Will and Grace was (and now is again, because we’re out of ideas as a culture) a show about a single Jewish woman (Debra Messing) and her gay best friend and roommate (Eric McCormack), as well as their two borderline insane friends Jack (Sean Hayes) and drunk socialite Karen (Megan Mullally). The two live an upper-middle class New York lifestyle, except that they have an apartment that Jeff Bezos probably couldn’t afford.
As this show was in the 90s, not the 50s, the gay aspects were more accepted, but it was still among the first mainstream shows with an openly gay lead character. By showing Will as being fairly normal for a sitcom lead, the show reminded the audience that, aside from who you date and how the toilet-seat argument works, gay people are basically the same as straight people (Shocker!!!!). However, as if to counter that, Will’s best friend Jack is every stereotype balled into one. My personal favorite stereotypical action was that he saw Mamma Mia on stage 11 times in 3 days. By giving both an “average” person, and a person who is outlandishly over the top, the show was saying that while some people will always fall within a certain stereotype, you can’t judge all the people in a group to be that way. So, good news kids, you’ve just seen a living example of how life works. Yay, learning… ish?
Many episodes of television have established the theme that our “parents” are personae adopted by normal people, or even very flawed people, once they have kids and try to pretend that they didn’t make all of the mistakes they did. If you have kids, you’ve done this to some extent, and you’re lying if you say otherwise. This episode combines that with the “coming out” episode. Inverting expectations, the one coming out is Jack, who at one point was described as “so flamboyant, flamingos ask him to turn it down a notch.” Despite his lifestyle, appearance, and almost all of his actions, including saying that “heterosexual marriage is wrong, because if God wanted straight people to marry, He’d have given them both penises,” Jack has never told his mother he was gay. In fact, he told her he’s been dating Grace… for years. Incidentally, this causes Karen to be upset that she didn’t get picked to be the fake girl (despite her being married to a high-profile businessman). Their interactions throughout the episode are excellent, but the main reason this episode makes it on the list is Jack’s mom, who is the stereotypical Susie Homemaker.
When she finds out her son is gay, Ms. McFarlane says A) it makes sense, B) she doesn’t care because it only matters that her son is happy and C) that she hadn’t assumed that he was gay, because her son can act however he wants, but the only thing that makes him gay is who he wants to date (Shocker!!!). After that, she has a confession of her own: the person who Jack thinks is his father isn’t. In fact, she doesn’t know who Jack’s father is, because he was conceived during a swinger’s party in the 60s. Despite her almost over-the-top wholesome appearance, she was pretty much the inspiration for Supertramp (this would later be copied in How I Met Your Mother the way I just copied this joke).
Ultimately, the episode reminds us that everyone acts a little different and more in line with the way we think society wants us to act when we’re dealing with people who we love and from whom we fear reproach. However, it also reminds us that it’s better to be yourself, even if you are a little slutty. Maybe especially if you’re a little slutty.
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Rather than one of the sentimental moments in the episode, here’s the last joke: