THE REAL REEL | What's So Funny About Splitting Up Together?

This Show's Portrayal of Divorce Actually is Not Far Off

Jenna Fischer we love you. We loved you in The Office and we were ready to love you in almost anything…almost.

ABC's Splitting Up Together might have to fall in the almost category. While no one wants to be pigeonholed, when you think of Jenna Fischer you think of understated, funny, ironic, witty, etc. Splitting Up Together is cutesy, overstated, and serves up obvious punch-lines like hot cakes at IHOP.

Despite the ridiculousness of the almost exclusively white upper-class affluence this show is set in…from a socioeconomic perspective, it's portrayal of what divorce actually might look like is not far off. The fact is, the only reason this show is funny, is because middle class white people are choosing not to divorce like wealthier white people. "Isn't it funny we can't afford two 4-bedroom houses!? Isn't that funny?!!" No, not really. Working class people can't afford to divorce any other way. Splitting Up Together makes financial realities look light-hearted and fun because they had more to start with than most families in America. Oh, and because it's a sitcom on ABC.

When my parents divorced it meant my mom moved into a one-bedroom apartment. She slept in the living room on a daybed, and I slept in the "real room" so I could have a door to close for bedtime, playtime, etc. It wasn't because we were about to starve to death; it was just because we were working-class. We could afford to eat, to go to the movies occasionally, have potlucks, take classes at the rec center, etc.

My dad lived in a small house that he rented in a poorer part of town, but not the worst part of town. As a child I never went without food, electricity, etc., however because of the TV shows I watched and the school I went to, I thought I was being raised in poverty. One of the main reasons I felt "poor" was because I qualified for a full scholarship to private school and got to go to school with some of the wealthiest kids in my city. Had I gone to my local (partly gang-ridden) public school, I would have felt middle class, average, normal.

When it comes to shared-custody situations, the media usually shows wealthy divorces. Kids being shuttled around (and ignored) in the latest mini-van, a doting nanny, a self-absorbed single parent who hates the other self-absorbed single parent, etc. Usually the kids are caught in the middle, the parents don't get along, and they all go home to their beautifully furnished homes. There are problems, but they can afford to solve them without having to communicate in person with the co-parent. Large sums of alimony just magically fill bank accounts. This doesn't happen for most divorced families.

When you don't have lots of money, you might need to live close to your ex, perhaps even in the same house. You might have to take turns picking the kids up from school because you have shift work that is unstable and changes from week to week. You also might rely on each other's families for continued financial support, childcare, holiday observance, birthdays, etc. You don't send a nanny as a go-between, cleanly depositing your children at your former husband or wife's compound. Nope, you drive your own beat-up car to the agreed upon drop off location, and if you can't afford to move out of your ex's home, sometimes that means just walking to the basement apartment or next door (my parents lived in a side-by-side duplex at one point).

I'm sure you have heard of the "Kids Stay" model that suggests keeping kids in the same home and letting the divorced parents travel back and forth. It's so funny that white upper class people need to formalize this with fancy names, when poor people have been doing this for years. Who can afford two houses?! Upper class peeps.

So, if you are upper class, come from divorce, and were shuttled around by nannies, you will think this show is a real hoot. But if you remember staying in your pajamas, walking from your dad's kitchen, to your mom's "living room" you might not see what's so knee slappingly funny. You might just watch and think, wow, that house is beautiful and looks big enough to house four more people.

Keep it Real


By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, is a writer, a personal coach, and even though she is very very fun (just ask her three-year-old daughter) due to her academic inclinations, always the pooper at the party. She works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding from her two children in her laundry room. More about her on her website.

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THE REAL REEL | High Maintenance; Highly Recommended

HBO gives us a plethora of gender bending, racially aware, sexually fluid portrayals of humans… and lots of natural nudity!

In my last article, I brought up the idea that straight white men are likely having a hard time locating, or identifying a form of masculinity that is positive and politically correct. I know there are much bigger problems then helping straight white men "be men," but as a self identified female and feminist, I am curious.

Progressive culture knows what we don't want men to be, but in this age of non-binary gender constructs, it doesn't mean we still wont attempt to locate or name masculinity, even if individuals of all genders seek permission to perform it, or stop performing it. Non-binary, in my head at least, means the right to move across the spectrum of gender freely, without having to "pick a side." It also means we are in the process of redefining what would stereotypically be called "male behavior" or "female behavior" as well as redefining which genders and sexualities can perform these behaviors (all of them of course). As a consumer of pop-culture, I wonder where we see this non-binary, re-definition played out in the media? (I promise to try and start writing like a normal human for the rest of my article…keep reading, I will get to discussing the steamy progressive sex scenes on this show).

High Maintenance gives us a plethora of non-binary gender bending, racially aware, sexually fluid portrayals of humans… and it is awesome. For one, the main character, played by Ben Sinclaire can only be described as "pretty fly for a white guy." He gives us a version of masculinity that is un-intimidated by empowered identities that don't include him or his gender. He can sit in a room with a person of color, or two lesbians, or eight women and not take up all the emotional or physical space. He can recognize his dominant social status as a white man, without further leveraging it.

He is not defensive or apologetic that he is a white man (nor should he be), however his character can sit with the humanity of marginalized folks and subtly acknowledge that marginalization. He doesn't ask for a pat on the back for not being a jerk. He just hangs out, delivers weed to all kinds of folks, always leaving time to "connect" with his clients, in true, white-guy-hippie-fashion. He asks his 9 month pregnant customers about their mucous plugs and his bi-sexual three-way-ing dudes, what edibles they want. He values the connection between all kinds of people and it's nice to just sit with this perspective...rather than the holier than though perspective that we often here, ie "I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE" or "GAY GUYS ARE THE BEST!"

The best thing about this show is that it places marginalized identities in roles we rarely get to see on television, and rarely get to see on the same show. This show isn't about "gay people" or "women," it is about the intersecting identities that this weed dealer has the unique opportunity to connect with due to his migratory profession. There is a successful Black, female real-estate broker, a butch women with a "natural body" sleeping with two well manicured men, an inter-racial couple in their 50s making love while on vacation in Brooklyn visiting their hipster daughter, and of course lots of feminists, both gay and straight. Also lots and lots of natural nude bodies!

How often do we see naked people on TV that are not doctored, implanted, lifted, and tucked? The bodies on this show look like the bodies at your gym… ya know…just bodies (unless you go to that gym:). These bodies seek pleasure and have sex; usually something reserved for models and artificially altered folks in the media. We see old people, butch people, large people, un-shaven people doing the nasty. I couldn't believe my own surprise at seeing real bodies seeking pleasure. How sad is it that sex in pornography is now less shocking than sex between two average character actors? I'll tell you how sad, it's 'drop-your-ice-cream-cone-on-the-floor' sad. It is now actually emotionally jarring to see an average body on television. WTF.

So go do yourself a favor and wash away all of the unrealistic images of fake bodies that you have in your head, and watch this show. Inundate yourself with some real flesh and enjoy the connection between these very humane characters. Wouldn't hurt to hit up your local dispensary first, assuming you live in a High Maintenance state.

By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, and works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.

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THE REAL REEL | Catt Sadler Says Bye to E!

E! Channel's Catt Sadler Stands Up To The Wage Gap

I'm embarrassed. I am embarrassed to admit that I absolutely love watching E Entertainment, (E!). It doesn't get more relaxing or indulgent for me, than stepping on to the treadmill at the gym, popping on E!'s Daily Pop, and zoning out to celebrity gossip with Catt Sadler and her co-hosts. It's one of my dirty secrets. My Facebook and Instagram posts are political, subversive, and fight the good fight…but sometimes I am just walking, indoors, in beautiful Portland Oregon, on a treadmill, binging on E!

And now I can't do that because Catt Sadler is leaving. Why do I or anyone else care that Catt Sadler is leaving? This isn't really news, except that it is making headlines. Why does the NY Times care? They care, because people like me care; again, embarrassing, but true. Let me tell you why it's so embarrassing that I care (if it's not already obvious) and then let me defend my Sadler obsession. It's embarrassing because Sadler "reports" (if that's what you want to call it), on celebrity gossip. She tells mere mortals like me, who famous people are sleeping with, divorcing, getting pregnant by, staring in which film, about their make ups, break ups, and sometimes what they had for breakfast. I am embarrassed to care about this stuff…but I do. I love getting lost in celebrity lives. I also love watching Catt. Catt is 43 years old, divorced twice, and a mother of two and while she is perfectly manicured and mainstream in many ways…she is just a smidge edgy. With her tattoos and her divorces, I can assume she isn't judging me and she isn't contributing to the Kelly Ripa "all my ducks are in a row, perfectly married, perfectly feminine" vibe. Yes, Ms. Sadler is likely full of botox, hair extensions, underfed, under-rested, and overly quaffed…but I told you, I already feel guilty for this indulgence.

Now on the defense. Well, she is leaving E! and people seem to care. On her website "theCATWALK" and twitter feed, Sadler released a statement explaining that she learned that "there was a massive disparity in pay between my similarly situated male co-host and myself." In her statement she continues to write; "Know your worth. I have two decades experience in broadcasting and started at the network the very same year as my close friend and colleague that I adore." Again, this is not big news, another white lady speaks up, she is not making the multi-millions that her co-star is making, but clearly is still making tons of money. This is a rich gals problem. It still interests me. It interests me because of the secrets women keep, that we don't even know we are keeping. Rich women and poor women go along with so many social protocols that are sexist, we don't even realize we are doing it. We don't even assume that we could be seen has half a males worth in salary...but clearly we can. Right now, there's a 'no more secrets' movement. From comedians to politicians, minorities and women are still publicly uncovering just how deep our inequities go. Sadler goes on to explain that "an executive from E brought something alarming to my attention — namely, that there was a massive disparity in pay between my similarly situated male co-host and myself. More recently, when E reached out to renew and extend my deal, I learned that he wasn't just making a little more than I was. In fact, he was making close to double my salary for the past several years."

What's interesting in Sadler's decision is that it was a revelation. Sadler was clearly shocked at the difference in pay to her male counterpart, and of course she should be. So often women will fight for other women's rights, believe in the existence of the wage gap, believe other women's detailed accounts of gender and race based inequities, but when it comes to ourselves, assume we must be getting fair treatment. This is of course what makes it so hard for women to "come out" about unfair treatment; we actually assume it's not happening to us. Catt can afford to quit and leave her job over this, and kudos to her for doing it, but come on! If female celebrities are still shocked and being taken advantage of, what does that say about the rest of us? While I am cheering for Catt, I am screaming in frustration for the minorities in our country. I am thinking of house cleaners, dishwashers, nannies, teachers, admin assistants, paralegals, nurses, and the hundreds of other careers women are in. I am thinking of the huge cushy net Ms. Sadler has to fall back on, and the fiery pit of despair so many women and minorities would risk falling into if they stood up for themselves. So yes, Catt Sadler realizing she has been getting screwed out of millions of dollars is news because it means whether or not she is famous, she is still a woman, and in our country that means you still get less. We can send people to the moon, but dismantling racist, sexist, and homophobic systems still seems unreachable. Blech. And now, I can't even drown my sorrows on the treadmill with Catt's delivery of Daily Pop. What is a middle class white girl to do?

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