The popular television series “Last Man Standing” is not conservative in any deep sense. This is fitting given its star, Tim Allen. Like most actors, Mr. Allen’s choices in his personal life would make any serious conservatism seem unlikely. Sex, drugs, and resulting problems with the law indicate that he is not likely, without some significant conversion experience, to morph into a traditional conservative. Instead, he has announced himself a fan of John Kasich, the Ohio Governor who has repeatedly argued that Medicare must be expanded because St. Peter demands that we serve the poor by taking people’s tax money and giving it to the government to squander on administrative overhead and misbegotten ideological errata, while crowding out the charitable institutions that actually provide meaningful charity.
Still, to be anything other than a hypocritical Social Justice Warrior in Hollywood takes courage and is to be commended. Anything more is likely too much to expect, and so it may be best to appreciate Mr. Allen and his show for what they are—namely examples and products of rare manly fortitude in this, our Gelded Age. It is refreshing, in our era of culturally enforced self-loathing of everything masculine, to know that Mr. Allen for years has been fighting the corporate eunuchs to bring to television, in essence, the anti-All in the Family. Mr. Allen’s show is uneven, showing clear signs of corporate rewrites and compromises, but overall achieves two things masterfully: to be genuinely funny, and to really tick off the man-haters.
It is difficult to find conservatives of any kind on television, and the last time one was the focus of a hit sitcom may have been “All in the Family’s” Archie Bunker. Conceived by radical leftist Norman Lear and played by radical leftist Carroll O’Connor, Bunker was a bigoted loser “enlightened” Americans were supposed to laugh at as they nodded along with his atheist, hippie son-in-law. Some Americans actually approved of Archie, and others detested him too much to get the joke. Sadly, such irony did little to lessen the degrading impact of Lear’s anti-hero.
Tim Allen is no Norman Lear, or Carroll O’Connor. After a few false starts during the first season, Mr. Allen has developed a character in Mike Baxter, highly successful co-owner of the “Outdoor Man” chain of stores, who is outspoken, eccentric, and fundamentally decent. He also is a clear “winner” in life and a proud alpha male who delights in flouting today’s left-wing, anti-male pieties. Finally, we have a hero who hunts, fishes, watches sports, and occasionally drives a tank.
There is much in Last Man Standing to indicate that the higher-ups at least wanted us to laugh at, rather than with, Mike Baxter. Had Mr. Allen been less naturally funny or less willing to fight it out with corporate geld-quarters at the risk of his job, the show could easily have descended into fake-conservative, fake-male agitprop, soon discarded by other fake males who would point to it and say “see, we tried to have a conservative show, but nobody liked it.” Instead, Mr. Allen has, through fortitude and wit (and with the help of a fine supporting cast including Hector Elizondo as his crotchety senior partner and Jonathan Adams as a hilariously deadpan, self-assured black neighbor) has made a show that is not really conservative, but is often hilarious in its political incorrectness.
The setup of the show seems aimed directly at (or against) Mike’s masculinity. Mike Baxter has been off travelling for his job, doing manly things in various jungles while his wife raised his three daughters. Coming home, this formerly absent man’s man must acclimate to a family that includes one daughter who is a single mother, another daughter who is an air-headed tramp, and a youngest daughter whom he has forced into the role of a son and has sadly taken to it, even playing on the football team and setting her sites on a career in the army. Oh, and his father runs a (legal) marijuana store.
Readers of this webmagazine no doubt see where this was intended to go: bad, troglodyte father gets his righteous comeuppance from the strong women who managed just fine without him and now will enlighten, or at least humiliate him for failing to be ashamed of the testosterone in his system. Again, after some false starts, a pattern emerged in the show according to which Mike works to steer his family back onto a better path with humor, firmness, and the occasional “psy-op” such as (somewhat) subtly moving his second daughter’s clueless but religiously-grounded boyfriend into putting off sexual relations.
The results are hardly Father Knows Best. Mike continues to gleefully masculinize his youngest daughter, fornication is often central to the show, and the character of Mike’s wife (played by Nancy Travis, who can be very funny) is drawn to be an inconsistent mess. Still, over time (and television seasons) the show has shown some genuine progress toward a greater moral centeredness.
The point of this show, or at least the point of watching it for any vaguely conservative person in the audience, is to watch Tim Allen mock the left. Guest appearances from the “Duck Dynasty” guys and the humiliation of daughter number one’s baby daddy (a Canadian-vegan-atheist-socialist wimp) are refreshingly retrograde. Mr. Allen also has become braver, even making a point of showing the family go to church and say grace before dinner. And, with very few exceptions, every show includes a “v-blog” in which Mike cuts loose, using video sight gags and sarcasm to skewer leftwing pieties and argue some point, such as the need for self-reliance or fatherly responsibility, that should be self-evident, but no longer is.
It is sad that bourbon, Bibles, and bullets have become countercultural. Thank goodness that Tim Allen is so good at playing today’s Social Justice Warriors’ greatest nightmare: a successful man who really could not care less what they think of him.
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