What I Learned By Watching Three Seasons of The League in a Depressive Stupor

I came down with an unidentifiable viral infection after stepping off of a plane from Atlanta approximately three weeks ago. I always tend to get sick after I fly; my first experience with severe strep throat (which arrived at the inconvenient time of the spring of my junior year, where I was forced to miss two out of the three total showings of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—I would eventually go on to reprise my esteemed role of Mote, the smallest role in the goddamn show, for the closing performance) arrived after awaiting a delayed red-eye flight in the Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport for five hours straight and a ravaging of chicken pox at age seventeen eerily occurred a week after I boarded a plane back to Orlando. I knew immediately that I would contract something on this flight, and when I came down with a sore throat a day after arriving home, I visited my doctor and heeded my diagnosis—he had no clue what I had or why it was afflicting me. He stated that although my symptoms were exemplary of a viral infection, he was fumbling around in the dark to give it a specific name. Unable to prescribe me anything to alleviate the symptoms, he lightly suggested a quarantine and confined me to bedrest.

I am an incredibly antsy person. I treasure idleness and solitude, but I am physically unable to stay in one place for more than an hour at a time. Oddly enough, being confined to my bedroom was a death-sentence. I was unable to—or, at least, I convinced myself that I was—read or write or piece together coherent thoughts due to a splitting headache, so the only activity that I was able to endure was to stare at my computer screen long enough for me to physically burn a hole through my retinas.

I have a surprisingly short attention span. I am physically unable to sit still and watch the same movie for more than an hour at a time. Sofia Coppola movies are the fucking worst for this exact reason. Because of this, I prefer watching thirty-minute long comedic shows that have no central plotline—It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Workaholics, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are all shining beacons of hope in my brain.

Being that I’d exhausted Netflix’s small selection of sitcoms and Hulu’s deletion of The Kroll Show ruined my entire week, The League, a bro-comedy focused on the characters’ collective fondness of fantasy football with ignorable sexist undertones (the only female character worth caring about is the literal embodiment of the Cool Girl monologue), was the only option that appealed to my trash culture-craving brain. Between gorging on watered-down chicken broth, intaking an arsenal of medication (Zyrtec-amoxicillin- minocycline-AirBorne-Tylenol-zinc tablet-amoxicillin-Echinacea-Tylenol-minocycline), and falling in-and-out of sleep every three hours, I needed something to enlighten the depressive stupor that I was briefly engrossed in.

I’d tell you that I started watching it because of my gross love for Nick Kroll and Mark Duplass, but I truly started watching it because Stan Halen referenced it in an episode of Workaholics.

The League is kind-of like the John Mayer of television. You truly can’t stand it and hate the messages it perpetuates, but you can’t tear your eyes away or force yourself to stop watching. I fucking hate The League. I really do. It’s the worst. But even though I couldn’t be more disinterested in football, I continue to watch it because it’s the perfect television show to tune-out to; when it’s eleven at night and you’re trying to shut off your brain from stressing out about irrelevant chores, there’s nothing better to clear your head than to half-pay attention to something quick-witted and soulless while you’re scrolling through slime accounts on Instagram.

I spent three days attempting to understand the untranslatable sports terminology they exclusively spoke in and tolerating the near-insufferable Taco (for the love of God, someone please tell me why the producers thought that his character would be a comedic relief; I’d rather die than to pretend like I find his puerile Dumb and Dumber To performance amusing). I know that using the term “loss of brain cells” is trite and dull, but there is no other way I am able to express how I felt after watching three consecutive seasons of the show.

Here are five things I learned while hate-watching The League with a 100.4 fever:

The Worst Thing I Can Possibly Think of Is To Be a Man Whose Sole Fear is to be Emasculated

The avoidance of emasculation is one of the main themes that frequents The League. To be fair, it’s hard to circumvent the topic of emasculation in a television show that attempts to humor fantasy football and the novelty of a group of male friends. Each character’s burning fear of being seen as effeminate is expressed in not only a humorous way, but in a literal way; every other episode involves at least one of the characters managing to escape humiliation at the hands of their own friends (aside from Andre, who remains the object of the group’s comedown).

Their constant preoccupation and fascination with trying to be seen as the most virile one in the group is so arbitrary to me. I know the fragile-masculinity! discourse has been exhausted on every politically-correct platform known to man, but I’d hate to be so concerned with my own identity that I feel compelled to constantly affirm my own masculinity. It seems so tiring. I’d hate to have a day-job as a litigator just to come home to a bunch of sweaty, disgusting fantasy football-loving friends drinking beer in your living room with a DIRECTV remote lodged up their assholes. Is this what men willingly do in their free time? My lack of first-hand experience leads me to believe so.

Just as men (and their voyeur counterparts) like to fantasize that women have topless pillow fights and sultry midnight orgies during innocuous sleepovers, I like to imagine that a collective gathering of testosterone-jacked men results in a cloud of putrid-smelling horror; the thought of five 30-something men sitting in front of a television with an open box of pizza rotting in front of them conjures up images of bearded men trying to convince me that On the Road is the peak of American literature, Eminem fans mansplaining fucking anything, beer stains on my leather Chanel wallet, and fast-food restaurant playgrounds. Taco’s plotline in the two-nut Chuck episode perfectly exemplifies this; his own spin on the season of Lent—understandably named Taco-Lent—is to completely eradicate natural food from his diet (“I consume nothing natural—no fruit, no vegetables, no water, not even any booze. I only eat Slim Jims, gummy worms, artificial sweetener packets, expired candy canes, and Mexican soda.”), which eventually deteriorates his physical health and results in a breakout of hives all over his body. This leads me to believe that all men abide by this diet. 

I can only imagine that an unending desire to remain the dominant male is the literal personification of this tweet:

Nick Kroll Has Really Cute Teeth

Have you ever looked at someone and were unable to pinpoint the exact feature that made them appear conventionally attractive? It took me a while to figure out why I had a gross-crush on Kevin Spacey; it’s that whole power-and-control-pigeonhole thing he has perpetuated for years combined with the familiarity of his cratered skin that remotely reminds me of all of the Italian men in mobster movies that I have grown up to know as personally as members of my own family (Tony Soprano might as well have a seat at my dinner table). The same thing happened to me with Kieran Culkin, the object of my preteen affection for two years straight, and Michael Cera—and Seth Rogen—and the lead singer of Two Door Cinema Club.

There was something about Nick Kroll that was oddly appealing to me. He’s not a bad looking guy, but he does not have any sort of resemblance to other men that I have previously had gross-crushes on. It took me awhile to recognize what exactly was fascinating me, but it took two full seasons to realize that it was his unaligned teeth. Not even his smile. His actual teeth.

It’s like Andy Samberg’s teeth. As a fellow gap-toothed alum, there’s something endearing about seeing an actor an unaligned mouth. It’s humbling. Celebrities, they’re just like us!

You know how looking at a celebrity with a similar body-type affirms your self-confidence? Just as the men in The League complained about Jenny’s vaginal hubris, Nick Kroll affirms and encourages my tooth hubris.

Gillian Flynn Was Ahead of the Game When Writing That Cool Girl Monologue

The only two female characters with enough screen time to be considered actual round characters are, by nature, subjected to the roles of nuisances and wives. Although Jenny, Kevin’s manicpixiedreamwife, is a member of the eight-person league, half of her plotlines are centered around her constant struggle to be validated by the men in the league (with Kevin even exclaiming that Jenny ‘’is not a girl!’’ in the middle of an argument with Pete; Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they?). She is the polar-opposite of Sofia, Ruxin’s amorous wife, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her husband’s preoccupation with fantasy football.

In the world that the men in the league live in, there are only two types of women worth giving their attention to: the Cool Girl and the plaything. Jenny’s character is entirely constructed from the ubiquitous Cool Girl stereotype that cannot be avoided in entertainment marketed towards men.

Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang band while somehow maintaining a size 2…

Jenny’s autonomous I’m-not-like-other-wives trait is completely shoved down your throat; she drinks beer, unashamedly consumes junk food, openly discusses her sex-life, dismantles her husband’s draft lineup, tolerates the league’s offensive and misogynist quips, and withstands her husband’s disgusting bachelor habits. She’s not jealous, catty, possessive, or clingy, unlike Sofia, who spends the better-half of her screen time averting her husband’s attention from his fantasy football team to their relationship. She’s one of the boys.

…because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Most importantly, she’s skinny, but she doesn’t seem to know it; she dresses appropriately enough to where her body isn’t directly objectified by her league-mates, but her figure is conveniently unhidden by tighter shirts and jeans (once again, unlike Sofia, who seems to exist only in tight, revealing clothing). She’s hot, but she doesn’t exist in the same shade of attraction that Sofia swims in; it is made known that Jenny’s character is miles away from fuckability, but humble enough to know her place as a sex symbol.

While the men are free to be as disgusting as possible—Kevin literally behaving like an ape in The Tailgate, Ruxin sexualizing a teenage au pair, Taco’s entire character arc—, the women continue to maintain their effortlessly sexy look (in regards to his wife, Ruxin declares that “she looks like she belongs on a beer poster and I look like the guy who makes you answer riddles before you cross a bridge.”). Ruxin’s wife seems to exist for only two distinct purposes: to be ogled and to get in the way of Ruxin’s league. She’s not a Cool Girl; in fact, she’s anti-Cool Girl. Sofia is the Spicy Latina Girl—with her ethnicity being treated as a novelty instead of an identity; she’s the Nagging Housewife, constantly castigating and badgering Ruxin with demands; she’s the Bimbo-Trophy Wife, younger, less successful, and more attractive than her wealthy husband.

I don’t watch television to specifically feel victimized, but it’s difficult to ignore the novelty of the female stereotypes that are blatantly exhausted within the show’s runtime. 

I Think I’m Attracted to Scumbags

Staring at three (excluding Andre, naturally, and Taco, because he is the worst fictional character ever written into sitcom television) uncivilized, virile, and obnoxious pricks with a super-charged libido argue over ownership of a rusting trophy emblazoned with the yearbook photo of an old flame they went to high school with for more than three hours a day takes a toll on your system. It starts warping your self-awareness, your self-regard, self-pride, and the respect you uphold for yourself and everyone around you.

You know something is wrong when you look at Pete sprawled out on Kevin’s couch with a beer in his hand, cock your head, and say alright, I can see it. Something’s changing in your system. You’re coming down with something—a sickness. A tolerance for middle-aged white mediocrity.

If the men inside of The League existed in another realm, they’d be in a band like FIDLAR—just homely enough to create an illusion of charm, yet boorish enough to remind you that there’s a blatant reason behind their inability to land a spot on any Top 20 Sexiest Musicians Alive lists.

Coming to terms with my mortifying attraction to more than one character from The League is not quite rock-bottom. Yet, I fear for my own common sense and rationality. Am I destined to settle down with someone like them? Did God intend me to marry a barbaric fantasy-football fan with early-onset diabetes and an inability to feel empathy? Am I the Cool Girl for not finding this to be abhorrent?

I Can’t Wait to Marry a Normie

The idea of settling down with someone unconcerned with securing a salaried writing job, their next tattoo, or the new Golf drop is the sweetest thought I have contemplated all week. Even though the men on The League are near-inhuman, some of their efforts are endearing. Forged in high school, their friendship is intimate, unending, and enviable. Kevin’s marriage seems to be the pinnacle of marital contentment; whether it be his friendly competition with Jenny to beat her to the Shiva Bowl or their mutual tolerance of each other’s mischief, there’s a fleeting sense of wholesomeness in their relationship.

It’s nice. I covet their boring lives.

 

I mean—they all have health insurance and probably have good credit. They can afford the DIRECTV NFL Sunday Ticket package and a subscription to HBO. They’re one-fifth of the way to their 401K and live in mid-sized suburban townhouses. Their ideal of contentment—sitting in front of a television for more than three hours on a Sunday afternoon with a stomach warm with takeout and their voicemail boxes empty—is a shade of mediocrity, but it’s suburban luxury. Middle-class affluence.

Hanging out at a sports bar on Friday nights doesn’t sound that insufferable. Neither does naming your children after movie characters, paying for couples cruises, date nights at Applebee’s, watching Big Brother over half-melted Sonic milkshakes, watching concerts from the balcony, quoting The Office, fighting over which channel you should switch to during the commercial breaks of Storage Wars, and leasing Honda Civics. My life would be a lot less stressful if my biggest concern was whether or not my fantasy team made it to the playoffs.

 

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