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ABC's "Work It" exploits transgender stereotypes

Should you care how you get your funny?

ABC is unrolling a sitcom that seems like some kind of misogynistic update of Dustin Hoffmann's Tootsie. If you don't remember the movie, Dustin Hoffmann dresses in female drag because he can't find acting work and lands a job on a soap opera. Also iffy--Hoffmann's character and his character on the soap opera control the female mouthpiece, spouting off feminist rhetoric and how wonderful it is to be a woman. Misguided, perhaps, but at least this movie's heart was in the right place.

ABC's show, called Work It, may not have the same positive intentions. The show's premise: two straight dudes are out of work so they decide to dress in drag daily and find jobs in the pharmaceutical industry. Critics of the series are already saying that the men are overly macho--in their male lives, they were used car salesmen--and misogynistic. Worst of all, the show is innately transphobic, as many of the gags stem from the fact that these are two guys dressed up as women; isn't that icky and strange and abnormal?

LGBT media watchdog GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign are already on the network's case. They have met with network executives at ABC and are advocating a letter writing campaign from trans-allies to ABC, urging them not to air the show. We all expected better from ABC, the network that has high been given high GLAAD Network Responsibility Ratings and currently has two positive LGBT couplings on Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family.

The show doesn't look particularly promising. In this promo released to promote the show, ABC relies on everything that frightens people--particularly straight men--about transwomen: What bathroom do they use? What parts are really under there? nauseam. Straight male drag relies on "dudes in dresses" fears, claiming a history that isn't their own for comedic relevancy among mainstream viewers.

However, the aspect of the show that seems the most problematic, and potentially offensive, is the impossibility that either of these two men would ever pass as a woman, let alone an attractive woman. A transwoman in society is in a very vulnerable position, worrying about whether or not she will pass in mixed company. Exploiting this fear--it will certainly be a constant plot point that the men will be discovered at the company--for comedic value is both cruel and tiresome.

Are you incensed about Work It or do you think GLAAD and the HRC are overreacting?