Over 40, Under Sheets: FX's Gift to Women of a Certain Age is...Anger Management

Curator's Note

TV comedy has long been used to bring taboo topics from out of the shadows and into the livingroom light. Sitcoms such as The Cosby Show, Reba, and The House of Payne, have spurred uncomfortable but necessary conversations about teen pregnancy, postpartum depression, and addiction.  Few shows, comedy or not, have explored maturing female sexuality. True, HBO's Sex and The City, and Showtime’s The LWord made brave forays into the topic, and HBO's Girls offers a look at the contemporary 20-somethings. But in the post-Carrie world, where is the show focusing on the maturing female and her changing roles? TV seems to avoid the 40+ year old woman who doesn't fit into easily recognizable innuendo and quips of the capricious divorcee (or the never-married-and-desperately-searching sidekick) stereotypes. I call her the un-mom—single, accomplished, educated, career-oriented, and deliberately sans picket fence and minivan–-who represents the controversial woman of a certain age.

Enter Anger Management (loosely based on the 2003 film). Charlie Sheen and controversy easily co-exist; his fans are game for anything. The writers knew that in keeping with his now older, wiser (or at least calmer) Charlie 2.0 image they had to find age appropriate shock and awe territory. So, they chose to shine the light right into “grown folks'” bedrooms. Rebooting 80’s/90’s heartthrobs and bringing them back into “newly grownup” bedrooms is genius casting and marketing. Viewers "of a certain age" recall bad boy Sheen circa Major League, Selma Blair (HellBoy) Brian Austin Green (90210), and 50+ Brett Butler (Grace Under Fire) who rounds out the bracket. Maybe this explains why premier viewership toppled records… and in coveted demographics. Sheen is Charlie Goodson, ex-ballplayer, now therapist. Blair as Ph.D.-wielding Kate, his therapist, provides a plausible foil, and offers a complex vehicle to explore the un-mom. We see a functionally-dysfunctional relationship being defined on the fly.  This isn’t the Sam-and-Dianne (Cheers) dance of sexual tension and baiting. Kate regards herself as a the "modern" woman who easily navigates the boundaries of sex, romance, and relationships (necessary characteristics of the post-feminist woman).

Here, Anger Management takes on the old “who needs foreplay” debate. Kate grapples with who she thinks she should be vs. who she is. Her internal debates are given voice as Anger Management craftily probes the dialectics of sexuality and empowerment in "women of a certain age" who matured while feminism itself was evolving.


Sonya, this is such an interesting take on this show! I admittedly have only seen the episode with Lindsay Lohan but I agree that the self-reflexivity of the narrative is quite sharp at times. I also think it's an interesting move to focus in on the "un-mom" as a body that doesn't quite have a place in traditional narratives. I wonder if we might connect her recent appearance to shifting labor practices? As careers are increasingly uncertain, I think this new feminine perspective that focuses unapologetically (and without punishment) on career satisfaction might be telling of our own economic reality. Brett Butler also offers a model of "women of a certain age." Like Sheen, she's publicly struggled with addiction problems. What do you make of her presence on the show and in relation to Sheen?

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