Raymond Barone – a negotiator of masculinity full paper
Starting a journey on the road called masculinity is an exciting one. Not knowing where you are going to get, how you are going to get there or even the basic understanding of what “there” is, is a perfect starting point for a research project. The quest for masculinity and its definition seems at times to be fluid, amorphic and constantly changing. The question of “who is considered a man”, or the effort to define “what is manly”, what is the role of a man in a romantic relationship, as part of a family, as a father, spouse, partner is always being negotiated and debated. Intuitively it is safe to assume that there is no clear answer to these questions. These definitions and roles are mostly time dependant (specific periods throughout history) and culture specific.
The aim of this essay is not to try and present answers to these robust questions but to analyze the portrayal of Raymond Barone (Ray) the principal character of a hit sitcom series “Everybody Loves Raymond” as a mirror image of a shifting cultural phenomenon. One of the main research fields in the social sciences is the representation of gender roles in television. As a very powerful medium, television has had a pivotal role in the way we view ourselves and others around us. To say that the messages viewers are exposed to have a certain effect on the way they view their world around them and experience their reality is a tired but true statement. The socializing effect of television and especially primetime TV shows is undeniable. The pleasure of consuming media in general and television in particular proved a very effective way of internalizing values and beliefs about much of our society, much more than mere indoctrination (Fieras, 2011). Through this medium, as will be presented, a negotiation is taking place; a negotiation of masculinity.
The situation-comedies genre, as a medium of cultural significance, tend to provide a source for many stereotypical gender roles and gender biases. They also depict the cultural and gender climate of the period they are aired in (Fouts & Kimberley, 2000). Everybody Loves Raymond is a series which depicts a middle class male (Raymond Barone) who is terrified of intimacy, immature, irresponsible, completely dependent on his wife and mother for survival and yet extremely popular with the American audience as a prestigious sports writer for a national newspaper. This image of masculinity that is depicted by the show raises concerns in the same way that many historians, sociologists and other researchers who asked: what has happened to masculinity (Kimmel, 2006)? Was the character of Raymond Barone created to become a wakeup call to revive the old dogmas of masculinity? Or is Ray a new form of manhood? One that is oppositional to the strong confident, self assured, macho men of the past? Or is he a way for the producers and creators of the show to create a model of masculinity that is fluid, changing and unstable mirroring the unstable times of masculinity negotiations we are witnessing in the media today.
Through an analysis of past literature on the subject of masculinity and hegemonic masculinity it is clear that throughout time the issue around masculinity has been the subject of much heated debate and the focus of rigorous research. Through different forms of advertising, male role models and different characters presented in different times throughout the 20th, and beginning of the 21st century, depict different models of masculinity. This constant shifting and negotiation has led to the construction of a “multiple masculinity” model which tries to give an account and an explanation to the deviation from what was once perceived as a single definition of masculinity. A contextual analysis of a selected episode of the show Everybody Loves Raymond was chosen in order to compare the masculine characteristics (or lack of any masculine characteristics) to the ones put forth by selected academic researchers.
Literature Review / Theoretical Background
The study and research of hegemonic masculinity has created a link between men’s studies (masculinity, critical studies of men), other social anxieties about men, patriarchy and other models of gender. One of the many issues this topic addresses and researches are the changes in families and sexuality. From the origins of this term we learn that in 1985 Carrigan, Connell, and Lee through a criticism of the dominant “male sex role” proposed a model of multiple masculinities and power relations. Their model was later incorporated into a theory of gender and in the most cited article on the concept of hegemonic masculinity “Hegemonic Masculinity and Emphasized Femininity” (Connell & Messerchmidt, 2005). Connell argued that there is no such thing as a single concept of masculinity, but, rather, multiple masculinities, much different masculinity that exists in any given society. Each form of masculinity is associated with different positions of power. This in turn creates a sort of confusion and poses many challenges for men and boys in a world still dominated and operated on gender roles and sexual segregation (Connell, 2005).
The idea that masculinity and hegemonic masculine culture is static, preserved through the years to sustain a specific notion of manhood and what it means to be a man is evidently flawed. The constant negotiations, as far as they can be called negotiations, between the media, ideology and culture in light of shifting economic and cultural climates of the 21st century have all re-organized, shuffled and played around with the concept of masculinity and what it means to be a man; changing and shifting it to fit the current climate of market demands. “The concept (masculinity) re-invents itself by doing whatever is necessary to remain hegemonic, even if this reconceptualization entails incorporating more traditional feminine characteristics from tears to nurturing” (Fieras, 2011 p581). The North American society, as other industrial cultures, is highly segregated by sex. Still, as progress makes its way, and men are slowly moving into what was once regarded as women’s work, and women are integrating in men’s work, there is still a high sense of segregation based on gender (Ross, 1985). The sexual division of labour, for example, is based solely on gender roles and not sex roles for the simple reason that sex is determined biologically and gender is determined culturally. What is considered a man’s job in one culture may be considered a women’s job in another. Gender roles are determined to a relatively small extent by sexual characteristics (Roger, 1980) . As the culture changes so does the definition and the role of masculinity in our society.
These changes have made men call out for a warning as early as the 1950’s. The social movements of the 1960’s starting with the feminist movement and rolling on to the African American protests through the “Flower Children” or “Hippies” of the mid-late 1960’s not only called for equality of other marginalized groups but also illuminated other forms of manhood that mainstream white-middle class culture tried so hard to hide (Kimmel, 2006). African American men, homosexuals, anti-war protestors and other forms of masculinities started to appear. These changes are evident through many of the situation-comedies that were produced and aired at that time: The Jeffersons (1975) (an all African American family) and All in the Family (1968) (Starring the bigot Archi Bunker with his ‘hippie daughter’ and his “anti-war’ academic son in law) are just a couple of extremely popular situation-comedies that reflected the cultural climate of the time. As more different models of masculinity entered the public sphere the more irrelevant the old notions of that term seemed.
The cultural environment idealizing consumerism in a capitalistic economy, one that is overshadowed by the information society has managed to scramble all the traditional forms of manhood that in the past were considered solid, stable and unbreakable. In the past, men were depicted in paintings and, in more modern times, in advertising as assuming a stronger role, the stronger of two genders: knights, mechanics, operating power tools, emotionless, that typical male macho character that is often referred to in our everyday lives. Men are there to symbolize action, the doers. This consensus that prevailed earlier forms of advertising and media depiction of gender roles, one that showed women as beauty objects and men as a symbols of power has since been decreased. The male macho character became smaller, and made way for the emotional type. Men are seen as having some of the characteristics previously that were the sole ownership of women showing that our behavior as men and women is anything but stable and fixed.
The social movements of the 60’s and 70’s have shuffled male dominance in the areas of work, family life and politics (Kimmle, 2006) and at the same time undermined the dominance of women over the emotional realm. Men have started to speak of feelings and seeking mental and psychological help, as a product of masculine gender role socialization (Addis & Mahalik, 2003). These were domains foreign to men. The idea of expressing feelings and admitting vulnerability in the workplace or in a relationship has undermined previous notions of the men as the head of the household or sole provider. Gender role socialization has an additional effect on masculinity. Men and women learn gendered attitudes from cultural values – seeking help is labeled as an emotional problem (Addis & Mahalik 2003). Emotions, as cultural socialization dictates are feminine characteristics and a domain unknown to manhood. But the emotional realm is not the only aspect affected. Work, or men’s work has also been affected and put into question.
Nostalgic values of virility and toughness of the blue-collar workers that men were so stereotypically assigned to in the past stand in contrast today to the knowledge based culture of the white-collar worker or the emotional serviced based feminine jobs. Fieras (2011) points to a trend or an effort to re-masculinize working class males in blue-collar jobs (Fieras, 2011). Although such efforts as Fiera points out are made in the TV studios the reality is somewhat different. The blue-colored jobs have been replaced by technocratic jobs, requiring more intelligence than physical strength that once was the sole proprietorship of manhood (Bradley, 1989). Some examples would be: King of Queens (CBS – starring Delivery man Doug Heffernan), Seinfeld and more recent shows like How I met Your Mother (CBS) and The Office (NBC). These types of roles are the ones that we see attached to many prime time male characters in situation comedies. Television and especially prime time situation comedies act a socialization agent through which cultural values are inserted and integrated into society. The key to its success of socialization is its pervasiveness and persistence (Butsch, 1992). While the occupation focus of many prime time male characters have changed, the characteristics attached to older type of work hasn’t. While blue-collar men were portrayed as loud stupid and often overweight, immature, and irresponsible, requiring supervision by their betters, their white-collar counterparts don’t seem to differ in those characteristics (Good, Porter & Dillon, 2002).
Not only have the characteristics of the jobs played by masculine characters changed but also their position as “bread winners” of the family. As the private and public spheres are changing for both men and women, and more women are entering the job market, the configuration of practices that installed the role of a breadwinner to the man has also changed:
The ‘breadwinner’ was not just an image, but a configuration of practices, which depended on stable employment relations in a certain configuration of state and economy. This underpinning has now been disrupted, and it is not surprising that a public discourse of ‘masculinity in crisis’ has appeared (Connell, 2005 p. 371)”
There is a clear trend showing across many award winning shows to re-invent the 21st century man, to enter new negotiations on what it means to be manly and how it affects relationships and family building. We tend to look at our heroes and role models in some constant search to find a solid ground to rest on and define ourselves. The search for a firm hold or a stable life was intensified in the 1960’s among a variety of social revolutions. The state of being a ‘real man’ or a ‘true man’ is evidently uncertain and is a constant struggle to prove oneself as worthy of the title holds within far reaching implications and stress on the individual which can ultimately lead to failure and other unexpected outcomes (Gilmore, 1990) (Kimmle, 2005). The The price that men pay for trying to uphold old forms of masculinity varies from constant power struggles, and women who demand equal share of the house work, to physical fatigue fighting to live up to the expectations of a breadwinner who provides financial security for the household to other physical and emotional stress (Nardi, 1992). The changing economic and cultural climate of the recent decades has slowly deteriorated what was once presumed to be a solid ground upon which masculinity rested: Work, family, and domestic dominance. Now, men have started worrying about their long lasting ability to provide for their families, having to start looking into their psychological and emotional self, and try to adjust to a constantly changing masculine and cultural climate. These factors are clearly evident in many of the prime-time situation comedies that are viewed today over the television screens. One such situation comedy is the award winning CBS show Everybody Loves Raymond.
Everybody Loves Raymond – A negotiator of masculinity?
First aired on CBS on September 1996 and ran for 9 seasons until May of 2005. Much of the stories in the series are based on the real life experiences of both the principal actor, Ray Romano and the series creator/producer Phil Rosenthal . With 49 awards won and another 129 nomination this groundbreaking sitcom gained international popularity with more than 18 million viewers in the US alone (Marshall, 2010). Everybody Loves Raymond revolves around Ray Barone, a successful sportswriter living on Long Island with his wife, Debra, daughter, Ally, and twin sons, Geoffrey and Michael. Ray’s relationships with his wife, kids, brother, and mother and father play out in comedic ways while addressing serious real-life issues. Joel Stein (2004) described Ray’s character as:
“…Jackie Gleason with updated wife-management techniques, having replaced threats of violence with pathetic groveling. While Romano’s superego is sensitive 21st century husband, his id is pure ’50s. He just wants to eat, golf, watch sports, have sex and keep his wife from getting mad at him” (Stein 2004, p.52)
More than just depicting the character of Ray as the “21st century sensitive husband” (which more often than not he fails miserably) the show also perpetuates old time patriarchal familial values. Everybody Love’s Raymond repeatedly de-legitimizes any effort by any character to deviate from the prescribed gender roles; especially the efforts made by Debra to escape the bonds and pre-determined roles appointed to her by the patriarchal society she lives in. However, in doing so it is important to note the efforts made by the principle characters to accommodate for the changing cultural values of both femininity and masculinity. Although the end result is a return to the status quo the negotiations that are present along the way are sign of hope to the much anticipated in gender roles and the role of masculinity.
Methodology – Unit of Analysis
Many episodes that aired during the 9 seasons of the series contain, in one way or another, some sort of dramatization, gender biased, sexist comments, and other hegemonic cultural values typical of patriarchal western society. Most of the episodes also depict Ray’s masculinity in a stereotypical manner of an immature, emotionally retarded, lazy, lacking self confidence and other characteristics that put his ability to maintain any relationship with other people into question. There is one episode, to my opinion, that perfectly synthesizes all of the above and provides a good unit of analysis. Season 3 Episode 22 has managed to engulf the way the character of Raymond Barone is displayed as a husband, brother, son, and father. Furthermore it shows how his character constantly shifts from failure to arguably success in the challenges he faces in his relationship with his wife, extended family and children which characterizes the entire show. In order to asses these claims, a textual analysis of selected dialogues and quotes were extracted from the episode.
In Season 3 Episode 22, Debra decides to go to work and gain her old PR job. Debra finds herself in a position where she can re-enter the job market. This makes Ray feel uneasy and worries who will take care of the house and the children. The selected coding of the scripts for the scenes is listed in appendix A. The complete script was unattainable. I would recommend the reader to view the episode for a complete review. Below is a discussion and analysis of the texts in the script.
Analysis: S03E22 Debra Goes to Work ”working girl”
The opening scene of the episode deals not only with the sexual division of labor (Debra wanting to get a job and the conflicts it creates in taking care of the house) but also re-affirms certain stereotypical masculine characteristics. Raymond’s simple yet very meaningful response to Debra’s statement that she needs a change reveals a deep insecurity that characterizes the character of Raymond Barone:
Debra: “You know Ray, ever since the kids were born I have just stuck in this house, I feel like I’m missing out, I need a change”
Ray: “You’re leaving me?”
Raymond’s insecurity can also be said to be rooted in the general sense of insecurity that men have been noted to be feeling, according to Kimmel (2005) in uncertain times. Change has always led to a general feeling of insecurity the same way that the social and cultural changes of recent years have left men feeling confused and left to renegotiate the concept of masculinity in all its forms (Kimmel 2005, Connel 2006). Debra’s statement that she is “stuck in the house and needs a change” immediately brings about association of a breakup and a disturbance in the status quo that is familiar and comfortable for Raymond. The characteristics of a confident, self assured masculine self are clearly missing from this dialogue. In fact, throughout the show, the only place Raymond seems to exhibit any confidence is in his writings for his sports column. A complete reversal to the way he leads his personal life. Interestingly enough, a 1982 study showed a positive relationship between spouse’s employment and psychological distress among married men (Kessler & McRae 1982). On the emotional level Raymond immediately assumes that he is not performing well enough in order to prevent his wife from seeking a change. It is clear that Raymond is distressed by Debra’s request to re-enter the job force.
Following the display of insecurity on the part of Raymond we witness a shift to other familiar masculine characteristics. First the immediate shift in Raymond’s attention back to the television screen is both stereotypical of male interest in sports and television (Nardi, 1992) (Burstyn, 1999) and his implicit dismissal of his wife’s speech. It seems that the stereotypical image of man running away from talking to his wife on anything other than his general interest straight to other more comfortable zones is clearly presented in this scene. This fear of intimacy is one characteristic of masculinity that has long been present in popular culture (Nardi, 1992) (Beynon, 2002). It is not by chance, I would argue, that the television is tuned into a sporting event which wins over the attention of Raymond over his wife. Sports as Burstyn (1999), Benyon (2002), and other anthropologists and sociologists argue, is a way for men to regain their masculinity.
In the following dialogue between Ray and Debra illustrates this point:
Debra: “….but anyway, the girls were talking about all the exciting things they’re doing, you know. Gale is biking through Thailand, Amy got a promotion, Linda is getting her Master’s degree, all I can talk about is ‘oh the twins can pronounce their ‘S’s now and….(looking over at Ray who is focused on the TV and slaps him on the arm) Ray!!!”
Ray: What? Yeah, you had Thai food and Linda played at the Masters” .
Debra: “Can you turn that off?” (Pointing to the TV)
Ray sighs and reaches over his shoulder and pulls out a broomstick with a mop attached to it and uses it to reach the TV’s off button. Debra looks at him in astonishment
Ray: “The remote is broken”
This scene stresses another tension that is felt in many relationships. Debra’s request that Ray would turn off the television indicates some sort of a competition over Ray’s attention. Debra, understanding that she is no match for the sports program, or the understanding that Ray won’t be able to devote his attention to her completely asks him to turn the television off. From there we observe another typical male characteristic that is familiar in the current popular culture but foreign to past and earlier notions of manhood: Laziness and the inability to tend for malfunctions around the house.
As presented earlier in the works of Fieras (2011), men symbolically were attributed to manual labor, woodcutters, diggers, miners in other words handymen. Working class, blue collared, men are loosely defined by Fieras as men working in jobs that are “risky, rugged, and manageable only by those who can think rationally, objectively assess the situation, and perform accordingly” (Fieras, 2011 p. 580). These were men with skills to use their hands in manual labor, an extension of their masculinity (Bradley, 1989). It is safe to assume that these men were not considered as lazy, incompetent and insecure of their abilities. The simple task of fixing a remote control is clearly beyond Raymond’s capabilities and rather than fixing it he reaches over his shoulder to pull out a domestic cleaning appliance, the mop, and use it to shut the television off. The symbolic use of the mop clearly shows Ray’s attitude towards this instrument. Instead of using it to clean the house he utilizes it to conduct a physical activity that he avoids: getting up and shutting the television off. For Ray, household cleaning appliances are there to serve his immediate needs rather than to conduct household activities which are clearly not his domain.
In scene 3 of the episode we see how Raymond is clearly unhappy and unable to take control over the house and the changes that are happening in his life and the relationship with his wife.
later in the evening, Raymond is sitting in the living room with a laptop on his lap and the children are misbehaving, banging with silverware on the furniture. Ray tries to control the misbehaving
Ray: “Ali (little daughter) little help here? Take your brothers outside to dig for worms”
Debra walks in all excited
Debra: “hey hey hey, I got the job!!!”
Ray: “what?” not believing what he hears
Debra: “yes, I am so excited, it’s just Charlotte and me and the receptionist, I never had a woman boss before”
Ray: “Yeah, it’s not that great” Ray is clearly not happy with these developments
Debra is very excited and sees the look on Ray’s face and asks:
Debra: “What’s wrong”
Ray:”Nothing, I always just thought that I would make enough money to support all of us, and I am. Aren’t I?”
Debra: “No honey, you are a great provider, no no, we don’t need the money, I just need to do this for myself”
Debra” Can I use your office….”
Ray: “What my office? What about the kids though?
Debra: “I know you had them for a couple of hours already but I really need to get a heads start on some work, you said you would help out more”
Ray: “Yeah, I didn’t know that by helping out you mean REALLY helping out”
Debra: “So this is not about you losing your place as the wager you just don’t want to do any work around here”
Ray: “Why is that so wrong?”
Debra: “Complain all you want, I’m doing this…”
Ray: How about my dream…of a wife that doesn’t want to go to work cuz she is too tired of all the sex”
Again, Ray exhibits typical hegemonic patriarchal domination that is concurrent to old masculine values that tried to dominate women and uphold their masculine position as the sole providers for the family. The text explicitly shows how Raymond is feeling insecure of his position and his performance in the job as a breadwinner. He views Debra’s desire to go to work as a failure in this role. Furthermore, his inability to create a sense of order and provide attention to his children clearly indicates that this is a domain foreign to him one which he doesn’t know how to handle.
As the episode goes on, we learn that Debra was fired from her job on the first day and Raymond tries to be supportive by going over and speaking to her boss:
Ray goes into town to Debra’s work place to speak with her boss that fired her in effort to convince her to re-hire Debra for work,
Ray: “I’m just sorry that you didn’t get to see Debra at her best. It’s hard for her to be at her best all the time, because she has so much she has to put up with. You know there is ME, I’m a much bigger problem than I look. I don’t know if she told you this, but my parents live right across the street, yeah, that’s right. You know that guy who was bothering you on the phone, imagine two of them, coming over everyday, for the rest of your life. And she is already juggling the kids, school gymnastic and yeah…well alright, I am sorry…”
Charllote (the boss): “Gosh, I had no Idea, how many kids do you have?”
Raymond returns home in that evening carrying a business bag as a present for his wife:
Debra is in the kitchen
Ray hands her a new business bag
Ray:”A gift for my wife” …. “You got your job back…TA DA!!!!”
Ray: I talked to Charlotte she is going to give you another shot.”
Debra later admits that she is too embarrassed to go back to work there after arguing with her boss and to admit that her performance was sub-par.
In the final two scenes we see a change in Raymond’s behavior. The previous, patriarchal male, lacking confidence and afraid of change has given way to a more understanding, attentive and one that is finally accepting his wife’s wishes to return to the job market. Furthermore he is becoming self aware that his actions and behavior pose a problem for his wife. His actions indicate that he is willing to accept his new appointed roles in the family as not only a breadwinner and provider, but taking a more active part in the domestic chores and the raising of the children. Although the episode concludes with a return to the status quo, of Raymond acting as the sole provider and Debra returning to house work, the changes in Raymond’s behavior indicate signs of behavioral and cultural change in the roles of men in the household, as husbands and fathers. Although the show routinely goes back to old dogmas of gender roles, there is a constant effort to re-negotiate these gender roles and through these negotiations perhaps open a path for new definitions of masculinity and its role in society and the family.
Certain aspects of the old macho masculinity are lacking in Raymond’s personality, other characteristics remain (the notion that he needs to provide for the family while his wife stays at home, lack of displaying emotions) and new ones emerge (laziness, immaturity, and an attempt of showing support). There is an attempt made by the creators of the show, to re-invent the 21st century man. While attaching old stereotypical characteristics to new forms of masculinity, the character of Raymond tries to conquer new domains of masculinity. One of these domains is the emotionally supportive husband.
The character of Raymond is said to be the typecast of a sensitive 21st century husband (Stein, 2004). Through the development of the character, in the series itself and in the episode, Raymond is trying to explore what Nardi (1992) labeled as Newmenism. Newmensim as Nardi defines it is the attempt for the man to reinvent himself in terms of a more humanistic approach, accepting and understanding that balance between family and work, relinquishing control over dominance of the household, and accepting the fact that there are other people beside himself that matter (Nardi, 1992).
In the episode we are unable to tap into the workings of the mind of Raymond but it is clear to see that although he is not happy with the possible change in his life style he is forced to accept the fact that this change is occurring and adjusts accordingly. Not only does he leave his comfort zone (symbolized by his attempt of cleaning the house, skipping his lunch time to go and fight for his wife’s job), begin to act as a supportive spouse and re-take responsibilities over the household and his relationship he does so through what it seems internal negotiations with himself. The gift that he gets Debra (a new brief case) symbolizes, in my opinion, his acceptance of the fact that his wife deserve to re-enter the job market and to fulfill her wishes. It is important to note that the depiction of Debra is also extremely stereotypical in the episode and she acts out many feminine characteristics namely: over emotional and argumentative these are done while trying to gain new boundaries of self fulfillment by fighting for her right to “Do something for herself”. Raymond coming to her aid, helping her to regain her job back may be construed as helping her to fulfill her wishes of leaving the house and doing something other than just domestic work, fully aware of the consequences of his actions (having to put in more work around the house and with the children); opening his character up to other uncharted characteristics of the masculine stereotype.
There is room to open up and re-define the concept of masculinity. As in the past, there seems to be a method of defining certain term by first looking at what the term doesn’t mean. If before the social revolutions of the 60’s and 70’s the way men used to the define themselves is by their dominance of other subordinated groups (women, blacks and homosexuals), the result of these revolutions caused men to redefine themselves (Kimmle, 2005). In analyzing masculinity we tend to look at feminine traits and say “that is not manly”. Through this research, and consequent analysis I have come to the understanding that masculinity is first and foremost culturally determined but more so it is a process of negotiation and is changing. We are a midst a process of socialization and cultural changes that require us to adjust to new forms of masculinity. Although the show Everybody Loves Raymnd keeps a certain status quo by always returning to the tired formula of a working man and a loving supporting housewife, it does so through testing the boundaries of these stereotypical gender roles.
The first sit-coms of the 60’s and 70’s used to test the boundaries by assigning key roles to women, blacks and homosexuals which are now commonplace in popular culture, Everybody Loves Raymond is gently pushing new forms of masculinity into the mainstream culture. The much needed change in gender roles takes time in manifesting itself in popular culture. The persistence and persuasiveness of these media messages are crucial for the process of negotiation masculinity. The change that is so needed to move from old dogmas of masculinities to new forms of manhood takes time. In order to redesign masculinity in order to fit the changing cultural climate in gender relationship and to challenge old hegemonic forms of gender roles a negotiation process must take place. A negotiations of what is acceptable socially, while empowering men to leave behind their beliefs on what is means to be manly and look for other ways to define themselves while respecting the cultural and social climate changes that point to equality and shared responsibility.
 The episode Is available for viewing at the following link : http://www.free-tv-video-online.me/player/gorillavid.php?id=eejpf520wjq2