Why Are Sitcoms With Romances So Obsessed With the “Nice Guy” Trope?
Today, I question the obsession that sitcoms have with the “nice guy” trope in the romances on the shows.
Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of pop culture history that interests me that doesn’t quite fit into the other features.
Season 3 of Never Have I Ever dropped yesterday, and I’m only an episode into it and I already know (like, KNOW) that it will end with Devi and Ben together. Not because I’ve been spoiled or anything, but because it’s just the most formulaic trope that sitcoms just can’t seem to break from, even really otherwise well-written sitcoms like Never Have I Ever.
Ben Gross is not a terrible guy, but nor is he a particularly nice guy, either, and yet the show extends him all of the sympathy in the world for…reasons? I really don’t get it, but it’s the same as “nice guys” like Ross Geller and Ted Mosby, douches who we’re all supposed to feel sorry for because…ummm…they are earnest? They BELIEVE that they are nice guys? That’s all I got. They’re earnest and they believe that they are nice guys, and thus we’re supposed to look past their douchey behavior and still root for them.
I don’t like it, and I hate that it is a certainty that Devi will end up with Ben. I’m not even the slightest bit questioning whether it will happen, as I know it WILL happen, because shows like this can’t help themselves. I don’t need Devi to end up with the other main romantic lead, Paxton, she just shouldn’t end up with Ben, and yet I know she will.
8 thoughts on “Why Are Sitcoms With Romances So Obsessed With the “Nice Guy” Trope?”
One of the best touches in Promising Young Women was how often the would be rapists were played by actors who had played nice guys in the past.
At least FRIENDS figured out that Ross was a jackass as it went along. HIMYM never quite understood that Ted was insufferable.
Yeah, that was brilliant.
There’s this new show that I like well enough called the Grand Crew, and the lead there, Noah, is also basically the Black Ted Mosby and it’s ROUGH. Luckily, the rest of the cast is good.
Why? C’mon, Brian, you know the answer to this. At least 75-85% of sitcoms are written and/or produced by men, who either see themselves as “nice guys” or pull for them. The #MeToo movement especially helped expose, for those who were almost deliberately ignorant, how rarely this was true.
Trends have changed, but because many of those in the industry have been working within it for 20+ years, “recent shifts” sometimes take time to set in. See also the comic book industry, where characters created during the Clinton administration (or even Bush Sr.!) are still considered “new.”
But that’s why Never Have I Ever stands out so much, because that’s NOT the writing staff of that show at all! And yet, the same stuff is happening!
Once tropes become so embedded in the social consciousness that they become cliches, or even “tradition,” they can be tough to move away from. Especially in the realm of entertainment where everyone is encouraged to produce something which can hook and retain an audience. And the “Nice Guy” trope may be one of them. Even among younger and/or more diverse sets of writers and producers. Many TV shows are not rewarded for being original. And once a show is on a while, many times the staff don’t want to “rock the boat.”
Of course, many shows get canceled even when they stand pat or continue with time honored cliches. But Hollywood can often be very robotic in how they deal with things.
Granted, it’s been a very very long time since I’ve seen it, but I think that Ross was supposed to have been a nice guy till “bad things” happened to him which was his first wife leaving him. Then he started being a real dick and I think the idea was that at the end he was done being a dick and it was just a phase which is of course stupid. And by the end we find out the real nice guys were Chandler, who has a dick on the outside was nice underneath and Joey, who was a chauvinist on the outside. Because yes of all the males on that show Ross did the worst things.