Awful New Show House Of Lies Made Even Worse By Absurd Portrayals Of Female Execs
2:00 pm, January 9th | by Hillary Reinsberg
A slutty, strung-out executive. And a naïve junior associate who watches as her colleagues expense strip club jaunts. Again, we’ve got some totally stellar portrayals of working women on TV! Good thing the show’s awful anyway.
Already tuned into Showtime after a fantastic episode of Shameless, I stayed on the channel for the series premiere of House Of Lies, a new comedy about the management consulting business. A takedown of corporate America, starring Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell sounded like it’d be good enough. But you wouldn’t need a consultant to tell you it was anything but.
There is so much badness about this show — from tired sex clichés (the opening scene: oh crap we had sex and overslept and now I am going to be late to work!) to an overwrought portrayal of the business world (so many old white guys in a board room!). Forgive me for providing spoilers, but then again, I’m suggesting you don’t torture yourself for by actually watching for a full 30 minutes.
As I said: so much bad. But for the sake of what we do here, I’ll share with you just one of the worst elements of the show: the absurd portrayal of working women.
There are two women who feature prominently in House Of Lies: one is Marty’s (Cheadle’s) wife Monica, also a consultant, though at the number one firm to his number two (McKinsey and Bain, we can assume). But we don’t know that at first. In the opening scene, Monica is so strung-out on pills in her ex-husband’s bed that you think she’s dead. A prostitute, probably. Until you learn she’s an ex-wife. But still, she’s positively pathetic as she saunters out of his fancy apartment like a junkie on a walk of shame. It’s not until the end of the episode that she appears in New York, trying to woo the same client as Marty. She’s perfectly coiffed and impeccably dressed, with a trail of male junior associates drooling behind her. “Which one of you is she sleeping with? Or is it a group thing?” Marty shouts at them. This is the woman who, a day before, was disheveled and strung out. So she’s a slut, a junkie and also a perfectly polished executive.
Then there’s the one female member of Cheadle’s team — played by the likable Kristen Bell. But Bell’s character Jeanne is, in fact, so likable that she doesn’t so much as roll her eyes where most women would be going ballistic at her colleagues. She sits calmly and coolly as she’s dragged to a strip club with her male coworkers, and shrugs it off when she learns her male colleagues put together a statistical model to predict the likelihood that she would sleep with her boss. They say the likelihood is 87%.
Compared to a wildly offensive show like Work It, in which two men pose as women to try to get jobs, House Of Lies isn’t sexist, per se. In fact, it makes a concerted effort to be accepting and inclusive — Marty and Monica’s son adolescent son dons women’s attire and wants to play Sandy in the school production of Grease. And they’re cool with it. And there’s also the fact that Monica is somewhat more successful than Marty. But a few moments of inserted political correctness don’t mean the show is in any way accurate. Particularly not in its portrayal of high-earning, powerful businesswomen. Even if they’re more powerful than their husbands.