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17 Jan 2012

ABC cancels cross-dressing sitcom 'Work It' following accusations of transphobia

US network ABC has pulled its cross-dressing comedy Work It which had been plagued by bad reviews and accusations of transphobia.

US network ABC has pulled its cross-dressing comedy Work It after just two episodes.

The show, which has been blasted by critics and transgender activists, suffered from poor ratings since it was aired on Tuesdays at 8.30 pm. According to Entertainment Weekly, the new show managed to bring in 6.1 million viewers when it premiered on January 3, but ratings dropped to 5.1 million for the second episode. It further noted that the modest debut is despite the show’s biggest comedy competitor, Fox’s Glee, airing a repeat. 

Work it ad and screen shot.

Work It followed two straight male characters played by Amaury Nolasco and Benjamin Koldyke who are fired from their jobs as car salesman and decide to pose as women in a last-ditch attempt to find work in a difficult economy, was met with negative reactions.

Organisations such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a non-governmental media monitoring organisation in the US, which promotes the image of LGBT people in the media, didn't find the premise funny. 

"During a period in which the transgender community now routinely finds itself in the cultural crosshairs, the timing couldn't be worse for a show based on the notion that men dressed as women is inherently funny," the organisation said in a blog post titled Why ABC's new sitcom work it hurts the transgender community on its site before Work It premiered.

"GLAAD has seen the pilot and while the show’s pilot does not explicitly address transgender people, many home viewers unfamiliar with the realities of being transgender will still make the connection. Work It invites the audience to laugh at images of men trying to adopt a feminine appearance, thereby also making it easier to mock people whose gender identity and expression are different than the one they were assigned at birth. Said GLAAD’s Acting President Mike Thompson, 'Transphobia is still all too prevalent in our society and this show will only contribute to it. It will reinforce the mistaken belief that transgender women are simply ‘men pretending to be women,’ and that their efforts to live their lives authentically as women are a form of lying or deception.'"

After viewing the pilot for Work It, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) launched a campaign against the show in an effort to stop the airing of the new television series they say is offensive to transgender people and mocked transgender struggles in the workplace. The two organisations went on to place a full-page ad in Daily Variety magazine and write a joint opinion piece on the Huffington Post firing back at ABC for airing the comedy in the first place.

"[ABC] should know how offensive this show is, and that it even has the potential to jeopardise the safety of many transgender Americans in the process," the ad said, among other things.

Enlarge ad placed by GLAAD and HRC, two national LGBT advocacy organisations, in media industry publication Daily Variety as part of a campaign to educate the media industry and the general public around the show.

Upon hearing news of the show's cancellation, Herndon Graddick, GLAAD's Senior Director of Programs and Communications, said, "While many of ABC's positive and groundbreaking portrayals of LGBT people have been critical and popular successes, the public had little interest in this outdated show. As a result of this campaign, an important dialogue has been started in Hollywood and mainstream media about the real discrimination faced by transgender people today."

“By encouraging the audience to laugh at the characters’ attempts at womanhood, the show gives license to similar treatment of transgender women…,” the ad read.

The organisations also claimed the show could contribute to the high levels of job discrimination that transgender Americans currently face and will give license for people to mock and ridicule those whose gender expression might not fit with what society considers the norm.

ABC’s head of entertainment, Paul Lee, defended the network’s decision to air the show earlier this month, telling reporters Tuesday that he loved the 1982 cross-dressing movie Tootsie, and I still love ‘Tootsie.'

"I don’t find it to be offensive. So in that particular case I didn’t get it.” 

Noting the well-received gay characters on ABC’s Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy, he added, “We thought there was room for a very, very, very, very silly show.”

United States

Reader's Comments

Comment #1 was deleted by its author on 2012-01-18 08:55
2. 2012-01-18 08:55  
Watched the trailer and feel it really sucks....big time. Two guys trying to hit on women by dressing in drag?!?!?! Now, how many straight women would actually be attracted to a drag queen sexually? So, for starters, the theme is, to say the least,ridiculously contrived and only reflects the lack of creativity at ABC. Even in drag, the characters have to "butch" it up and play it straight for a primarily straight audience. Then WTF make a drag queen sitcom for a primarily straight audience? What point is ABC trying to make exactly? That it's only acceptable to be in drag if you can bed a woman?!?!?!
Comment edited on 2012-01-18 08:55:54
3. 2012-01-18 10:06  
thx god they cancel it..such a badly written show...what kinda crack they are smoking when writing it
4. 2012-01-18 10:41  
I too am glad this show was cancelled for all the reasons stated above. In a world of weal and woe, this was such a stupid idea.

Bring back "Queer as Folk" - that was such a nice program and covered many issues including "mainstreaming" and serious issues while being fun and well acted and written.
Comment #5 was deleted by its author on 2012-01-19 14:19
6. 2012-01-18 18:43  
I'm going to be the voice of dissension here and say that I thought the pilot episode was funny. I could see that the show was trying to bring to light gender issues and gender roles in today's society. Discrimination is still ubiquitous. No matter where you look or how advanced you think your society is, it's still there. Not saying we should stop trying to eradicate discrimination and gender inequality, but I really don't see it going away anytime soon (in my lifetime, or in 10 lifetimes). If you think it makes me sound cynical, that's fine. The point of the show was to provide comedy and awareness of gender roles. I didn't see it as being harmful to the transgendered community. Perhaps if the show had continued, we might've seen an example of a transgendered character and the issues he/she might face in the working world.

As for having another show like Queer as Folk, are you kidding me? On primetime TV? I'm all for gay liberation, but I don't think some of the stuff they showed on QAF would be appropriate for a general audience. I think ABC is doing great with Modern Family and Grey's Anatomy. No matter how they show gay people in the media, even with good intentions, someone (gay or straight) will still be offended. The point of television is to entertain. If you don't like it, don't watch it.
7. 2012-01-18 21:22  
The cross-dressers at GLAAD should lighten up and not get their panties in a knot. This was harmless ( and humorless). I guess they could try to get reruns of "Bosom buddies" with Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari banned or go after "The Church Lady" from Saturday Night Live.
8. 2012-01-19 11:06  
I think it was cancelled simply because it was not funny.
9. 2012-01-19 17:08  
Worst Tranny show since "To Wong Foo"........
Characters are totally FUGLY and not an ounce of good writing in it. cancelled cos it was just BAD!
10. 2012-01-20 13:37  
Stoopid premise for a TV show anyway; and it's just way too difficult to copy Patrick Swayze's performance in "Too Wong Foo" :D
11. 2012-01-20 19:48  
I guess the writers didn't do enough research into the 1980-82 cross-dressing sitcom BOSOM BUDDIES, co-starring two young actors: one who has slipped into relative obscurity (Peter Scolari...who?) and TOM HANKS!
12. 2012-01-21 09:26  
I believe every commentator here has a point or two.
But #6, azn-aries, has uniquely pointed out the value of "Work it".
The minority needs publicity from time to time.
It's unwise to drink poison to quench the thirst when there are healthy drinks around. But when the only drink available is poisonous, it stops the thirst, doesn't it?
Comment edited on 2012-01-21 20:29:45
13. 2012-01-22 00:58  
I am dissapointed by cancelling the show!
Hey, people! Did you totally lost sense of humor?
Jim Carrey and Steve Martin for you then! Uah.-.-.-!
14. 2012-01-24 20:06  
This is really lightweight news. More content please Fridae! Tell us what's happening for example in the really looong awaited judgement in the constitutional challenge to 377A in Singapore? It's just a procedural part of the action, which sounded clear cut at the hearing, why is it taking so long to issue a judgement?

And while you're at it, kindly sort out through dispute resolution or whatever your fight with the former CEO and realise your (and our) common interests in keeping this as one of the best gay websites in the world.
15. 2012-01-25 19:37  
Did you know gay sodomy is already legal in Singapore by the repeal of 377 in 2007?

I learned something interesting from Wiki the other day. 377A only came into force in 1938, yes, 1938, not 1860s, and criminalised sexual activity between men other than anal sex, which was covered by 377…377A does not cover sodomy. The Victorian English law on which it's based has never covered sodomy. When 377 was repealed in 2007, it repealed criminalisation of sodomy for everyone. Leaving 377A to cover purely gay sex other than sodomy. So technically, so long as you do nothing except anal sex, it must be legal.

So all the talk of straws up noses in the parliamentary debate - totally irrelevant.
16. 2012-01-25 21:27  
This comment has been removed by a hitlerite Fridae administrator. Comments should be relevant to the article published. Any feedback or suggestions can be sent to webmaster@fridae.asia.
Comment edited on 2012-01-26 01:47:51
17. 2012-02-01 19:45  
I don't find this show offensive, just very very dated in it's approach, which means it would go down well with many people in Singapore and Malaysia .

As for comparing it to Tootsie, how dumb can a person be? The character arc in Tootsie was one of a straight man learning what it was actually like to be a woman, the difficulties, the sexual harassment, the dramatic irony involved at a fairly deep level.

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