The One With the Sensitivity

There are several sitcoms worth analyzing, praising and re-watching several times; none is ever completely above the struggle to master the magic formula that makes certain sitcoms so memorable. This, of course, includes the struggle for a sitcom to be innovative while honoring an already successful formula, and having distinctive characters while inevitably including more familiar tropes. We have seen such tropes a million times and can recognize them a mile away: the ladies’ man who never seems to want to “settle down” (i.e. Friends’ Joey Tribbiani or Happy Days’ Arthur Fonzarelli), the “mother hen”-type woman who cannot wait to wed (i.e. Sex and the City’s Charlotte York or Friends’ Monica Geller) and the “mother-in-law from hell” (i.e. Bewitched’s Endora or Everybody Loves Raymond’s Marie Barone) are just a few. All of these tropes are understandably exaggerations, some more harmful than others, but there is one that particularly annoys me: the guy who cannot (or will not) show his sensitive, emotional side because it is “wrong.”


Sitcom Study: Friends’ “The One With the Male Nanny” (9×06)

Relevant Episode Information: To Ross’ chagrin, Rachel hires a “manny” named Sandy (Freddie Prinze Jr.) to watch over their daughter, Emma.

That’s right, I am starting with Ross Geller, Friends’often-maligned yet undeniably hilarious (ie. “I’M FINE!” and Unagi) dinosaur-loving leading man. If you are anything like me and know Friends very (perhaps too) well, you will probably agree that, this episode aside, Ross typically does not fit into this trope. He is a loving father to his children, Ben and Emma. He is repeatedly romantic and sensitive (if not also deeply insecure, but that is for another post) during his relationship with Rachel. In this episode, however, he is extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a male nanny. Meanwhile, Chandler jokes about Rachel hiring a “manny” and Joey, arguably the closest to a “guy’s guy” on Friends, proves to be the most comfortable around Sandy and even develops a friendship with him. If Joey does not see anything emasculating about Sandy, why should Ross?

Ross explains to Sandy: “You know, I’m just not, um, that comfortable with a guy who’s as sensitive as you.” Ross eventually reveals that his dad would often make him feel as if he were not a “real boy” since he was not particularly athletic as a child. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that Ross’ real issue with Sandy is not really because he thinks he is “weird” (as he previously claims), but because he equates Sandy with how he fears his father saw him when he was younger: too sensitive.

While the fact that Ross becomes increasingly sensitive and emotional while explaining this to Sandy is undeniably done for comedic value, it also addresses a key issue I have seen countless men (both onscreen and in real-life) confront: What is the line between being sensitive and “too sensitive?” Can a guy be romantic and sensitive toward a significant other while also maintaining his “bro” side in addition to his independent self?

Here is what I have concluded: the very obsession with this question is in and of itself the problem and it is something that desperately needs to change. I know it is far easier said than done, but if a friend or romantic partner ever makes you feel like you are not being “man” enough, run away as fast as you can. Stereotypically, it is considered “hot” if a girl loves something like Star Wars or South Park, while I have witnessed several guys ashamed to admit to enjoying Disney movies or Sex and the City. This is absurd, especially because if you can honestly look me in the eye and tell me there is not at least one Disney film that owns your heart (mine is Aladdin by the way), I will know you are lying and probably are also lying about your name and where you obtained a magic carpet (but then I would know you definitely watched Aladdin, and that would just be awkward for everyone involved).

The real question, where this subject is concerned, should not be a guy worrying about being “too sensitive”, but moreover if a guy is being respected. Now, I have always had several guy friends from varying backgrounds, so I am acutely aware that the “aw how cute, so-and-so has a new boyfriend/girlfriend” teasing is to be expected, and most of the time it is all in good fun (and I have done it too, to be fair). When the “teasing” turns into guys calling their supposed guy friend a “pussy” or making him feel bad for, say, not being able to have a guys’ night due to established plans with a partner, that is when it is a problem. That is when it is not okay. Thus, it is imperative to know the difference.

If you enjoy holding hands in public or surprising your girlfriend with flowers to remind her you love her, there is nothing “too sensitive” about that—it is actually extremely sweet. Even Ross knows: “It’s always great when someone tells you they love you.” Despite this, several guys still seem terrified of being labeled as “that guy”, always saying this in a tone that implies “that guy” has a death sentence in a few hours, when in reality “that guy” is truly and simply one who is mature and confident enough in himself to show his partner that he or she is loved. Whether it is Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass or Sex and the City’s Mr. Big, we are all guilty of being enthralled by at least one fictional, emotionally unavailable and utterly damaged character. In reality, however, the “too cool to show his feelings” guy is far from attractive.

My own father is one of the most level-headed, mature “manly” men I know, and even he recognizes the importance of and maturity in being forthright with one’s feelings and showing affection for those he loves. Back to Friends, each of the show’s three male characters are in no way hindered by their sensitive, romantic sides—and neither should anyone else.


8 thoughts on “The One With the Sensitivity

  1. I completely agree with what you are saying, but I didn’t like this episode because making Ross uncomfortable with the “manny” felt like it was going against his character. Throughout the show, I always felt like Ross was the most mature guy of the group and the one most in touch with his feelings. Also Jack Gellar didn’t seem like the kind of father that would belittle his son for his sensitivity. The whole plot line felt out of place for the character. The last few seasons felt like they had several plot lines out of character for the main six friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Ross’ description of Jack here definitely doesn’t seem to match the way he was normally portrayed in the show and Ross was generally the most in touch with his feelings. Thank you for reading. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a good topic.

    The real notion is that man must be able to feel but to monitor his emotions. Keep his emotions in control. Showing love is a manly act, for it is a symbol. But ranting and swarming a woman or anybody one’s emotions is and it is seen as weakness amongst us men. For the simple reason of its indulgence. Ross has always been insecure (as you stated earlier) and also did reflect his insecurity towards Sandy.

    A man must love his woman and rightly but he must also keep that love in perspective, and controlled. If not he ends up pedestalizing or crystalizing her image only to be revealed a woman is also human and has her imperfections.

    My father always told me, “a woman rather hear a rooster crow in the morning than how much a man loves her.” So everything must be in balance.

    What we call romance, sensitivity, is moronic! For small acts of love can be done and are the ones appreciated instead of bouquets of flowers. It is the small things accumulated through time with good memories that form the bond, not a man over indulging in his worship or sentimental drifts. Ross is and was that guy, the whiner, the complainer, the insecure one, with here and there elements of responsibility but overall a mangina. For that reason, Rachel had full control of that relationship because he was to in tuned with his emotions giving them every voice or decision. Emotions must be ruled at least for us men, by reason, logic, and rational thought. Then we find ourselves very little disturbed, calm, controlled by our mind. Fear (an emotion) stands in the background and when we sense it we deal with it rationally. For to feel fear is not wrong but to not question that fear or resolve it; weakness. I could go on forever. But yes men must love their women and eventually choose one closer to his values and not hesitate to show her love but to never worship her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this post. I hope my boyfriend reads it. Seriously. It’s been years since I watched friends as you were likely embryonic when I was tuning in. I was so addicted I used to call myself the seventh friend and my reality “friends” new better than to call or make plans with me during an episode. You totally took me back to the archetypical characters. I of course did not view the show at the time in that context, but simply as reflecting a cast of characters that very much reminded me of my own circle of friends, only our apartments in NYC were about 1/4 the size , all working several jobs to afford them….and none of us were nearly as good looking or funny ( though I think we thought we were.) The show is ripe for cultural gender commentary and is as relevant now as it was then.
    Your analysis is dead on. I look forward to your next!
    ( Beauty and the Beast is my Fav BTW- shhh don’t tell).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice post! I’m not really a fan of Friends but I agree with what you’re saying here. Sitcoms have been really bad about perpetrating harmful stereotypes for “comedy.” In fact, a lot of the jokes and plots in comedy shows/movies tend to come from the characters being emotionally immature.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s