Thursday, September 13, 2012

Amen for Happy Endings

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianityby Ben Howard

Over the last two years, I've become a big fan of the ABC sitcom Happy Endings. The basic aspects of the show are a lot like Friends or something else of that ilk. Its a comedy based around six people in their late twenties living in a major American city (Chicago) and trying to make their way through this wacky thing we call life. 

It seems like a simple, and to be fair, rather vanilla premise, but the show has grown into one of the funnier half hours on TV due to the witty banter and the general likability of the cast. This is the kind of show where you just like hanging out with the people for thirty minutes at a time.

With all that said, this does not seem like a show that is trying to make profound statements about life, or society, or justice, or identity, but when I reflect on the show a little more seriously, when I look at the ideas behind the jokes, this show has some subtle yet profound messages.

I especially like the way the show deals with the relationship of Brad and Jane, an interracial couple played by Damon Wayans Jr. and Eliza Coupe, and the sexual orientation of Max played by Adam Pally.

Regarding Brad and Jane, the show does not ignore the issue of race because it is a real issue and in fact bases at least one episode on Brad's racial identity ("Blax, Snake, Home").  However, more often than not the issue of race is entirely disregarded as an identifying characteristic. Yes, Brad is black and Jane is white, but that racial identity does not define the characters. It is a part of their characters, but it is contained within the context of who they are as a couple and as individuals.

The character of Max is an even more obvious example of the show's desire to define it's characters as people instead of symbols or caricatures. Max is a gay man, but rarely fits the stereotypical mold of what society considers to be a gay archetype. Max is slovenly and uncultured. He hates being in a relationship and has very little fashion sense, often wearing old, fading clothing. Max is essentially the definition of a twenty-something slacker, including his persistent unemployment.

Max is gay, but Max is not the "Gay Character" on the show. His sexuality is part of his personality, but once again it is not the trait that defines him.
Like Brad, Max is defined by who he is and not what makes him supposedly different from the rest of the cast.

I think this is what the church is called to when Paul says that, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." He isn't saying that you no longer have any identity as a Jew or Gentile or as male and female, but that your identity is no longer defined by the exterior traits.
You are defined by the thing that encapsulates your very being, that being your role as a child of God and a part of his creation. 

You are not first and foremost your religious affiliation, your socioeconomic status, your gender, your sexual orientation, or any number of other self-identifiers that make you into someone's stereotype. You are a human, made in the image of God and redeemed by his Son.

Amen for Happy Endings.



When he talking about the TV sitcoms like they're totally serious, Ben often spends his time simply watching them and laughing, you know, like a normal person does. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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