The first season of Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher’s sitcom, “Take My Wife,” created a new kind of family. The show follows the fictional version of the real-life stand-up duo as they navigate their lives as lesbian comics that love jackets.
It was witty and sweet and it created the kind of future that wasn’t considered possible for most queer people growing up. A future where you’re not guaranteed happiness but you’re given a chance to live authentically. That alone was a radical notion, and to have it displayed with layers of comedy and sincerity was even more so. When it was announced that Seeso, the online streaming service that aired the show, was going under just weeks before the season two premiere, queers everywhere were devastated.
If there isn’t an immediate bidding war for #TakeMyWife the entertainment industry is clearly beyond repair.
— guy you don’t know (with a bunch more characters) (@Aaron0VT) August 9, 2017
Esposito and Butcher’s dedication to creating a diverse cast and crew was pivotal to the show’s success. Both seasons had all female writers rooms, which is unheard of. Having women write their own stories is how nuanced stories about womanhood make their way onto TV screens and how we expand the paradigm under which women can exist.
Frances McDormand’s speech at Oscars prompted discussions about inclusion riders and “Take My Wife” is ahead of the game in that sense. The show had queer people, people of color and women involved at every level of production. That’s why it resonates with so many audiences. Even though our stories aren’t identical to the show’s protagonists’, the essence of their existence in their world is a love letter to our own. It’s a special kind of validation that serves as a means of survival.
While the first season focused on dealing with trying to mold traditional gender roles in relationships to fit queer relationships, the second season is much more about acknowledging that queer people are bound to take non-traditional avenues to things as traditional as marriage.
The second season also deals with similar themes of family, identity, loneliness, and trust. Esposito and Butcher’s relationship isn’t perfect — in fact, it’s precarious for most of the season as they’re planning their wedding. The power dynamics between the two of them are lopsided because Esposito is more successful and makes most of the money, which leaves Butcher feeling like she’s riding the coattails of Esposito’s success.
As they begin to work together, it brings up the question, do two people with the same identity experience their lives differently enough to have completely different takes? The answer is yes, of course. If we can have comedy shows that are five consecutive straight white guys, having two lesbians follow each other and both make jokes about their queer existence should not be a crazy notion. And that’s what Esposito and Butcher are able to find by the end of the second season.
Queer experiences are not monolithic. In Episode 205, one of the season’s strongest episodes, three queer female comics are shown navigating the world and dealing with their day to day interactions through comedy. This includes two queer women of color and a transwoman and the show’s dedication to making sure Cameron and Rhea’s lives aren’t The Queer Experience, despite the fact that they are the protagonists is refreshing.
Tbh I kinda lost it while watching #takemywife because I’ve never seen a lesbian couple having a fight about anything besides cheating/insemination/coming out before….I’ve NEVER seen a queer couple fight w/ their partner about something I’ve actually fought w/ my partner about!
— Sarah Melo (@postmodernbutts) March 6, 2018
It’s a token of the show’s self-awareness and crusade to use itself as a platform for varying voices. The more specific you are, the more general you become. By displaying these very niche interactions, they are showing small markers of wider dilemmas. Episode 205 also addresses the normalcy of all male lineups at comedy shows, which could apply to a range of jobs. In a scene where Cameron and Rhea are being interviewed about their show, the reporter asks why they have an all-women lineup. This is an experience marginalized folks have in boardrooms and law firms across various contexts. A straight male hegemony is never considered anomalistic but all female and POC hegemonies are. Having an identity that’s invisible in society is a form of privilege that this show manages to discuss responsibly while remaining light-hearted and funny.
With all the heavy topics the show tackles, it’s still a sitcom. The introduction of Cameron’s ex-girlfriend, who ends up staying with Cameron and Rhea after her breakup is a reminder of the inside jokes we have, like the weird and often inappropriate relationships we have with exes that are largely a result of having difficulty letting go of bonds formed to other people in our community.
Ultimately, the show takes on a lot. It handles everything tactically but not in a way that’s too precious. The awkwardness and the wit are honest and extremely sincere. In Cameron and Rhea’s relationship, we are reminded that queer relationships aren’t and have never claimed to be perfect. But our conflicts don’t have to be tragic.
Sometimes you let down your significant other by not showing up when you said you would, sometimes your wedding suit jacket is too big. The lives we live are most exceptional when they’re not treated as aberrations and when we don’t have to constantly justify them.