Jessica Grose, writing for Slate wrote an excellent article titled Child-free on TV about the childfree characters on some of our favorite situation comedy shows. Grose points out that these characters tend to exhibit masculine traits and send the message that women who don’t want kids are somewhat flawed or dysfunctional:
This message was driven home this week by the way two prime-time shows—How I Met Your Mother and Whitney—dealt with female characters who say they don’t want children. While this may be an uncommon choice on an American sitcom, it’s of course not an uncommon choice in America; the share of American women who don’t have kids has doubled since 1976. But neither of these characters—Robin (Cobie Smulders) on HIMYM and the titular Whitney (Whitney Cummings, also the show’s creator)—was allowed to fully embrace her desire not to have kids. Though Robin’s conflicted feelings about baby-rearing were treated in a much more enlightened way, it’s telling that on both shows, the characters who don’t want babies are women who like shooting guns and talking dirty, but who are grossed out by feelings. These shows are implicitly saying: Of course only a woman who’s not really feminine wouldn’t want to be a mom.This article merits a full read as it highlights so much of what is wrong about the portrayal of childfree characters in our most popular media. If these characters bore an actual resemblance to the childfree women and men I know I might not be concerned but the reality gap between the sitcom childfree and the childfree that I see and know is so wide and troubling that it can’t be ignored or condoned.
Photograph by Chris Haston/NBC.