Take My Wife… and My Financial Support

Despite being a show about two lesbians’ relationship, I felt that Take My Wife had a lot of heteronormative undercurrents, particularly in terms of marriage, support, and stability (a fact that is not actually that surprising). We see that Rhea and Cameron’s relationship is troubled by Rhea’s day job, which she clearly doesn’t enjoy but needs to continue working because $$$ (“Day job? You mean the thing that gets me money, medical insurance…”). Cameron, feeling ignored and alone, asks Rhea to quit her job and allow her to support Rhea financially: “You could quit your job and I could support us. I could totally afford this apartment.” Sounds familiar?

It’s the same heteronormative rhetoric that appoints one person as the breadwinner, typically the husband. In Take My Wife, that husband-breadwinner and housewife dynamic is queered on the basis of the genders and sexualities of Rhea and Cameron. While that may be a good thing in its own right, I am concerned with the episode’s perpetuation of static roles in marriage – “I could support us.” I want to believe that there were other ways that Rhea and Cameron could have patched up their relationship without turning to that economic/power dynamic and model of marriage and with both able to continue their comedy careers. On the other hand, I thought it was cool how the episode changed (~queered) the typical proposal narrative by Cameron spontaneously asking Rhea to marry her as they sat in the empty theatre after their show.

I think these ideas relate back to our discussions on Queer Liberalism and the act of buying into an inherently harmful institution in order to affirm rights and achieve equality for LGBTQ+ folks. In this case, Take My Wife as a show buys into the uneven power structures of the institution of marriage while simultaneously starring a non-stereotypical lesbian couple, as Leticia mentioned in her post. My thoughts here are kind of undeveloped, so I look forward to our discussion tomorrow to see if anyone else made similar connections.

Jenn

One thought on “Take My Wife… and My Financial Support

  1. Jenn,

    I definitely agree with your analysis of Take My Wife looking through the lens of structural liberalism and liberal progressive narratives. I think that the creation of the “I could support us” narrative that you discussed is really interesting. Queer viewers of media look to see normative scripts played out by deviant/unusual actors or relationships. I think that you’re right in saying that the breadwinner/housewife dynamic is created in their relationship, but maybe just the fact that the people acting out that dynamic doesn’t make it queer— maybe in order for something to be “queer” it needs to completely disavow heteronormative narratives and expectations of kinship and imagine another way that we can interact with our friends, family, and loved ones. Does having queer characters acting out violent heteronormative relationship dynamics make it radical all of a sudden? I don’t think so, and I think your blog post gets to that really well. Just because Cameron and Rhea might be a unconventional queer couple, their buying into these power dynamics maybe only serves to further normalize them.

    I deeply believe in queer’s (used here in a broader sense) ability to radically change how we interact with people in our lives. The restructuring of kinship to model(s) that is beneficial and supportive to all members involved is not possible under the mores and laws that we live under now, but I believe that queer, when cognizant of the necessity to radically change these dynamics, can help us build that world. This is making me think of the final page of David Eng’s The Law of Kinship:

    …refocusing progressive efforts on household diversity, rather than organizing solely for same-sex marriage, could generate abroad vision of social justice that resonates on many fronts. ‘If we connect this democratization of household recognition, with advocacy of material support for care-taking, as well as for good jobs and adequate benefits (like universal health care), then what we have in common will come into sharper relief’. (Eng, 57)

    I don’t think that there is one correct way to rethink or reinvent kinship structures, but Eng and Duggan (who Eng quotes in this) give us some ideas on how we could be rethinking our relationships to benefit ourselves and our loved ones more equitably.

    Thank you for writing this really insightful piece— it made me think much more deeply about what queer representation can look like and do!

    Conrad

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