Why do we laugh, even when it’s not funny?

Last night I went to the opening of the The Metromaniacs at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park. It was amazing. A perfect combination of mischief, mistaken identities, misplaced infatuation, and true love triumphs in early Enlightenment Paris; The Metromaniacs is a non-stop verbal rhyming treat for the ears. Set against the backdrop of an in-home theater production, our characters swoon over the words of secretive poets and mock the dreariness of everyday life all the while wishing to make fantasy a reality. Expertly written and directed, the story juggles multiple plotlines at once, relying on a small gifted cast that keeps the audience members on the edge of their seats the entire time. There wasn’t one forgotten line or faltered step, and I left the theater smiling cheek-to-cheek already planning on a second return.

Despite the fact that it is one of the better plays I have seen in a long time there was one thing about it that forced me to pause with a critical eye once the inevitable “theater high” had dissipated – the romanticization of misogyny and sexual harassment of women. During the play there were various instances in which deceit, stalking, and harassment of some of the female characters by the men allowed the men to achieve their goals while eliciting laughter from the crowd. Even I was guilty of this.

We have the maid that is grabbed from behind and felt up by a man she continually rebuffs who interprets her verbal and physical rejections of him as foreplay. He chases her and claims she will belong to him once their employers become wed. Then there is the wealthy but illiterate lover who decides to lie about who he is in order to gain the affection of the girl he desires and trust of her father. And finally, the servant who lies about his identity and precedes to ply our fair maiden with alcohol in order to get into her pants. They spend some time behind a tree and he emerges with unkempt hair, lipstick smeared across his face, and his pants conveniently missing. We are obviously meant to assume that they did in fact have sex and even then he ends up with a different woman who casually brushes aside his indiscretion and poor behavior.

Like many of the romantic comedies and plays before it, The Metromaniacs glorifies and cheapens the sexual harassment of women by men for laughs. When I was younger I didn’t pay much attention to the way women are perceived in the media and film. But as I have gotten older and become more aware of the double standards women face both professionally and personally, I wholeheartedly believe it is our responsibility to challenge tradition and point out that when we routinely portray harassment of women as normal and justifiable because it is framed as actions taken by men in love or simply because that’s how manly men should act, then we are undermining efforts to combat sexual harassment and abuse.

It is not and should not be consider normal and acceptable behavior. Street harassment, catcalling, professional tit-for-tats, online slut-shaming, and a rape culture that dehumanizes the victim first before anything else is not the type of world we should accept as normal. As I have mentioned before, there is a growing movement across the U.S. that is pushing back against many of the double standards that women face in the media and on the TV screen. It’s a small step but it’s a good one. Along with other movements that are addressing equal pay, rape on campus, and positive body images, especially with larger women, I have cause to hope. Still, we must all do our part.

Now I’m not saying that this play is single-handedly perpetuating dangerous ideas about acceptable treatment of women by men. In fact, I would even encourage you to go see it. But do so with open eyes and an awareness of the messages hidden underneath the laughter. Sexual harassment is endemic to American culture. We did not get here over night and it’s going to take many years, most likely decades, before we even come close to eradicating it. So the next time you see it, whether it is your boss calling one of your co-workers “girl” or “little lady” or a group of men making explicit comments and gestures towards a woman just walking down the street, speak up. Silence can do more harm than good and ignoring the problem does not mean it will magically go away.


  1. First off I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question that I’d
    like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and
    clear your head prior to writing. I have had difficulty clearing my
    thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do enjoy writing but it
    just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted simply
    just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?
    Many thanks!


    1. You should practice free writing those first ten minutes. Don’t think about subject, grammar or anything like that. Just type whatever comes to mind. It’s a tried and true practice. It helps me center my mind. Let me know how it’s going!


  2. You actually make it seem really easy with your presentation however I to find this matter to be actually something which I feel I’d never understand. It kind of feels too complex and extremely vast for me. I am having a look ahead to your next put up, I will try to get the hold of it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Let your mind out of its cage.

A Hopelessly Wandering Mind

The varied thoughts of a millennial modern linguist.

Byford's Books

Book reviews, musings and more!

%d bloggers like this: