This post will be analysing and applying the notion of whiteness within the text of American sitcoms, Friends (D. Crane. & M. Kauffman. 1994-2004) and How I Met Your Mother (C. Bays. & C. Thomas. 2005-2014), respectively.
Within the book; “The Matter of Whiteness”, Richard Dyer mentions how “Research into books, museums, the press, advertising, films, television, software repeatedly shows that in western representation whites are overwhelmingly and disproportionately predominant, have the central and elaborate roles” (Dyer, White: essays on race and culture). This is evident with the settings and cast members of both show. Similar to each other, both friends and How I Met Your Mother, represented a group of twenty something New Yorkers, all having stable employment and occupations. Although both shows featured white-blooded Americans, HIMYM included the recurring character of James Stinson (Wayne Brady), the brother of main character Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), who is represented as an African-American.
Both texts presents somewhat of an idealistic representation with its main characters. This happens because white people are systematically privileged in western society, enjoy ‘unearned advantage and conferred dominance’ (Ibid.:14) (Dyer, White: essays on race and culture). With Friends the character Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), starts off my having a simple waitress job, but with later seasons she climbs the latter by transitioning into the fashion industry, by becoming a personal shopper for big cooperate brands like Bloomingdales and Ralph Lauren.
Likewise, with HIMYM, the character of Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segal), aspires to become an environmental lawyer; a lifelong dream of his, who helps out the little guy. He soon evolves into a cooperate sell-out when he accepts a banking job from his friend Barney, who also works there. With this his mind-set soon changes to that of the American Dream, as he begins worrying about making enough money for him and his wife Lily (Alyson Hannifin), to move from their small New York apartment to a suburban house where they can live and start a family.
Shows like Pretty Little Liars and The Big Bang Theory, which both features a group of protagonist living their daily lives, shows to have a balance that there is in opposition to Whiteness. Both shows features Asian characters; Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell) and Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), that make up the main cast. In the end however it is easy to see that these two show are only a few that choose to have an equality through their representation of characters, and by looking at the figures behind the creation of all media texts discussed, it is easy to agree that the quotes mentioned by Dyer; “Yet we have not yet reached a situation in which white people and white cultural agendas are no longer in the ascendant” and “The media, politics, education are still in the hands of white people, still speak for whites while claiming – and sometimes sincerely aiming – to speak for humanity”, (Dyer, White: essays on race and culture) are still true to this day.
Dyer, R. 1996. ‘The Matter of Whiteness.’ In White: Essays on Race and Culture. London: Routledge, pp. 1-40.
Friends (1994-2004) Network: Warner Bros.
How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014) Network: CBS
Pretty Little Liars (2010-present) Network: ABC
The Big Bang Theory (2007-present) Network: CBS