I have always loved the FXX’s comedic sitcom The League, on the surface it is something I hope I have when I am an adult working in the real world. The eight best friends are adults, (technically because of their age, not in regard to maturity) have great families and successful jobs, but stay close throughout years through their insane dedication to a fantasy football league.
Obviously I do not desire to care about my fantasy football league more than my family or work, however, I find joy in seeing their unending friendship and hope that when I am older there is nothing that will be divisive enough for me to lose touch with my childhood and best friends. That being said, even though they are the stars of the show, they are the weakest representation of men, and it is the women who are empowered, although often stooping to the men’s level, they reveal how to stand up for themselves and be their own people. As stated by Alyssa Rosenberg in her article on The League “it’s a story about basically likable men who say bad things about women or do bad things to women largely out of fear or venality. Sexism less looms big than it makes them look small.” Aside from Kevin’s (Stephen Rannazzisi) brother Taco (John Lajioe) who has no consistent, real relationship, the other men are submissive and fearful of their wives and girlfriends.
The men in this show function through vulgar humor and ridicule of their friends, with the premise of making them seem like less of men and more like women. Meanwhile, the women of their lives are stronger than them and in control. Kevin’s wife Jenny (Katie Aselton) was the decision maker for his fantasy football team, until she wanted her own team when someone dropped out. After fighting to be granted access, she rises as one of the dominant members, being the only one who could be considered a “real man”, holding nothing back in verbally attacking the other men as she often succeeds in the league, particularly over her husband. This furthers Kevin’s feeling of inferiority, as he cannot accept his wife’s ability to be better than him at what he considers a man’s activity. Similarly Ruxin’s (Nick Kroll) wife Sofia (Nadine Velazquez) is the love of his life, who eventually dies off, and worshipped by him. This does not change the fact that Ruxin is petrified of her, always sneaking around her to avoid trouble for the things when she is gone or not around. She is as powerful as Jenny in the functionality of the men in the sitcom.
With them being the only married characters, we have Pete (Mark Duplass) who cannot keep a steady relationship because there is always something that makes him incapable as a man to stay with her. Andre (Paul Scheer) is the other bachelor, who is consistently bullied by the other men to no end. This all on the basis of his unattractiveness and weird personality, therefore, any woman who commits to a relationship with him has full control and he will do whatever he is told to keep her happy; although, the rest of the gang always does something ruining it for him.
The women in this show reveal the presence of strength and independence through empowering themselves, which shows a great narrative of woman as leads in sitcoms, even if their behavior and dominance does not always separate them from the men. Aside from the wives we have Shiva (Janina Gavankar), who is a goddess to the men, and Jenny once she joins the league, as she is what their illustrious fantasy football league’s trophy is named after. Whenever she comes around the men act as if she is not human but holy above all. This is degrading to her in the context of her Indian heritage, however, she learns to be strong and use it to mess with the men in making them submit to her.
The absurdity, friendships, and humor present in this show is what makes me love it so much, however, until recently I had never realized that the show promotes an underlying positive narrative of women taking control of their own lives and not following societal norms of being in servitude to their husbands. This is a narrative that should be continued in more shows as it makes things interesting and works to promote an equality in television that can be reflected in the real world.
– Anthony Duran