Show Me That Smile Again, Don’t Waste Another Minute on Your Cryin’

There’s no around it.  We  lived through a couple of decades of gathering around the fake wood grain Zenith TV on shag carpet to watch what we knew as the American sitcom.

Laugh tracks.  Freeze frames to conclude the episode.  Inspirational advice during the 23rd minute of the episode accompanied with soft and cheesy keyboard music (made famous by Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse).  Annoying catch phrases like “Did I do that?”  And most importantly and best of all, their wonderful theme songs that are so just you just want to cry, which featured a few seconds of footage from each main character for that season as the show came on.

That was 1977 through 1997.  Two solid decades of pure delight.

But these days, what do we consider to be the 30 minute sitcom?  The Office.  30 Rock.  There are others, but certainly the list doesn’t go on like it did in the days of Mr. Belvedere.

Now the theme songs don’t have words.  And we have to figure out on our own when to laugh.  And typically there’s no moral lesson to learn.  Just ironic humor.  By the 28th minute of the episode, the characters are not necessarily any better off than they were when the plot was introduced at minute 3.

But those good feelin’ sitcoms of the 1970’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s can never be revived.  Because we as an American audience have outgrown them. We couldn’t take The Office seriously if there were laugh tracks and if at the end of every episode Michael Scott gave Jim a heart-to-heart talk about what it takes to be a good leader.

Our preference of comedy has evolved from lighthearted insults and sight gags to dry humor stolen from the British.

Speaking of irony though, we live a double standard.  What we will not accept in modern comedy, we still accept in reruns that come on in the evenings right before our new shows.  Shows like Friends and Seinfeld which followed much of the old-school traits of sitcoms, though they weren’t family sitcoms.

We differientiate:  It’s 6pm and laugh-track infused Friends is on.  Something in our subconcious says, “It’s okay, that was the ’90’s.”  Then a few hours later 30 Rock is on and we hold it to a different standard.  We’re more sophisticated than we were at dinner.  Because we have to be clever enough to get the jokes of our dead-pan humor queen Tina Fey.

What caused us to change what we accept as humor?  The dynamics of the modern family.

Something that has a lot to do with explaining why classic family sitcoms have disappeared from cable TV is The Disney Channel, which is now included with basic cable.  But when we were younger, it cost extra every month.  So back then ABC, NBC, and CBS had to make sure the majority of their comedies were family sitcoms. 

Now, kids can watch their corny shows like iCarly in their own bedrooms while their parents watch something cooler in the living room.  Man, I miss Tony Danza.

Manspeak, Volume 0: Introduction

Amidst the beer can-crushing chauvinist, the dead beat dad, the neurotic Michael Scott type of boss, the wimpy emo kid, and every other kind of negative or less-than-positively-masculine stereotype of a what a man can be, there is actually a realistic collection of males that serve as the standard of what most men truly are or at least should be. They are not necessarily heroes or saints. They are still full of flaws. But they are sincere.

And misunderstood. And given a bad name as they are often judged by their worst specimens. To make things more complicated, when a man tries to explain his feelings he often enters a territory of being seen as “sensitive”. And that word has a negative connotation these days for men. He wants to be a good man, but if he wanders too close to the edge of being of safe, he may be labeled as boring. Or a lover of musicals.

Being a man means having to constantly find the balance in between double standards, paradoxes, and damning extremes.

If a man is too aggressive, he’s a tyrant. If a man is too passive, he’s a pushover. If he’s too understanding of others, then he may become The Good Guy or “Mr. Perfect”, and is ironically considered sub-par compared to the dangerous, adventurous, and often offensive men of society. Where does a man end up? As the Bad Boy or as the Good Guy? Both have negative and positive qualities. What does the balance look like?

What started as a two page article on the importance of a man speaking has oddly evolved into a shot at understanding this ultimate balance of what society truly wants, needs, and is looking for in men. I laughed when it got to the point I finished my 10th volume in the series, as I thought to myself, “Of all people, how am I qualified to write about manhood?”

I don’t know much at all about cars, sports, hunting, or home repairs. I hold no specialized degree in psychology. All I am is a writer who is trying to materialize how I, as a man, think and act. And what I have learned so far is that I am simple and often clueless.

That’s when it hit me. I AM qualified. Because I am simple and clueless.

I don’t know who won the Super Bowl in 1997 or how to install a hardwood floor. I don’t claim to understand women. But I do have an understanding of what excites me, what motivates me, what insults me, what confuses me, what baffles me, what hurts me, and what helps me. While I have always been a little off-beat, that doesn’t change my hard-wiring. I’m still a guy.

One thing I can do is express myself through writing. And on behalf of men everywhere, provide a voice for them, since honestly speaking about our feelings is both difficult and dangerous. What’s most ironic is that in actuality, I have learned that more women read my Manspeak series than men. And I am honored to be the official spokesman for the Average Joe. Not a professional. Just qualified by default.

Men need to see an end in sight. They need to know when the story will end. When I am doing household chores, I have to have a list I can check off as I go. I can’t simply “straighten up the house”. Otherwise I am overwhelmed and nothing really gets done.

I figured Manspeak would never up end being more than 10 volumes. But I realize now that this is an open-ended series. It could end after 20 volumes. Maybe 50. It could eventually become a published book. But even then, I feel like I will still keep coming up with one more volume. For every week that goes by, I realize another quirky aspect about myself. And that new truth usually translates over to most men.

But maybe one day I’ll actually finish the final volume of Manspeak. If men really are as simple and easy to figure out as I say they are, I should be finishing up any minute now…

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

The_Thinker_Musee_Rodin

Manspeak Table of Contents

Volume -1: Boyspeak: http://wp.me/pxqBU-9d
Volume 0: Introduction http://wp.me/pxqBU-8G
Volume 1: Humor http://wp.me/pxqBU-1i
Volume 2: Heroism http://wp.me/pxqBU-1m
Volume 3: Filtration http://wp.me/pxqBU-1p
Volume 4: Stance http://wp.me/pxqBU-1s
Volume 5: Movement http://wp.me/pxqBU-1v
Volume 6: Law http://wp.me/pxqBU-3h
Volume 7: Bromance http://wp.me/pxqBU-3W
Volume 8: Relaxation http://wp.me/pxqBU-6a
Volume 9: Appearance http://wp.me/pxqBU-6f
Volume 10: Exploration http://wp.me/pxqBU-6O
Volume 11: Responsibility http://wp.me/pxqBU-8v
Volume 12: Transparency http://wp.me/pxqBU-8J
Volume 13: Composure http://wp.me/pxqBU-8N

Manspeak, Volume 6: Law

This is my company’s first week in our new office.  In the old office, the men’s restroom consisted of only a “one seater”.  Complete privacy, no worries about anyone using a urinal next to me only three feet away on the other side of an inch thick stall.  Those days are gone.  The men’s restroom of the new office is much nicer than the other one, but contains one stall plus two urinals.


Today I half-jokingly told my co-worker Mark that I am planning to make a sign to put up on the outside of the stall door whenever I am in there that would say, “Nick Shell is in here, in case you wanted to know.”  That way I could enjoy my peace without having to hear heckling comments or even just having to deal with the annoying question, “Who’s in there?”  Mark replied, “But if you make that sign then you will be interfering with Man Law.  Pestering the person in the bathroom stall is a requirement if it’s someone you know in there.”


It’s hard to imagine I could make it through 5 volumes of Manspeak without mentioning Man Law.  (Here’s a refresher course I found…)

http://manlawguide.wordpress.com/


Man Law of course was officially outted and recognized by those Miller Lite beer commercials in 2006.  Laws like “a man shall not walk a dog that is smaller than a football” and “there shall be a minimum waiting period of at least 6 months before a man is permitted to start dating his best friend’s ex”.  These laws are taken from the Book of Man Law, a book that no man has actually ever read or even seen before.  A man is just sort of born knowing it.


While a man is hard-wired with his own built-in instruction manual which helps him know his own kind; he is not programmed to understand a woman.  That’s where trial and error comes in.  But at least for himself and his own kind, he does have some direction.


At the heart of Man Law is an effort to ultimately prevent any reason for a man to ever have a Misunderstanding with another man.  Which prevents the unspeakable Hurt Feelings and the play-it-cool Apology.  A man doesn’t go around thinking about and talking about his relationships with his other guy friends.  Man Law takes care of that.  It’s set up to keep things simple in male friendships.


Man Law not only keeps his fellow male relationships healthy but also helps keep a man from unnecessarily embarrassing himself more than he already does on a weekly basis.  One of the many reasons I can’t stop obsessing over the movie I Love You, Man is because of how right-on it addresses the quirky rules of what it takes to be a socially acceptable man among his male peers. It does this by having a cast full of men who constantly break Man Law.  In fact, it is ironically Andy Samberg’s openly gay character, Robby Klaven, who helps his brother Peter to know what a confident straight man is supposed to act like.


One of the best examples of a serial offender of Man Law is Peter’s annoying self-obsessed co-worker Tevin Downey who has highlights in his hair and a fake tan, sends annoying e-mail forwards, and sneaks up behind Peter and tickles him whenever he gets the chance.  He’s the epitome of what used to be called a jerk, but in this decade has evolved into what is now called a Tool or a Douchebag. This kind of guy is not physically threatening, nor is he effeminate.  He is simply completely oblivious to the importance of Man Law.


Understandably, Man Law is sometimes misinterpreted as a chauvinistic list of what it takes to be macho.  Not the case.  What’s much worse than being less than manly is being compared to Dane Cook or Spencer Pratt, two “men” I constantly make references to, usually mentioning how men around the world long to punch them in the face.


To outsiders, Man Law may seem like a finicky, strenuous system in which a person can become overwhelmed by trying to keep up with all the rules.  It can be, for those born with out the instincts.  Because after all, it is an issue of social survival.  For the men who were unfortunately born with Man Law Deficiency, there is hope:  Watch The Office on Thursday nights.  Pay special attention to Andy Bernard and Michael Scott.  Do the exact opposite of whatever they do.


All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com


Film Review I Love You Man