new yorker festival

Rachel Bloom Calls Out the ‘Male Condescension’ of Family Guy

Rachel Bloom. Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Where better to spend the afternoon after misogyny won out yet again than in a room where leading creative, female voices discuss the female gaze and seizing the narrative? On Saturday at the New Yorker Festival, Rachel Bloom, co-creator and star of CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, was joined onstage with writer-actor Yrsa Daley-Ward, and author Kristen Roupermian, who wrote that viral essay New Yorker short story, Cat Person. During the event, Bloom recalled two moments this year when she recognized a patronizing attitude toward art created by women. She said, “There is a certain level of condescension towards female art that I still feel.”

Like when she went on Marc Maron’s podcast last May, and he called her show a “guilty pleasure” (listen here around minute 1:12:47). “He was talking about it because it was a musical,” she said, “but I was like, Dig into that. What do you mean?

She continued, “He also referred to his own show as a guilty pleasure. I was like, ‘I feel like you might be calling them guilty pleasures because they’re female and you feel like they’re not for you, and that anything that isn’t the straight male gaze, anything that feels like a niche gaze is guilty or frivolous in some way. I think that he didn’t realize that. I don’t think that a lot of people realize that. But you get this — it’s a feeling you get.”

More recently, in the season premiere of Family Guy, which aired September 30, there was CXG reference that didn’t feel quite right either.

In the episode, Brian is on a date with a woman who’s very messily eating nachos. “So Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sings this hilarious song,” says the woman. “Uh-huh,” replies Brian with drooping eyes. She continues, while scooping up more nachos, “It’s all about how she’s having her period, but the other one she wants to impress, the one who created the social-media app. He walks in while she’s singing, so now he’s not into her either.” (You can watch the scene here. It starts around minute 18:36.)

In response to the scene, “I was like, ‘Ha, ha, funny,’” said Bloom, who knows some writers for Family Guy, “But also, I can taste the male condescension because they’re thinking, Oh, I’m on a bad date with a girl who’s eating food so I don’t want to fuck her. So what’s the annoying female TV show she’s talking about. Oh, the show where the girl’s on her period. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to fuck that.

Bloom acknowledged that she could be wrong about the joke’s intention. “Maybe a woman wrote that joke,” she said. “I’m fine. I’m not offended. Just little things like that, you can tell — it’s like a dog whistle condescension thing.”

The male gaze came up while shooting CXG’s very popular Sexy Getting Ready Song, but in an unexpected way. The most interesting part of doing that song, Bloom said, was the reaction of the mostly male crew during its filming. “The dance parts, they were into it,” she said. “And then we got to the part where I was lining my water line [with eyeliner], and they couldn’t look at it … You could tell their stomachs, they started to turn.” The first day they filmed the song was the “sexy stuff,” said Bloom, “but the second day was in the bathroom. The part where I wax my ass, our director Mark [Heiliger], he couldn’t watch it. He had to look away.”

Bloom doesn’t know how much of a bombshell it was for the men to see what it takes some women to get ready, but she said they were visibly very uncomfortable. “I think it makes people very uncomfortable when you take something that’s sexualized and then show the ugly side of it,” Bloom said. “That’s what I’ve always tried to do in my songs. My writing partner Aline [Brosh McKenna] says in every song that we do or I do there’s a boner killer moment. So if you were trying to jerk off to this song, there’s a certain moment where you can’t anymore.”

In most of the songs they do on the show, she said there’s usually one “boner killer” moment. “I like doing things that are sexy and then throwing in something gross because also sex is gross.”

Later, an audience member asked about how the speakers deal with sexism and misogyny personally and in the workplace. With Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bloom said you either dig what they’re doing or not, acknowledging that the show is somewhere where the heads of the network and studio are mostly male. “It’s been really weird because one of the great champions of our show was Les Moonves,” she said. “So that’s been weird. Yup. How do I reconcile that? I don’t know.”

Rachel Bloom Calls Out ‘Male Condescension’ of Family Guy