GLAAD | Human Rights Campaign | Television | Transgender

LGBT Groups To ABC: Don't Air 'Work It'

Work It
, ABC's new, probably-doomed-to-be-canceled-anyway sitcom, is a show about two heterosexual, out-of-work car salesman who dress as women to secure employment as pharmaceutical reps. The show features no transgender characters, but according to GLAAD and the HRC, it demeans transfolk anyway. From GLAAD's press release:

During a period in which the transgender community now routinely finds itself in the cultural crosshairs, the timing couldn’t be worse for a show based on the notion that men dressed as women is inherently funny.  In fact, shows like this have the power to put the transgender community in an even more dangerous position.

GLAAD has seen the pilot and while the show’s pilot does not explicitly address transgender people, many home viewers unfamiliar with the realities of being transgender will still make the connection. Work It invites the audience to laugh at images of men trying to adopt a feminine appearance, thereby also making it easier to mock people whose gender identity and expression are different than the one they were assigned at birth.  Said GLAAD’s Acting President Mike Thompson, “Transphobia is still all too prevalent in our society and this show will only contribute to it.  It will reinforce the mistaken belief that transgender women are simply ‘men pretending to be women,’ and that their efforts to live their lives authentically as women are a form of lying or deception.”

The show's pilot must have been a lot worse than its preview. At least in the preview, Work It's writers seem less interested in the "inherent funniness" of men in dresses than in the comic potential of subverting heterosexual gender roles. Watch it AFTER THE JUMP.

GLAAD and HRC are asking ABC to pull Work It from the air. If ABC elects to run the show anyway, it'll premier on January 3rd.


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  1. You know what? Trans people do not own the rights to dressing in drag. Men have been dressing in women's clothing for entertainment purposes for centures. Please do not include all of us in your LGBT pronouncements, GLAAD. I, for one, am sick of the bullying of the gay community I am seeing by these fanatical activists.

    Posted by: Patrick Wellington III | Dec 17, 2011 11:16:38 AM

  2. Oh come on. I laughed so hard I just picked myself up off the floor. This will get stale quickly, but it could be REALLY funny for a season.

    How would I feel is the show explored gay-straight stereotypes (instead of cross-dressing stereotypes)? That would be funny too.

    In my opinion, exploring stereotypes this way (with humor) does NOT perpetuate them.

    Funniest thing was when he plops the phallic-looking foot-long sub on the table, then throws it away and eats the lettuce.

    Does anyone think that's not funny?

    Posted by: Chris | Dec 17, 2011 11:27:43 AM

  3. The previews look horrible anyway. I wouldn't watch this show even if GLAAD thought it was a nice representation.

    Posted by: terry | Dec 17, 2011 11:27:59 AM

  4. This sort of PC nonsense makes me wish Ts would leave the rest of the LGBs and form their own group. Men have been dressing as women for humorous purposes for thousands of years, and it's still funny. Indeed, for most drag performers, it is the humorous/ludicrous element that defines them, not their success in passing, hence the exaggerated clothes and accessories.

    Posted by: Abel | Dec 17, 2011 11:38:13 AM

  5. With hundred of transgender women being murdered every year, and thousands more being assulated, insulted etc., it is indeed not coming at the right moment.

    In a perefect world, everyone would understand the difference between this and transgender women, and maybe it could be funny. But not in this world, not now, not anymore than having ridiculously effeminate men sashaying and lisping and being mocked for it (but they're totally heterosexual! so it's not homophobic, see!) would be funny or acceptable.

    Posted by: G.I. Joe | Dec 17, 2011 11:38:49 AM

  6. This has been done and made Tom Hanks famous.

    Posted by: NE Rich | Dec 17, 2011 11:41:40 AM

  7. Who the hell runs GLAAD? Maybe they need to understand that guys dressing in drag is not the same as trandgender. They are the ones confusing the two, not this stupid show. This is what they are getting a knot in their underwear over? Getting all up in arms about this instead of REAL issues is why many gay men and women roll their eyes at organizations like GLAAD. Spend your time and money elsewhere folks, this show is an innocuous piece of crap with a stupid, very stale premise (BOSOM BUDDIES anyone...) and will be gone quickly. Spend your resources going after the Rick Santorum's, the Michelle Bachmann's, and the Newt Gingrich's of the world instead of some boogyman fear that people will mistake this for transgenderism (uh, no they won't...)

    GLAAD grow a brain and a pair of cojones instead of responding to everything like a victim of perceived fears. It's embarrassing.

    Posted by: Bart | Dec 17, 2011 11:41:51 AM

  8. Well I for one am SHOCKED! The transgender community with a hair across its *ss about something really minor? Will wonders never cease?!

    Some Like It Hot. Bosom Buddies. Victor/Victoria. La Cage Aux Folles/The Birdcage. Mrs Doubtfire. Tootsie. Though the quality of these varies widely (Bosom Buddies was never that good IMO), movies and TV shows involving cross-dressing explored people learning about the experience of the other gender- sexism, sexual harassment, and other problems. Unless they can point out specific instances where this show is offensive or malicious against transgender people, and few people have even SEEN it yet so I don't see how they could know, this is just baseless complaining.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 17, 2011 11:49:10 AM

  9. @GI Joe: Have you seen a single minute of Logo Network programming? There's a whole lot of "ridiculously effeminate men sashaying and lisping." Whether or not it's a mockery is up to interpretation, I guess.

    I support transgender rights. I want hate crimes protections, work place protections... you name it, I want it. What I can't wrap my head around is how, as GLAAD's press release puts it, "men pretending to be women" on a sitcom is inherently bad for trans people. I don't even see it as connected to trans people. It's not until GLAAD and HRC raised exceptions to it that I even considered that there was a connection. (And that's not to say that I'm not aware of the trans community. I have regular interaction with a couple trans folk (that I'm aware of and maybe more than a couple that I'm not) in my neighborhood on a weekly basis. So, ya know, I'm not some dolt that needs my consciousness raised or whatever.)

    If "men pretending to be women" is off limits for entertainment, does that mean that drag shows are off-limits now too? I didn't get the memo and apparently neither did a million drag queens (not trans folk, drag queens) from Tuscaloosa to Anchorage. Victor/Victoria is now not OK? Mrs. Doubtfire? Bosom Buddies? All of this is trans-phobic propaganda now?

    Posted by: RyanInSacto | Dec 17, 2011 11:54:24 AM

  10. GLAAD lost me on this one. I agree with Caliban that the premise of shows like this allows for situations that teach, and for GLAAD to shoot it down before it even gets started shows some very narrow thinking on their part.

    Posted by: Dastius Krazitauc | Dec 17, 2011 12:00:26 PM

  11. So GLAAD is concerned about stereotypes, but it roars its approval of the flaming queens on "Modern Family", "Glee", and the like.

    "Movement" gays have become so out-of-touch with much of the gay population and so removed from what the purpose of the gay movement was supposed to be that they have become a joke, and a very bad one at that, as have the organizations like GLAAD that they inhabit.

    Posted by: Rick | Dec 17, 2011 12:08:29 PM

  12. the show should be canned for the horrific make up work alone.

    I'd rather see an update of Three's Company where Jack is gay and has to play straight because of a homophobic landlord.

    Posted by: QJ201 | Dec 17, 2011 12:32:33 PM

  13. Oh please. Would GLAAD or someone please come up with some definitions for all this hot tranny mess we've all gotten ourselves into. Yes I said it. Boycott me. I no longer know the difference between trans, transgendered transvestite and transexual. I read stories about "this transgendered woman was denied access to the bathroom" and it was a guy in women's clothing. I know I know if you say you're transgendered then you are, even if you don't have any surgery, but seriously leave the rest of us alone.

    This show looks stupid and kind of funny maybe- it's straight guys dressing in drag. My brothers do it for Halloween all the time. Please don't try to take that away from folks now and tell us that it's the equivalent of "blackface."

    Posted by: frank | Dec 17, 2011 12:32:35 PM

  14. Dear HRC and GLADos,
    Drag does not = Trans.

    Go read what a drag queen/king is then realize you are only shooting the LGBT community in the foot.

    Posted by: chris | Dec 17, 2011 12:37:44 PM

  15. Does anyone remember Bosom Buddies....way back in the day...had Tom Hanks.....That would have been the good version of what they are trying to do here. This doesn't look very funny, but the premise I don't think sets anyone up for discrimination. Unless the comedy point is to make fun of Trans people, but the point from what I gather is the humor of having to dress up as something you are not and make it work when you are just trying to get by.

    I don't support the pulling of this show, I do however think it might not make it because it doesn't look good.

    Posted by: Chris | Dec 17, 2011 12:46:31 PM

  16. GLAAD and HRC risk becoming irrelevant if they protest every little thing before there's even any CLEAR indication of insult.
    It is hypocritical to criticize this show after years of ignoring all the drag shows going on in clubs and at events across America. Where is the outrage at the thousands of other drag queens out there who "mock transgendered people" by portraying men in dresses as something silly?

    Considering the complete absence of transgendered characters on broadcast TV, a show like this could, maybe, possibly be better than nothing for trans youth.
    Gay kids in the '80's had no regular gay characters to relate to. The closest thing was Jack Tripper, who pretended to be gay. He played it silly and insultingly stereotyped. But at that time, the simple fact that Jack didn't care to correct the assumption he was gay, as well as the fact that Mr. Furley set the example of being a friend to someone he believed was gay, was a very positive step forward (compared to gays being portrayed as evil murderers or victims in films like Cruising).

    Even if anyone is naive enough to confuse these guys with trans people, this might likewise be a step forward from the horrific portrayals trans people have had in movies like Silence of the Lambs.

    I think GLAAD's time would be better spent asking that a realistic and endearing trans character be added to contrast with the silliness of the two non-trans guys in drag.
    Otherwise they could at least be consistent and promte the end of all drag shows.

    Posted by: Gregv | Dec 17, 2011 12:47:03 PM

  17. Hasn't anyone seen Busom Buddies? the show isn't exactly original .. get over it people

    Posted by: Peter | Dec 17, 2011 1:12:55 PM

  18. I guess trans people should have the copyright of anything remotely hinting at cross dressing. In that way there is no danger of showing anything but men and women (or their sacrosanct legally trans equivalents), never daring to play with the other gender cultural mannerisms. And boys will be boys and girl will be girls. Well, I see backfiring there.

    Posted by: Lexxvs | Dec 17, 2011 1:18:20 PM

  19. I admit to being conflicted about this. I appreciate that offense is in the eye of the person offended and not in the eyes of those who don't see it. And I've seen too many comments from cretins who say, "Man. Woman. No other complications or variations, including gender roles, behavior, and sexuality need be discussed. End of story" to believe that ignorance and bigotry does not exist regarding transgendered individuals. But I have to wonder, will some of those people EVER get it anyway? I agree that many people don't get that there is a difference between dressing in drag versus transvestism versus being transgendered. But I would argue that many people do, and wouldn't confuse finding humor in this specific situation with the issues facing trans people. Any trans folk out there care to take a crack at convincing someone who'd like to understand?

    Posted by: TJ | Dec 17, 2011 1:28:21 PM

  20. Watching the preview, it seems like the show may try to be nuanced and funny in a different way. It seems to laugh at the two main characters not only because they are dressing as women and that that by itself is ridiculous, but rather because they are making an effort to be women and they're not good at it. It is a little better than I expected after having read the post's title.

    But I still agree with GLAAD. It's just not the right time. The world is still full of ostracism for men who don't seem masculine enough to their bullies, so to me comedy is not funny if it makes a mockery of men whose behavior is not masculine. Maybe if this show had an actual transgender actor...but can you imagine how awkward that would be? It would be hard to see that the show's comedy would not come from a-man-dressing-as-a-woman.

    With regard to GLAAD's silence on other stereotypes, I do wish Modern Family and Logo didn't have as many stereotypes, but the issue is really minor by comparison. The difference is that we viewers support those gay characters. We identify with them as protagonists, and their sexuality is never questioned. The more extreme the stereotypes, the more we're aware that they're stereotypes, and so we laugh at the fact that the stereotype is so crazy.

    That's nothing like this show. Even if it's a step up from simply laughing at men who dress like women, it's hardly affirming a transgender character while laughing at ourselves by expressing our own outrageous stereotypes through his character (I think that Modern Family does this in its better moments). Imagine what we would think if a new show came out whose comedic device was the awkwardness of two men who have to pretend they're gay for a job. What would I think of that? It probably wouldn't be funny to me to see a straight man squirm when another man almost kisses him. And if he didn't squirm? Then it wouldn't be funny!

    I'm not trans, I'm gay - but I am fine if GLAAD uses my name to help make the world better for transgender people.

    Posted by: TJ | Dec 17, 2011 2:14:24 PM

  21. Since when is drag anti-trans?

    Posted by: syncboy | Dec 17, 2011 2:18:52 PM

  22. So basically men cannot dress up in drag to be funny on TV?
    So no more parodies of The View on SNL?

    Posted by: Edd | Dec 17, 2011 2:22:13 PM

  23. Yep...this series looks pretty bad.

    Posted by: Maleka | Dec 17, 2011 2:40:22 PM

  24. MIC CHECK: Trans-people, lighten up. This is not intended as reality. This is entertainment. Please know the difference. It's bad entertainment, tasteless, and juvenile, but entertainment non the less.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Dec 17, 2011 2:43:55 PM

  25. I agree with the 98% of commenters above that GLAAD is picking the wrong battle protesting this show. From Some Like It Hot to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, men (gay or otherwise) have been dressing as women for comedic effect for thousands of years. This show is clearly about not about transgendered men and I think GLAADs oversensitivity helps no one and does nothing to advance the incredibly important issue of transgender rights.

    Posted by: Lewis Payton | Dec 17, 2011 2:49:12 PM

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