What’s so Funny? Comedic Storytelling on Television in the #MeToo Era

Conference: The European Conference on Media, Communication & Film (EuroMedia2020)
Title: What’s so Funny? Comedic Storytelling on Television in the #MeToo Era
Stream: Critical and Cultural Studies, Gender and Communication
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Margaret Tally, State University of New York, Empire State College, United States


Since October of 2017, when the #MeToo movement became part of the national conversation, the impact on stories on television series could be felt. As the revelations about sexual harassment and assault continued to be felt in Hollywood and other industries, by 2018, it was clear that television stories finally began to catch up with the themes of the #MeToo era. In both scripted and non-scripted television series and films, from dramas to documentaries, from comedies to reality shows, the issues that were raised in the #MeToo era began to appear with more frequency. Of all the genres that are available to be watched on television, comedic series have arguably dealt with the topic of sexual harassment with the most frequency. This paper will explore some of the ways that comedy was used to explore themes from the #MeToo movement on television and film. Sometimes these storylines and characters are portrayed as uniformly bad, while in others the question remains as to whether these acts are wrong or deserve a more nuanced treatment, such as was seen in the character of “The Guy” on High Maintenance, where he reflects on his earlier misconduct with new eyes. The paper will look at the shows that deal with the effects of harassment both directly, as well as those that offer a more nuanced view of the question of responsibility in the wake of #MeToo.