Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Writing a Script for Single at Heart—Really, There Could Be a TV Show

Single TV characters who are not caricatures?

Remember that Atlantic cover story with the question, "What, Me Marry?" (I wrote about it here and here.) That was just last month (the November issue), and the story already has 44,000 recommendations on Facebook! What's more, it has now been optioned by Sony Television to be turned into a TV series. (Thanks, Sy, for the heads-up about that.)

The first big chunk of the Atlantic story was about changing standards for pairing off, now that women's educational and achievements on the job are improving, while men's are not. So now maybe women are more open to marrying men who are shorter or younger or less accomplished than they are. That will be an attractive theme for script writers—easy jokes, same old mate-trapping topics.

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The last part of Kate Bolick's article, though, had a lot more to say about the joys of single life. She even used the phrase "single at heart." Let's help the screenwriters. How can they create a powerful show about single life, that is not about becoming unsingle, and that is not saturated with singlism?

The Sex and the City (SATC) model was too much about coupling, but there were some choice plotlines and quips. I liked the bouquet-tossing wedding scene where the flowers land at the feet of the four women, whereupon they look at it sitting limply on the floor and walk away. Nice rejection of the "you're next!" hype. I never did see every episode but the one that other people mention to me most often had Carrie signing up for a gift registry for herself. Nice commentary on how singles are always subsidizing their matrimaniacal friends with shower and wedding gifts, rarely getting anything in return.

A true Single at Heart show could go way beyond even the best SATC tropes. People who are single at heart are defying conventional wisdom all the time. Think of the potential for drama and humor when people want to live their own single lives, without apology, when all around them, matrimania rules. The caricatured singles would be desperately seeking a soulmate (included only to parody the mythology), while the single-at-heart characters would have all the great quips and lead unconventional lives.

Better still, why not have a show premised on flipping the script, where all of the usual privileges and smug attitudes are in the domain of the single people rather than the couples? I described something like this on the opening pages of Singled Out:

  • When you tell people you are married, they tilt their heads and say things like "Aaaawww" or "Don't worry honey, your turn to divorce will come."
  • When you browse the bookstores, you see shelves bursting with titles such as If I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Married and How to Ditch Your Husband After Age 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School.
  • Every time you get married, you feel obligated to give expensive presents to single people.
  • When you travel with your spouse, you each have to pay more than when you travel alone.
  • At work, the single people just assume that you can cover the holidays and all of the other inconvenient assignments; they figure that as a married person, you don't have anything better to do.
  • Single employees can add another adult to their health care plan; you can't.
  • When your single co-workers die, they can leave their Social Security benefits to the person who is most important to them; you are not allowed to leave yours to anyone—they just go back into the system.
  • Candidates for public office boast about how much they value single people. Some even propose spending more than a billion dollars in federal funding to convince people to stay single, or to get divorced if they already made the mistake of marrying.
  • Moreover, no one thinks there is anything wrong with any of this.

END OF EXCERPT FROM SINGLED OUT

            On a related note, the TV show Whitney put the singlism on the small screen! I've never watched the show, but I learned about the episode on that topic (and using the word!) by checking the feeds at Single with Attitude. Singlutionary blogged about it. My friend Susan Hurt also told me about it. (Thanks!)

Also, if you haven't kept up with Single with Attitude or my other blog posts, you may have missed one that I think Living Single readers might appreciate: Is it harder to be Single at Heart or single and wishing to be coupled?

Anyway, back to today's question: What can you suggest for screenwriters creating a Single at Heart TV show?

 

[Photo credits: Teaser photo is by Chris Buck.]

 

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.

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