One of the most popular shows on television currently is “Married With Children,” which follows the adventures of the Potsworths, a blended family from Chicago. The Potsworth family are played by Roseanne and Ben Affleck, and they are a loving, supportive couple, which presents an extremely positive message to young families and individuals about relationships and marriage. The show is a comedy, but it also addresses some very salient issues relating to family, values and sexuality. In a recent episode, the Potsworths have to host an engagement party for their adult son, Charlie, who has just come out of a long-term relationship with Vince (portrayed by Tony Shalhoub). The episode begins with Roseanne encouraging Charlie to be happy and saying: “You can marry anyone you want … as long as they agree to be your wimp pussy!”

What exactly does wimp pussy mean? This is a reference to the fact that Vince is a wolf in disguise, who always dresses in men’s clothes and wears a wig. He also beats up and takes advantage of women. Later in the episode, while Charlie is getting ready for his engagement party with Linda (Julia Madsen), he is tormented by Vince about not wanting to be with men, especially since he has just come out of a relationship with one. This is where Roseanne comes in, says Vince, and she tells Charlie that he needs to just go with the flow and be happy. The advice is well-intentioned, but it also sets up some very thoughtful questions about family, values and the hetero-normative structure of marriage and family. 

What Is the Flow?

In the show, the flow refers to the trick of passing as a man. In reality, the flow is also used to refer to the acceptance of oneself as a man or woman, based on one’s self-perception. It can also be used to describe change or processes as subtle or insidious. In this sense, it is not so different from other words like the ‘metamorphosis’ or the ‘evolution’ that are also commonly used to describe change, growth or transformation. The word ‘flow’ is also related to the ‘hue’ in theory of color vision and art. When an object is colored, it is said to have a particular color hue. If we look at a full spectrum of colors, we can see that most objects fall on a spectrum with a specific maximum intensity for each color. This is similar to how we perceive and identify colors when they are presented in artworks. When an artwork is very specific in how it uses color, therefore, we recognize it as a work of art because of its unique palette and the way it challenges the spectator to evaluate and comprehend the work based on its form, content and theory of colors. The ‘hue’ is thus similar to the ‘look’ of a work of art, and it is not so difficult to see how this is happening on the show. The combination of Ben Affleck’s makeup and costume, specifically the Wolf Trick, along with his performance, makes him appear to be a different person entirely. This is not an accident; it is a formalized approach to transformation and metamorphosis that is used to great effect in the show. It is also important to not underestimate the importance of the hair and makeup tomes in this show.