The Grim Narrative behind The Honeymooners

There seems to be a consensus of opinion about The Honeymooners: a classic comedy show from the 1950s, ranking exceptionally well in both viewers’ preferences and all-time tops of such productions.

On top of that, most sitcom aficionados see in The Honeymooners a predecessor of nowadays comedy shows which embrace a highly praised theme: nothing material ever happens in the background, the humoristic content only sparking circumstantially. We laugh because the main characters always get into trouble, finding themselves in a tight corner.

How they get there or what they do to get out of embarrassment, well, that’s for each and every episode to reveal. And that’s precisely the source of the comic fizz. In this respect, each episode of The Honeymooners is considered a cinematographic jewel, collectibles fans of old TV shows boast of owning on tape, CD or whatever other support.

But if you look closely, the underlying narrative of The Honeymooners is quite grim. Depressing even. Each of the main characters is married to a wife that constantly bickers about, well, about anything. They’re bossy and sharp-tongued, domestic hangmen that dampen spirits and kill any trace of initiative, however weird or risky.

Maybe I read too much into it, but I believe this is the embodiment of marital hell. Of course there is a sense of mutual support between Ralph and Alice, on the one hand, and between Ed and Thelma, on the other hand. But the true allegiances are between Ralph and Ed, and between Alice and Thelma, respectively.

It’s the classic men versus women hostility; a cliché that will, of course, never go out of date, a virtually inexhaustible resource to exploit when it comes to create comic scenarios. However, I admit I fail to see how this results in humor when it comes to The Honeymooners.

The fact nothing is likely to happen to change the set – in fact, viewers can rightfully expect the domestic context to remain the same, since it is the main source of the fizz – worsens the situation, in my perspective.

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