I finally got around to watching this week's episode of The New Normal last night, and my immediate thought was, "Hey - didn't Bea Arthur do this on Maude 40 years ago?" I quickly checked Wikipedia, and holy shit - I was right. And the similarities are uncanny.
On Tuesday September 25, 2012, the fourth episode of The New Normal titled "Obama Mamma" aired. The plot - to prove to their surrogate's racist Michelle Bachmannesque grandmother, Jane, that they are good liberals with diverse friends (and not in the least bit racist), happily gay couple Bryan and David throw a party to let her meet their black friends. The problem is, they don't have any. They rely on Bryan's personal assistant, Rocky, who is black, to give some color to the situation - without revealing to her the reason.
On Tuesday October 10, 1972, the fifth episode of Maude titled ""Maude and the Radical" aired. The plot - (quoting wikipedia here): "Maude organizes a fund-raising party for a black militant politician and invites all her rich white friends under false pretenses. Maude also tries to get black people to attend the party, but the best she can do is make Florida [their black housekeeper] go to the event."
Coicendence? Maybe. An homage? Maybe. Or is this the direction Ryan Murphy is hoping to take his show?
I'm still not completely sure how I feel about The New Normal because I have yet to figure out if I should be offended or if I should stop reading too much into it and try to laugh.
I have felt that something so politically loaded that makes use of the "new normal" gay stereotype of white, rich, one masculine, one effeminate, gay couple with a lust for a new born accessory, can be damaging to the LGBT fight for equality. But maybe it is trying to be more than that, and maybe I deserve to give it some time.
And then there's Maude.
Yes - Maude was way before my time, but its impact on television history was big enough that I was familiar with the show - mostly because of the famous episode where Maude has an abortion in the pre-Roe v. Wade world.
Otherwise, until a few years ago, "Oh - Bea Arthur did something before Golden Girls." was the extent of my knowledge. Thanks to NetFlix, that changed.
A couple years ago, my partner, David, and I set out exploring the show and quickly flew through the first two seasons (we still haven't finished the series) - and fell in love.
Maude took hits at liberal politics in a way that was not offensive, and in a way that pointed out problems that still exist in America today. We may have now replaced, "Well I have black friends" with "I voted for Obama," but the problem of the lack of diversity amongst progressives - especially in the leadership of LGBT activism - leaves a lot of voices out of the picture. But is it still too early to hope that The New Normal intends to do the same?
What caused me to give the show a bit longer to prove itself was in the third episode, "Baby Clothes," when David and Bryan are shopping with their surrogate and a father sees them kiss and goes into a homophobic rant of, "can you not do that in front of my kids." No matter how much of a stereotype they may be, at least the show is not ignoring the truth - that while it may be a new normal to parts of this country, there is still a really long way to go.
Maybe the show can make at least some of those people see how ridiculous their feelings are when put into action. Here's to hoping.