Gender and Sexuality on TV
Underemployed is a new sitcom that began airing on MTV in 2012. The show is a comedic drama revolving around the life of five friends, Sophia, Daphne, Lou, Raviva, and Miles, who are all in their early twenties and one year past college graduation. Unemployed presents with a lesbian character, a non-traditional family arrangement, and two characters that use their own sexuality to move ahead in their careers. The show connects sexuality with financial gain and loss.
Though other television shows, past and current, explore these topics, Underemployed is the first to implicitly link sexuality and the economy. The show does this in a few ways. For the first example there is Sophia, struggling writer, underpaid donut shop worker, and homosexual. The direct link is that Sophia’s parents have stopped helping her financially because of her sexual orientation. The implicit message is that sexual choice can have direct consequences in a precarious economy. For Miles, an aspiring model, using sex is mandatory to score a job. During the first season he sleeps with one older woman and flirts with a second to further his career. But because he is put in a position where he has to trade himself to get the job, it feels more like whoring than simply using his looks to get ahead. When Raviva shows back up nine months pregnant, she and Lou decide to include the other three friends as caregivers, rejecting the traditional nuclear family as something that doesn’t work in this economy. When Sophia moves in as babysitter, it creates a Three’s Company and Will and Grace vibe all at the same time. In the new season this aspect of the show should shed light on how television and audience perceive gay-straight relationships now. Will Lou and Sophia’s close friendship be considered just that? Or will the audience still perceive them as a couple, “with only one major barrier holding them apart?” (Connolly)
Underemployed uses implicit messages to show how sexuality can bear on one’s financial success or lack of. The show illustrates how using one’s looks or using sexual acts can lead to financial gain, but leave unwanted personal stigma. On the opposite side of the coin, how one’s sexual preference can have negative effects on financial stability in an uncertain economy is implied when Sophia’s parents cut her off.
Connolly, Marisa. “Homosexuality on Television: The Heterosexualization of Will & Grace in Print Media.” Culture, Communication, & Technology Program (2003): Volume 3.