Adam Ruins Sitcoms

Jan 15 2019

In this episode, Adam tackles classic television stereotypes, from the racism behind public pools, to the “model minority” myth of Asian Americans, to the on-screen toxic masculinity that’s masking the problems young men face today. Here are his sources.


“But they were mostly in white neighborhoods, and up until 1964, Southern segregation laws barred black swimmers from using white pools.”

Jeff Wiltse. “The Black-White Swimming Disparity in America: A Deadly Legacy of Swimming Pool Discrimination.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 38.4 (2014).

“But mostly, white people thought black men couldn’t control their sexual appetites around white women.”

Jeff Wiltse. Contested Waters. University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

“According to slice intelligence, Americans spend almost half their online dollars on Amazon.”

Eugene Kim. “More than half of online sales growth in the US came from Amazon last year.Business Insider, 2 Feb 2017.

“Even though the North had no official segregation laws, cities like Pittsburgh actually encouraged beating up black swimmers, and looked the other way when white citizens posted armed guards at pools!”

Racial History of American Swimming Pools,” The Bryant Park Project. NPR, 6 May 2008.

“And since black people weren’t welcome in the public pools, their only swimming options were unsafe rivers, lakes, and canals.”

Brentin Mock. “How African Americans beat one of the most racist institutions: The swimming pool.” Grist, 28 May 2014.

“And when brave Civil Rights activists fought back with ‘swim-ins,’ they were met with angry white mobs who would beat them, or even throw acid in the pools.”

Remembering A Civil Rights Swim-In: 'It Was A Milestone'.” NPR, 13 Jun 2014.

“Or, just let the funding dry up once more black people started using them.”

Rose Hackman. “Swimming While Black: the legacy of segregated public pools lives on.” The Guardian, 4 Aug 2015.

“70% of black Americans don’t know how to swim.”

USA Swimming Foundation Announces 5-10 Percent Increase in Swimming Ability Among U.S. Children.” USA Swimming Foundation, 13 Jul 2017.

“And according to the CDC, black 11-year-olds are 10 times more likely to drown than white 11-year-olds.”

Gilchrist and Parker. “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Fatal Unintentional Drowning Among Persons Aged ≤29 Years — United States, 1999–2010.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 May 2014.

“And as a result, in the early years of the NBA, the league was dominated by Jewish players!”

Gene Demby. “How Stereotypes Explain Everything And Nothing At All.Code Switch. NPR, 8 Apr 2014.


'Ossie' Schectman dies; scored NBA's first basket. ” National Basketball Association, 30 Jul 2013.

“It must be because of your naturally scheming mind, flashy trickiness, artful dodging, and general smart alecness.”

Gene Demby. “How Stereotypes Explain Everything And Nothing At All.Code Switch. NPR, 8 Apr 2014.

“But as Jewish people were permitted to assimilate into white culture and moved out of the cities, more black people started moving in and playing basketball instead.”

Ogden and Hilt. “Collective Identity and Basketball: An Explanation for the Decreasing Baseball Diamonds.Journal of Leisure Research 35.2 (2003).

“In the mid-1800s, Americans were so hostile towards Chinese people, we had a law banning Chinese immigrants.”

The Chinese Exclusion Act.American Experience. PBS, 29 May 2018.

“They were barely considered human -- instead, they were stereotyped as a lazy, opium addicted, menacing horde dubbed, ‘the yellow peril.’”

Rhoda J. Yen. “Racial Stereotyping of Asians and Asian Americans and Its Effect on Criminal Justice: A Reflection on the Wayne Lo Case.Asian American Law Journal 7.1 (2000).

“Because of anti-Asian racism, the United States interned Japanese people in concentration camps in WWII.”

T.A. Frail. “The Injustice of Japanese-American Internment Camps Resonates Strongly to This Day.” Smithsonian Magazine, Jan 2017.

“Because they’re white.”

Japanese Americans.The War. PBS, 2007.

“See, as the Soviet Union rose to power, America was afraid the Soviets’ anti-capitalist propaganda was making communism sound prret-ty... prrrre-tty nice!”

Julia Ioffe. ”The History of Russian Involvement in America's Race Wars.The Atlantic. 21 Oct 2017.

“The State Department highlighted Asian American artists, politicians, and even sent an all-Asian-American basketball team on tour overseas!”

Ellen D. Wu. Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority. Princeton University Press, 2015.

“And in 1965, just 22 years after the ban on Chinese immigration was lifted, the national immigration act started giving preference to immigrants from Asian countries -- but, only the wealthiest and most educated.”

Kat Chow. “'Model Minority' Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks.” NPR, 19 Apr 2017.

“Wait -- according to my calculations, if you select only those immigrants who are already educated and successful, it is most probable that those people would be educated and  successful once they”

Dora Mekouar. “Why Asian Americans Are the Most Educated Group in America.Voice of America, 11 Apr 2016.

“The claims in the report were even used to argue against civil rights.”

Ellen D. Wu. “Asian Americans and the ‘model minority’ myth.Los Angeles Times, 23 Jan 2014.

“Asia is the world’s largest continent, home to 60% of the world’s population, and thousands of different languages and cultures.”

Population.” United Nations, accessed 1 Aug 2018.

“According to the most recent data, on average American men die 5 years earlier than women.”

Warraich and Califf. “Men still die before women. Is toxic masculinity to blame?The Guardian, 26 Jun 2017.

“It’s actually because men are 3.9 times more likely to experience accidental death, and the leading causes are behaviors celebrated as masculine, such as drinking and careless driving.”

Susan B. Sorenson. “Gender Disparities in Injury Mortality: Consistent, Persistent, and Larger Than You'd Think.American Journal of Public Health 101.1 (2011).

“Alcohol and cigarette ads disproportionately target men with the idea that drinking and smoking is manly.”

National Cancer Institute. “Monograph 19: Monograph 19: The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use.” National Institutes of Health, Aug 2008.

“Just calling to let you know that men are twice as likely as women to wait over two years between doctors’ visits, and 25% of men say they’d handle a serious health issue by stalling as long as possible before seeking treatment.”

Summary of Health Statistics: National Health Interview Survey.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014.

David Sandman, Elisabeth Simantov, and Christina An. “Out of Touch: American Men and the Health Care System.” The Commonwealth Fund, Mar 2000.

“But studies have shown that men actually fare better physically and mentally when the financial and care-taking responsibilities are shared in a relationship.”

Being the primary breadwinner is bad for men's psychological well-being and health.” EurekAlert! American Sociological Association, 19 Aug 2016.

“Studies show that on average, couples with a female breadwinner actually report being happier.”

Elissa Strauss. “Husbands Who Have Wives Who Outearn Them Are Happier Than Those Who Don't.Slate, 22 Aug 2016.

“Well, studies have shown that boys feel pressure to abandon intimate male friendships as they get older, because they grow self-conscious about how that’s not how men are “supposed” to behave.”

Niobe Way. “The friendship crisis: Why are boys so lonely and violent?Washington Post, 13 Jun 2014.

“Studies show that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Jena McGregor. “This former surgeon general says there’s a ‘loneliness epidemic’ and work is partly to blame.Washington Post. 4 Oct 2017.

“It turns out, having strong social connections is just as important as eating right and exercising, especially when it comes to lowering risk for heart disease and cancer.”

Guys, We Have a Problem: How American Masculinity Creates Lonely Men.Hidden Brain. NPR, 19 Mar 2018.

“But, only 9 percent of men report feeling like they’re able to rely on friends for support.”

“Mars vs. Venus: The gender gap in health.” Harvard Men’s Health Watch. Harvard Medical School, Jan 2010.

“Experts believe toxic masculinity may be a root cause of why some men end up lashing out and hurting others, through psychological aggression, sexual assault, domestic violence, and even mass shooting.”

Katheryn Farr. “Adolescent Rampage School Shootings: Responses to Failing Masculinity Performances by Already-Troubled Boys.Gender Issues 35.2 (2017).

Laura Kiesel. “Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Mass Shootings; Blame Men.” Politico, 17 Jan 2018.

“When the CDC conducted an anonymous survey, they found that men and women both claim to have experienced some form of sexual violence at roughly equal rates.” 

Lara Stemple and Ilan H. Meyer. “The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions.American Journal of Public Health 104.6 (2014).

“But it used to be so popular, Bob Hope, Mae West and even Judy Garland did it!”

Kliph Nesteroff. The Comedians: Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy. Grove Press, 2016.


For More On This Topic

This video produced by The Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture explores the role that the fight to desegregate swimming pools played within the larger political fight for civil rights.

The Color of Success by our expert Ellen Wu is a deep dive into the history and purpose of the model minority myth, and how it’s been perpetrated in the past and present.

This essay from The Walrus delves into the men’s loneliness epidemic.