Representation of gays in ABC’s Happy Endings

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ABC’s Happy Endings in one of the few shows I’m still compelled to follow on a regular basis. Despite following a traditional and somewhat predictable sitcom theme of six best friends, the show’s cast of characters always manage to keep it fun. Among them is the popular character Max, the sarcastic and unapologetic gay friend of the group. As you might expect from this, the show often enforces some of the stereotypes we as a society come to expect from the gay community. Yet Max is almost never the character to do this, usually serving as a force that rejects these ideas.

More than anything, Max is your average guy. He likes sports, beer, and doesn’t always bother to keep himself in the most presentable shape. Someone tuning into the show for the first time might even struggle to pick up on his sexual orientation. As his friend Penny describes him, he’s a “straight dude who likes dudes”. Fighting against the image of overly-flamboyant gay men, one of the few things that offends him, allows the viewers to connect a lot more with the character. In fact, when I searched for an image of Max online, the one above was the first thing to pop up. With most gay or lesbian characters in the media today being used to enforce the traditional “sex and the city” gay, as Max describes them, this character allows us to break from the image we receive from our own cultivation analysis. Actor Adam Pally, who is not gay himself, deserves a lot of credit for this.

shot in the face

Adam Pally as Max Blum

Despite Max’s initial resistance, the show does find ways to use gay ideals for comedy. For example, Max himself will act up on gay stereotypes and enforce them if it’s for his own benefit, somewhat resembling an implicit representation of his own culture within the show itself. Penny also enforces gay stereotypes by trying to force those ideas upon Max, and quickly realizes she’s the closest thing the group has to an overly-flamboyant gay character. Then there’s his friend Brad, a straight and happily married man whose actions lead even Max to question his sexuality, as he enjoys things like pedicures and pilates. Upon learning that Max doesn’t know a famous designer, he asks if he’s sure he is gay, only to quickly be asked in return if he’s sure he’s not. Finally there’s Derek, a flamboyant gay man Max introduces to Penny after she decides he’s not gay enough. Derek is fashionable, loud, and uses the word “slut” to describe most of his friends. In other words, if Max is the rejection of gay stereotypes, Derek is the enforcer.

It took several minutes of my first episode of the show to even realize Max was gay, mainly until he dropped this gem of a line, “I like tough girls. Real tough. Men”. This is because Happy Endings does such a great job of balancing out the somewhat mocking frame of someone like Derek, with the more normal image of Max. This is something I applaud, because I’ve had the opportunity to meet some gay people in my life, and they behave a lot more like Max than the more played out image of gays in television today. What the writers and Pally have created is a character that everyone, gay or straight, can relate to.

These are clips from the show that exemplify the above statements. Very Funny, but some crude language, so I placed them here instead. Enjoy.

Fun with stereotypes: http://youtu.be/FBk1nq_HgDM

Max and Brad: http://youtu.be/arUTsl1Hj6E

At the gym: http://youtu.be/4kSauvp_0YE

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One thought on “Representation of gays in ABC’s Happy Endings

  1. I like this post a lot–your discussion of Max’s character highlights both how he may be read as a “negotiated” representation and occasionally a “resistant” one. The host of my favorite podcast (NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour) is also a fan of Happy Endings,

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