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'I Hate My Teenage Daughter': You Can't Bully Us Into Laughing At This One

by Stephanie Earp, posted Dec 2nd 2011 1:00PM
Before I dive in to the meat of my column this week, a few caveats: 1. I understand that 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter' is a sitcom and therefore not to be taken overly seriously. 2. Like everyone else, I adore Jaime Pressly and think she is enormously talented.

With that said, let me begin.

The premise of 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter' is this: two moms -- best friends -- were nerds growing up, and they spoil their daughters in an attempt to provide them with the perfect youth they didn't have. Instead, they've raised monsters. The show gets going when both women are called into school because their daughters have locked a wheelchair-bound fellow student in the bathroom.

Because this is a comedy, what follows is the revelation that these women are in fact intimidated by their daughters, desperate for their approval and incapable of disciplining them appropriately.

But let's go back to the part where the two girls lock their fellow student in the bathroom. Fox is calling them "mean girls" but I'm gonna go ahead and call them what they are: bullies. And considering the climate right now, I'm having a hard time giving this multi-cam comedy a pass. I'm so done with laughing this kind of stuff off. I know there are people who will say I'm being alarmist writing this, but here goes: teenagers die of bullying.

The one on my mind right now is Jamie Hubley, the openly gay son of a Canadian politician who killed himself last month. He'd been verbally bullied at school. He noted in his blog that his school was nothing like McKinley High on 'Glee.' There was also Buffalo's Jamey Rodmeyer, who recorded an 'It Gets Better' video before he took his life at 14. According to his parents, the bullying didn't stop after his death. There were chants of 'We're glad you're dead' at a school memorial service. And lastly, Tyler Clementi, who was secretly filmed by his dormmates, and killed himself when he found out about it. None of them, so far as we know, were locked in a bathroom but I think we all know what was done to them was done in the same spirit. A belittling, hateful spirit.

Because 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter' is a comedy, we'll never see the adult women in this situation punish their daughters appropriately for their bullying, because it wouldn't be funny. It's funny if the girls actually succeed in bullying their mothers, which they do. They manipulate them by withholding affection and giving them the silent treatment, and shaming them by calling them fat, ugly and badly clothed. (To be honest, this isn't funny either, but it's easier to set a laugh track to.)

When news of Hubley's suicide broke, Canadian broadcaster Rick Mercer recorded one of his famous 'Rick's Rants' asking whether it was time, finally, to stop talking about how it gets better after high school and start making it better now. And how alongside the grief counsellors pouring into the school Hubley attended, maybe it was time for police officers to go in too, and start holding some of the bullies accountable. It is in this context that I watched what I could of 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter,' and what I saw were irresponsible parents condoning morally disgusting and potentially dangerous behavior in their kids by not nipping it in the bud, right pronto.

I wonder what happens to the mean girls when they grow up. You never hear an adult woman say 'Oh yeah, I was pretty and popular and tortured other kids when I was in high school.' I sometimes wonder how many of the people who claim to be former nerds or tomboys are mean girls in self-imposed witness protection. In the adult world, the bullies are the ones no one wants to be around. I wish we could somehow extend a little of that dynamic to teens, instead of creating a bad sitcom that shrugs and accepts the status quo.

I'm done. I'm done laughing about this -- or in the case of this show, not laughing.

There's been some chatter about the title of this show. A lot of TV critics and fans are uncomfortable with any show using the word 'hate' in the title. Some pointed out that all four of the lead female characters are either weak or mean, and the show might be better titled 'Hollywood Hates Women.' But I have no problem with the title 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter.' I hate their teenage daughters too.

(Read Mo Ryan's review of 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter')

Jaime Pressly and Katie Finneran Talk 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'

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Mo Lewis

I understand the seriousness of bullying-hell, I went through far worse than taunting-I was physically and verbally abused, and frankly when prior to my own experiences, I myself was a bully in kindergarten and first grade. We're all still here and survived it, so I think it's possible to see the comedy in this show. And as a commenter noted, the guy in the wheelchair was the bully, so the girls were righting a wrong.
There are things to take a stand against, and this show is not one of them.

December 01 2012 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I guess the reviewer did not watch the show. The "plot twist" was that the girls locked the handicapped boy in the bathroom because HE was the bully. He had been insulting the black teenaged daughter, as well as others at the school. But it is not a show worth sticking with, I only caught that moment by accident....

December 04 2011 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MargaretM's comment

@MargaretM-The girls actually lied about that too, which the moms discovered when they got a look at the kid at the party. But the moms did get revenge.... in the best way they knew how.

December 04 2011 at 10:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the title of the show should be enough to indicate that it's more of a satire than something to be taken seriously. Not everything on television is for children, and very few shows should be used to teach your children morality and ethics.

December 04 2011 at 10:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

methinks stephanie and some other commenters were bullied in high school??
although the writers viewpoint is obviously biased, probably being a victim of said bullying, i must agree that a line has to be drawn somewhere, and tolerance has its limits.
A show like this should not be on the air, they'd be better of with reruns of freaks and geeks.

December 04 2011 at 9:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I could not agree more. I watched about eight minutes of this ridiculous show and had to turn it off. Fortunately, I think it will die a natural death of low ratings.

December 03 2011 at 10:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yes, I'm sure taking this show off the air would really send a message to America about the horrors of bullying. Did you really say the police should go in and take action against bullies? Please cite any law on the books in any jurisdiction in the US where high school bullying is against the law. Is bullying right? Should it be condoned? Of course not. But in America, free speech is protected for better or worse.

December 02 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment
Deej Barens

Bullying is a form of harassment which is prosecutable. Slander can also apply as well

December 02 2011 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yes, the premise of the show does seem absurd but there has only been one episode. Maybe in future epsidoes, the show might show the harmful effects of teenage bullying in schools.

Anout the show, I do like it. Jamie Pressly and the actor who plays her brother-in-law are stealing the show. But of the show continues to just show a stream of bullying by the 2 tennage daughers, then I'm sure viewers would stop watching because of its one-dimensional angle. Until then, maybe it does get better.

December 02 2011 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Also, @ Chris- you're seriously asking when TV CRITICS became so CRITICAL? What the heck do you think their job is?
Other people are allowed to have different opinions than you. Why don't you follow your own advice and stop reading this column if you are actually this offended and upset because someone doesn't like a stupid sitcom that you like.

December 02 2011 at 1:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I agree with you 100%- I thought the same thing when I saw the previews for this show. The preview I saw showed the girls giggling over a computer and when one of the mothers asked what they were up to, they responded, "Cyber bullying" and the mother said, "Oh OK- carry on!" Really?? How are cruel nasty girls with weak pathetic mothers funny? How can they be so casual about bullying in the current climate? Hopefully it will get canceled soon.

December 02 2011 at 1:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

My review of I hate My Teenage Daughter....Basically I hated this show.

December 02 2011 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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