So I’m watching tv a week or so ago and happened to come across a show I only discovered not that long ago, Bob’s Burgers. Since I gave up on the Simpsons many years ago I’m not normally in that part of the dial to start with but I was randomly surfing and came across this episode and stayed with it. I could go on and on about why I abandoned the Simpsons one of my all time favorite shows, but I won’t here. Long story short, please stop!! So anyway, the plot of the Bob’s Burgers (Two For Tina, season 3, episode 17) revolves around the overly awkward teen daughter Tina who has to choose between two boys to go to the school dance, one her long time crush Jimmy Jr. and a new boy she meets as he is dancing on the street, very West Side Story’ish. Note, never put anything down dance pants.
Tina’s choices, Josh the ballet dancer and Jimmy Jr.
Their first exchange was hilarious. “I go to the performing arts high school, I dance ballet.” “Oh, a bad boy!”
The remainder of the show revolves around her school dance date decision. I won’t spoil it for you. It’s on Hulu and the Fox website if you want to watch. What struck me was this is the first time I’ve seen a sitcom that had a boy who was a ballet dancer and wasn’t put through the endless clichés that most sitcoms put male dancer characters through. Insert boy dancer stereotype here, cue laugh-track, make joke about tights, cue laugh-track, question his sexuality cue laugh-track… I kept watching, waiting to cringe when the stereotypes were to fall, but they never did. He was a ballet dancer, and nobody says boo about it. And the one joke about wearing tights was actually funny and not a put down. Tina’s little sister Louise (voiced by a hilarious Kristen Schaal) sees him in tights, (which he always wears, even at the dance) and asks, “Tights… Tina, woah is he a super hero?” It’s a pretty common sitcom staple, lets throw the boy into a ballet class, make him wear tights and pile on your standard stereotypical jokes about boys in ballet and let the funniness at his expense roll. Throw in a teacher with an over the top fake Russian accent. A few shows seem to be somewhat genuine in nature while others are a complete train wreck. I’ve come across a hand-full, some better than others. Aside from the Bob’s Burgers episode, the two that didnt make me shudder in horror were The Simpsons and Mr Belvidere.
Classic Simpsons, always hillarious!
The Simpsons, (Season 6 Episode 120, “Homer vs. Patty and Selma”) Bart gets to school late on the day everyone picks their new P.E. class and finds everything full up expect ballet. He’s reluctant to take the class but soon discovers he is quite talented. He however freaks out when he learns that the class will perform in front of everyone. He wears a mask during his performance as if his spiky hair wouldn’t give him away. He’s amazed how well the dance went, leaving Nelson, Dolph, Jimbo and Kerney in tears. He removes his mask only to have them turn a complete 180, as they chase him from the theater and into a giant chasm where his grande jete fails to get him across. A bit far fetched, but not too bad. I like the bit with him drinking a Tab after pulling off a complex combination. It’s complete with the teacher with the fake Russian accent. Mr Belevidere, (“Gotta Dance” season 1 episode 3). Wesley and Mr B are watching a ballet while he prepares a meal, Wesley liked it and wants to try it. The entire family is in on it, and goes to great lengths to hide his ballet interest from his father your stereotypical dumb jock tv dad, a former baseball player and sports writer. The dad reluctantly attends the big recital finds it within himself to appreciate what his son has accomplished and then sticks up for him when another father begins to heckle the lone boy in the performance. Cue the awww from the audience and roll credits. Again, not bad, I know I hid my dancing from my parents too. No fake Russian accents or jokes made at the boys expense, just a boy wanting to take ballet. Then there is everything else. There is The My Three Sons, (season 6, episode 10, My Son the Ballerina) a show I only know of because it was on tv in the mornings and early afternoons when I a kid home sick from school. One of the three sons takes ballet only to appease his girlfriend. It’s also got the overly Russian teacher, stupid jokes about tights, and the old chestnut, “What will the guys think of this?” line. Who the fuck cares, right? However, the father seems to know a lot about ballet. The title of the episode bothers me too, calling male dancers ballerina is a huge pet peeve of mine. Diff’rent Strokes (“On Your Toes” season 4 episode 98) straddles the line. Lots of stereotype jokes from Willis, unnecessary peer pressure and the way over the top Russian accents. The worst has to be Two and a Half Men (“That Voodoo That I Do Do” season 3, episode 56) it’s bad enough on its own, but then goes way overboard. The son, the half a man from the title is more or less forced to take ballet so Charlie Sheen’s character can get laid. It’s so wrong in so many levels, and is chock full of every stereotype there is.
I won’t forgive them for this either.
I debated to include Bunheads, for one it’s not a sit-com, but it’s ballet on tv so, what the hell. It’s entertaining enough, I forget when it’s on so I haven’t seen everything there was to see which is too bad because it was recently cancelled. But would it kill them to throw a guy into the main group on occasion. The guys in the show seem to be nothing more than set dressing and or partners in the dance sequences. Correct me if I’m wrong, I might be way off. Would it be that hard to actually write them into some non dance scenes? It portrays dance in a very good light, no stupid jokes at anyone’s expense, always a bonus in my book.
They are there, but only when needed.
So, if you take anything from this is that sitcom writers can be very lazy, I probably watch too much tv, sitcoms are usually stupid, Three and a Half Men is the worst, and the Simpsons should have folded up tents over a decade ago. I just discovered another Simpsons episode revolving around ballet, episode 415 Season 19 episode number 19, “Smoke on the Daughter.” Marge gives into a lifetime dream of becoming a ballet dancer, Lisa also takes lessons and discovers the secret to ballet is smoking. It’s funny for a bit but it drags on, no pun intended. Instead of the stern Russian female instructor they have a caricature of Roy Scheider’s character from All That Jazz. I’m surprised no mention was made of Bart’s ballet experience. Yawn! Like I said earlier I gave up on the Simpsons years earlier and only saw the later episode by accident. Another jem is Episode 87 Season 5, episode #5, “Marge on the Lam.” Keeping with the Simpsons ballet theme, Homer, Carl and Lenny all are under the impression that ballet involves bears in costume riding around a circus tent in little cars and are profoundly disappointing to find out what ballet really is. Funny stuff!! With tickets to the ballet Homer accidentally gets both arms caught in two separate vending machines at the same time before the performance, fed up Marge invites her new neighbor a hard-living divorcée Ruth Powers to go with her. This then spirals out into a parody of Thelma & Louise. When called out on his utter lack of knowledge of what ballet even is Homer says, “Marjorie please, I enjoy all the meats of our cultural stew” Simpsons writing at its best. Hilarious!!
Homer and ballet.
Hilarious random lines during the ballet. Ruth to Marge, “Those loins ought to be outlawed.” Mr Burns to Smithers, “Far too much dancing, not enough prancing.” “A little mincing would be nice.”