‘Work In Progress’ Season 1 Episode 1 exposes us to what being a ‘Pat’ is like
Showtime’s latest dark comedy about a 45-year old lesbian revisits the famous SNL character Pat and tells us why and how Pat’s androgyny affected women like Abby.
It is always interesting to see partly fictionalized versions of real-life people on screen because it brings us up close to characters, we otherwise don’t get a chance to meet in life. Showtime’s newest comedy series, ‘Work In Progress’, is one such show that is going to take us through Abby McEnany’s journey as a lesbian. While that might be her real self to some extent, which we are yet to discover, that is not really what we took away from the premiere. As the show opens and introduces us to Abby, or, as she defines herself, “a 45-year old, fat, queer dyke, who has not done s*** in her life”, we have much greater revelations of how life would have been for her.
A character from a 30-year-old television show comes to life in course of Abby’s journey. In the 90s, actor and comedian Julia Sweeney created a sketch for Saturday Night Live, using a character that became immensely popular. Pat, an androgynous geek, whose identity was not only confusing to the onlookers but also to Pat, to a certain extent, was the heart of Julia’s sketches for years. The socially awkward but a good-hearted individual became synonymous with ‘confused sexuality’. But as society tends to go, Pat also became identifiable with a lesbian dressed as a man or the other way round.
As she says in one of the scenes, while explaining her experience after watching Julia Sweeney, “Julia Sweeney’s Pat made my life a living hell.” Then we see in a flashback from 1995, when Abby, dressed in overall (very much like Pat), walks into a house party and a man points out at her saying, “Oh, Pat’s here.”
Consider being in the 90s, when alternative sexuality was nothing short of being a ‘queer’ or an ‘outcast’. And Pat kind of reinstated the thought all the more. Although it was a comical representation of a person who genuinely is confused, it ended up creating an ugly side effect for those who were struggling with their identity in a way. Abby McEnany was one of them, or as she mentions in ‘Work In Progress’.
In course of time, being a ‘Pat’ meant nothing more than derogatory in a cultural connotation, referring to someone with unfamiliar expressions of gender or sexuality. And in her younger years, Abby, as she recollects, has been called a ‘Pat’ for appearing quite similar to the famous SNL character. Whether it was the way she dressed (in overalls, thick glasses, and short hair) akin to Julia Sweeney’s sketch, or it was because she was lesbian, is still a subject of discussion or debate.
For years, ‘Pat’ has dehumanized lesbians, especially those who prefer to dress as men. Although we have evolved in the last 30 years, since the sketch was created and made popular, there are still a lot of clichés surrounding lesbians. And Abby McEnany lays it all out in her first-ever television series. Now, should the creators of ‘Pat’ be blamed for making the character a ‘thing’ and not really a ‘human’ that the audience can associate with? Perhaps not. And perhaps, it is better that it remained where it did so we could learn sitting in 2019, what a 30-year old popular comic character had affected the lives of women like Abby.
Despite Pat being a famous TV character, many, especially people of the current generation, might be unaware of its impact on people and it is a great revelation to see Abby McEnany bring those points into light of today’s time. As the show promises, we can only expect more such significant social scenarios to come to light, albeit in a satirical, humorous manner and walk us through the journey of 40-year old lesbians who have struggled their ways through the early years of coming out.
‘Work In Progress’ airs every Sunday at 11pm only on Showtime.