It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Trans characters

By , May 25, 2011 3:24 am

One of my roommates recently got me hooked on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a sit-com about four horrible people who own a bar together, and the hilarious hijinks which ensue. The characters on the show are consistently petty, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and on, and on, and on. But since they always lose in the end, you feel OK laughing at them.

Intermittently, starting in the first season, one of the boys in the show becomes involved with a ‘tranny,’ as seen here (sorry it’s not a great clip – someone lemme know if there’s a higher quality version):

While I was skeptical at first (and my roommate warned me of the “tranny” jokes before I started watching the series) I’m liking the show’s handling of things a lot more than I liked How I Met Your Mother. Because the trans character, Carmen, is totally unapologetic about being trans. In the above clip, Mac says “Is that a penis?” and she replies, “Um, yeah?” And when he says “You lied to me!” she says “No, you lied to me!” (About going to the gym…)

Likewise, in the episode I’m watching (midway through season 3) Carmen again uses Mac’s shallowness to compete with with his, um, shallowness. That is, he’s creeped out by the fact she has a penis. (Shallow!) But he’s drawn to her because she’s hot and plays into his insecurities. (Also shallow!) It’s kind of delightful to watch, particularly because she – even as a trans character – undeniably has the upper hand.

In the same episode, Charlie and Mac get into an argument. Mac thinks Charlie is trying to convince him to stop dating Carmen. Charlie is, in fact, trying to convince Mac to stop murdering people. (Mac’s not a murderer, but Charlie thinks he is. It’s that kind of show.) There’s a big back and forth of “You have to stop this!” “I don’t know if I can!” with both of them completely misunderstanding the situation.

Finally, when Mac breaks up with Carmen, he tries to justify it by saying “I’m not ashamed of you! I’m ashamed with myself,” prompting her to give a really great look of disgust. And then is really cute later when talking about having sex with her, saying “I’ve been doing some reading! She tapes it back – it’s complicated.”

I’m really curious to see how Carmen plays out, as searching for the video I included in this post hinted that she’s still around in later seasons. And while I’m certainly not thrilled with Carmen’s portrayal, I do kinda love her place as a ridiculous character in this show populated entirely by ridiculous characters.

9 Responses to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Trans characters”

  1. LoriA says:

    I’m a huge ‘Sunny’ fan, and I generally agree with all of this. I have a major problem, though, with the way they allow ‘tranny’ to go unchallenged as a slur. I’ve watched every episode of the show and she does come back, and each time I’m like, “Someone make it clear to the audience that ‘tranny’ is not an ok term!” and it never happens. Generally, though, I love the way they portray her character.

    • Rebecca says:

      That totally makes sense, and I tent to agree about the term ‘tranny.’ =/

      • Miss O says:

        I definitely flinch every time I hear them say it, but I wonder if the fact that the (horrific, borderline psychopathic) main characters are the only ones who use it is a signal that it’s totally NOT okay? I don’t know, just a thought.

        • Lannie says:

          They aren’t using it as a slur. They’re using it in place of her name. Like Charlie loves “the waitress” Dennis marries “dead tooth” and “sweet” Dee goes out with Ben “the soldier” . They use a characteristic of someone frequently to describe who they are. They don’t do it all the time, but them calling Carmen “the tranny” is just an example of that.

          • U says:

            Lol. While you’re correct that that is her nickname, that does not make an offensive word not a slur.

            The main difference in portrayal I’d like to illustrate is that while the characters use several derogatory terms for different people in the show, but will often face hostility or mention the semantics of what you are and are not allowed to call people. Something that in some way shows the audience that their conceptions are taboo.

            This doesn’t really (if ever?) come up during the use of ‘tranny’.

  2. Rebecca2 says:

    Watch the episode “Mac Fights Gay Marriage” Carmen is postop and married.

    • Rebecca says:

      Just finish watching it, and I gotta say the interactions with Carmen were hilarious. From near the beginning of the episode:

      Mac (who had previously dated Carmen, the trans character): I ran into the tranny. She got her dick cut off, and she married a dude.

      Dee: Oh, that’s great. Congratulations…for her…why do we care?

      Mac: It is not great! That is a gay marriage!

      Dennis: Uh, I got a question for you. One’s a girl, one’s a guy. And how is that gay?

      Mac: Well, for starters, clearly her husband is a homosexual.

      Charlie: Why? Cuz he’s with the tranny? You were with the tranny. What are you saying?

      The conversation continues, with other characters entirely unconvinced by Mac’s protests, including Charlie saying, “Mac, I think this is just you getting upset because she’s getting married to someone who isn’t you.”

      I still don’t like the constant use of ‘tranny,’ but nevertheless really enjoyed the episode. The joke never got old for me: Mac was offended because Carmen was married to ‘another’ man, and Mac was simultaneously offended because she didn’t call him after she got The Surgery so that they could hook up.

      I also love Carmen’s indignation at everyone’s utter lack of comprehension regarding her identity and situation.

      (And I’d love to look like Brittany Daniel, who plays Carmen. She’s not trans, alas, but still wins my “best portrayal of a trans character in a sit-com” award.)

  3. Miss O says:

    Hi Rebecca! Love your blog. What did you think of the awesome twist in the finale with Sweet Dee’s baby and Carmen?

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy