I’ll preface this post by admitting I’m a fan of the sitcom Last Man Standing, at least the first season. There’s something about it that reminds me of my own upbringing – and not just because it’s a Midwestern family. My parents are almost carbon copies of the Baxters, including the politically incorrect father and slightly more accepting mother. However, I realize as I watch the show, the only one who could watch it without cringing at some point is the dominant viewer of America: the white male.
Last Man Standing is about Mike Baxter, the “quintessential man” – not my words – living amongst a family of women. First, let’s take a moment to appreciate that there would never be a Last Woman Standing sitcom. Great. Now, let’s move onto the sexism inherent in the concept, which is that Mike Baxter is the last model of man in a household of women, and he is constantly trying to preserve and assert that manliness. His rants on self-reliance, sports, and taunting pokes at his daughters are, I’ll guiltily admit, quite funny – especially if, like me, that sounds a lot like your childhood – but they are a superficial, one-dimensional assertion of “man.”
And, to touch briefly on the women of the show – they are no more dimensional. You have Kristen, the oldest, who is a waitress raising a child she had at age sixteen. Then there’s Mandy, the ditsy, fashion-obsessed teen. And the youngest is a tomboyish girl who tries her best to emanate her father. Yes, there are moments of redemption for these characters, but they are few and far between, and hardly lingered upon.
Now, let’s talk political incorrectness, which should be a disclaimer preceding each episode. Here’s an article on how Tim Allen, the star, is able to get away with the controversial humor. Racial stereotypes? It’s got ‘em, like the uptight Chinese couple, the Wongs, whose wife constantly corrects Mike Baxter’s grammar. Homophobia? It’s not outright said, but Mike Baxter definitely makes it clear how he feels about his grandson’s potential future at a progressive preschool – “dancing on a float.”
Again, I will admit, I laugh until I cry sometimes while I watched the first season. It pokes fun at the extremity of political correctness and the ways in which it limits social conversation, and offers a more openly conservative show that is rarely seen on TV today. But, I cannot in good conscience watch it and commend it without realizing my personal privilege in enjoying the humor, as well as the inner guilt at enjoying a comedy that is about the “struggle” of living among women.