LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–CBS television’s award-winning comedy “Everybody Loves Raymond” features a fairly typical Hollywood portrayal of the contemporary man. The lead character, played by comedian Ray Romano, sneaks around in order to play golf with his friends, sometimes tricking his wife much like a child seeking to avoid discipline. When not passively begging for sex or privileges from his wife, the character is whining for food from his mother, who lives next door.
Hollywood executives, however, are admitting that this portrait of a man devoid of the respect of his wife and children is skewed and unfair. They are ready, they say, to restore masculinity, honor and empowerment to sitcom husbands and dads.
And they’re going to do so by making them adulterers.
The New York Times reports that HBO’s new program, “The Mind of a Married Man,” features the next wave in sitcom fathers. Unlike Raymond, who “has to listen to his wife’s complaints about his sexual technique,” the new cadre of TV husbands will balance time with wife and children with “taking a flirtatious co-worker out for what could be more than an innocent lunch” (Craig Tomashoff, “A Few Brave Husbands Have Sex on Their Minds,” Sept. 22, 2002).
The Times notes that the adultery angle will correct the passivity of male characters since “these new sex-driven husbands seem more like equal partners in their relationships, rather than buffoons who are just there for comic relief.” As one actor complains, “The dumb husband is not a true character, and I think it sends the wrong message.” The new line of faithless and straying husbands, however, “will be less hapless and more sexually focused.”
The television producers tell The Times that the integration of adulterous activities in situation comedies will show that these husbands and dads “seem to live in a world closer to the one we real husbands know.” The men will not be cringing before their wives, but will “maintain their independence and sexuality.”
After all, one producer notes, “A married man at 40 isn’t all that different from a guy who is 17.”
The new twist on sitcom families tells us more about the world of the nation’s media elites than it does about the state of “real” American families. It also demonstrates the bankruptcy of the culture’s swing between overlapping dangers — seeing men as parasitic obstructions to feminist utopia and seeing women as sexual products for predatory men.
The bickering and mistrustful world of “Everybody Loves Raymond” is, indeed, miserable. At the same time, those who have observed adulterous men growing older, sometimes seeming oblivious to the wreckage of families left behind them, know that nothing is more pathetic. And nothing is less masculine.
But there is another way.
Scripture reveals a pattern of leadership in which men lovingly sacrifice everything for the protection and guardianship of their wives and children, a trust that starts with the rejection of the deadly lure of infidelity (Proverbs 6:20-29). A wife who trusts and respects her husband doesn’t then treat him like a child, perhaps first of all because both of them recognize the obvious difference between a husband and “a guy who is 17.” The husband doesn’t plan deceptive schemes for golfing weekends because he would more often rather play miniature golf with his wife and children. The husband doesn’t find his “empowerment” in the cheap allure of an adulteress, but in loving his wife and seeing his children grow in grace and godliness.
That’s what the Scriptures call the “real world” — the way families were designed from the dawn of creation. Maybe it is time to turn off the sitcoms and pray for the producers.
Russell D. Moore teaches Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as executive director of the seminary’s Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.