuinely insulted by what they perceive as condoning violence against women. Very few people just laugh.

Today, the sitcom “King of Queens” casually mentions in its finale that Carrie has twisted Doug’s nipples so often “it’s all scar tissue now”, an alarming comment that’s played purely for laughs. Doug, of course, never dares to touch Carrie in retaliation at any point in the show, whatever violence she inflicts on him (she inflicts violence pretty often). In “Everybody Loves Raymond” in one memorable episode Debra pulled a bookshelf on Raymond, her husband, because she got angry when Raymond rightly pointed out she needed PMS medication. This is played entirely for laughs.

Ricky in “I Love Lucy” is looked at as the rational one, who gives Lucy an allowance (he’s the one who works, after all) and often has to help clean up the messes she causes, mostly because she disobeyed his rules. In “Everybody Loves Raymond” Raymond has to practically beg Debra for permission to play golf and cowers in terror when Debra breaks an agreement with him and he sticks to the terms of the agreement. In “King of Queens” an entire episode centered around how Doug was so stupid that Carrie had to make all of the decisions.

Sitcom humor has remained exactly the same. Only the sexes have been reversed.

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