I tend to have a love-hate relationship with sitcoms. I was a serious child, and humor for the sake of humor didn’t amuse me. I don’t know what my problem was, I was just a really solemn kid. Like, did-a-book-report-on-The-Diary-of-Anne-Frank-in-second-grade-and-fully-understood-the-material solemn. Definitely the weird kid. In retrospect, rather than hail me as some sort of precocious child-scribe, I probably would have benefited from my teachers handing me a nice Dr. Seuss book, but the bright, cartoonish pages stopped holding my interest around the time The Cat in the Hat made its reading circle debut.
If it’s meant to be lighthearted, it can’t possibly be poignant, right? Wrong-o, I say to my snooty, bookish second-grade self.
Sitcoms can be really timely and groundbreaking, like I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H, All in the Family, The Cosby Show. They can also be smarter than a lot of people give them credit for, a la CBS's 2 Broke Girls.
2 Broke Girls gets a lot of flak for the things that it does wrong and not nearly enough love for the things that it does right. Sure, the show can be absolutely crass at times. It astounds me that we’re allowed to say “vagina” at 8:30pm on a Monday night on network television. And I don’t mean that in a prudish way; I think it’s fantastic. Vag, vagina, va-jay-jay: These are not dirty words. Yes, this is the day and age where Janet Jackson flashes the camera during halftime and the Super Bowl is forever ruined. But it was a boob, folks, not a desecrated corpse. Let's not get too worked up about it.
One of the things that 2 Broke Girls consistently does right is illustrate the idea that one does not have to be painted by the same brush as her family. In this sense, humor can also be healing.
My family is future-Lifetime-Movie-of-the-Week screwed up. And that's one of the reasons why 2 Broke Girls absolutely tickles me. Max constantly alludes to her own fabulously messed-up family, often through the use of deadpan one-liners—like last night's “We’re not family until we testify against one another in a manslaughter trial.”
Oh Max, a broke girl after my own heart.
The thing is, Lifetime Movies aren’t meant to be funny. It takes a special breed to find the humor in Sexting in Suburbia. Actually, no, that one is entirely too easy, but the point is, those movies aren’t really meant to be funny. They’re supposed to shock and sadden and make you more aware of the dangerous men that surround you. Moms rarely get to be the villain.
The fact that Max not only discusses the bad blood between herself and her mother so casually, but often for the express intent of hilarity, is empowering for me, the product of a villainous mama. Weekly, I come across complaints that Max’s constant invocation of her dysfunctional past is heavy-handed and sloppy. That surely, there is more to her character than that.
There is. Max is hardworking. She really is. She lets her cynicism hold her back at times, but she holds down a job. Sometimes several. She’s smart. She may not think she is, but that intelligence is there.
The same can be said for Caroline. It would have been so easy for writers to turn Caroline into a single joke: the silly rich girl who has to learn how to function in the mean real world without Daddy’s money. To an extent, that joke has been used, but the same can be said of Max—it's just inverted. This week, Max agreed to bake cupcakes for a Jewish family and assured them the sweets would be kosher. Caroline was appalled when Max revealed that she had no intention of going out of her way to make the cupcakes kosher, that no one would know the difference, and what’s the big deal anyway?
Tradition, Caroline argued. Thousands of years of tradition.
Both of the girls on 2 Broke Girls are strong and intelligent, just in different ways. And both are working hard to rise out of the shadow of their respective upbringings. Do they both get a little caught up in their own drama? Sure. But you know what? When I get together with my own broke, semi-dysfunctional friends, do you know what we do?
We get caught up in our own drama. And then we mock the hell out of it because laughter is a sweet, sweet medicine.