ABC Men-In-Dresses Comedy Under Fire from Transgender Groups

by | December 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM | TV News

Ben Koldyke (left) and Amaury Nolasco dress as women in "Work It" (Photo: ABC)

An upcoming ABC comedy about two unemployed macho men who decide to dress up as women to increase their job options is coming under fire from transgender groups.

They’re complaining that the show — titled “Work It” and due to premiere Tuesday, Jan. 3 at 8:30/7:30c on ABC — “reinforces false and damaging stereotypes about transgender people” — this quote being from a group called the Human Rights Campaign. You can read the group’s critique of the show here.

Other criticism has apparently been leveled by a group known as the Transgender Law Center and also the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, according to this columnist on The Huffington Post, who also criticizes the series in his column here.

“One [magazine ad for "Work It"] shows the two main characters in drag, standing at urinals,” writes the columnist, Mark Daniel Snyder. “I believe that images like these only make it more difficult for transgender people to gain full equality — including the important right to access public accommodations appropriate to their gender identity.”

Well, as a friend of mine is fond of saying at moments of exasperation like this: Help me, Rhonda! That’s how I felt — exasperated — when I read these complaints, which seem based solely on the urinal ad and some other promotional material for “Work It” that’s come out lately, but not on the actual show. I can’t be sure of this, but it seems doubtful that these complainers have seen the show.

Well, I have — and so have most of the journalists who cover television. And, while it’s true that I cannot really comment reliably from the point-of-view of a transgendered person, I can say, from the point-of-view of a guy who has watched a ton of TV comedy over the years, that their complaints seem like wasted energy.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with battling inequality, but in the case of “Work It,” complaining about how men in dresses are portrayed in this show is on par with complaining about how Pacific island natives were portrayed on “Gilligan’s Island.” Like “Gilligan,” “Work It” is just a silly TV show — one of the silliest to come along in a long while actually — and it’s doubtful it will play any role in shaping public perceptions about transgendered Americans.

Moreover, this series is not a commentary on transgenderism at all. Instead, it’s a timely sitcom about economic issues — namely, the job market, which this show posits is healthier these days for women than it is for men.

Truth be told: This silly comedy is pretty funny in spots. It’s in the tradition of “Bosom Buddies,” “Some Like It Hot” and other movies and TV shows in which dressing in drag is played for laughs.

I’ll bet ABC is as surprised as anyone that some groups have come out of the woodwork to criticize “Work It” sight unseen.

Watch a trailer for “Work It” and see for yourself what this show is all about:
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