Like most comedy, the web series Husbands relies on common stereotypes in order to make a humorous social commentary. Husbands is the brainchild of Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Brad Bell, and revolves around the drunken, Las Vegas marriage of two prominent gay men: Cheeks (Brad Bell), who is a well-known TV star, and Brady (Sean Hemoen), a famous baseball player. The two decide to maintain their spur-of-the-moment marriage as a show of solidarity for the gay-rights movement, despite the fact that they’ve only been dating for six weeks; naturally, the two grow more in love by navigating the perilous waters of being newlyweds.
While it’s not the first show to center around a gay couple (Modern Family, The New Normal, Will and Grace), it is one of the first web series to take more of an active role in social criticism, rather than utilizing over-done gay jokes just for comedy’s sake; a fact that makes this show “one notch better” (Nussbaum, The New Yorker) than any of the web series rolling around on the internet.
One of the best things about the series is its firm commitment to exposing the sexual double standards displayed in the media. While it is appropriate to show women in fairly suggestive (and ridiculous) situations, homosexual behavior is seen as far more provocative and inappropriate. During the second season, Cheeks posts a photo online of him kissing Brady, resulting in a ‘billion moms’ uproar over its immoral nature. During the resulting discussions about their situation, the TV in the background features clever commercials of two scantily clad women having a pillow fight and a pretty indecent commercial for pizza.
It’s a great point; despite the fact that it’s absolutely normal for exploitive TV shows and commercials featuring women to be shown, it’s inappropriate for a loving same-gender couple to merely kiss. How is it that the blatant double standard regarding appropriate and inappropriate portrayals of sexuality continues to go unaccounted for by the media and it’s audience?
Husbands discusses this dilemma in season 2 as Cheeks and Brady try to develop an acceptable persona for themselves to show to the world. Are they flamboyant harbingers of social revolution? Or do they quietly operate within society’s rules? One character arguing for each viewpoint, asking the question: what produces results? Loud and proud fights? Or working from the inside in order to produce change? It’s an incredibly relevant and thoughtful argument and one that I was surprised to see during an 8-minute webisode.
This is all a part of the show’s award-winning (Telly Awards) charm; the show is an amped up celebration of astute social criticism and campy marriage sitcom. A combination that embraces its cheesy adorable-ness and smart observations, but a combination you don’t mind since it’s obviously intentional.
The show also features cameo performances from Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly), Joss Whedon (creator of Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Michael Buckley and other well-known web-series actors. To watch the entire two seasons would take only about an hour, since each season totals no more than a half hour of footage, but make sure to continue watching after the credits (especially in season 2) as that’s when the full footage from their double-standard video expositions is shown.
Unique and snappy (if a bit clichéd in terms of humor) shows like Husbands are wonderfully redemptive examples of positive and intelligent media; the Internet has produced such an amazing opportunity for creative entertainment that isn’t beholden to a corporate studio for their funding. I’m excited to see season 3 and see where Bell and Espensen take the series next, hopefully the show will continue it’s smart gender commentary and continue to expose inequality.
While the show is easily found on Youtube, you can also access the episodes at husbandstheseries, as well as the Husbands comics.
Rachel Redfern has an MA in English literature, where she conducted research on modern American literature and film and its intersection, however she spends most of her time watching HBO shows, traveling, and blogging and reading about feminism.