With season 14 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia over, let’s take a look back at a classic episode and its take on sexuality.
I chose season 4’s”Mac’s Banging the Waitress” because it’s a fairly unique episode of It’s Always Sunny. It features some pivotal moments for the characters. At the same time, it’s a relatively subtle episode where the gang barely engages in illegal activity — although Dennis (Glenn Howerton) has been filming his sexual escapades without his partners’ knowledge (which would definitely place him on shaky legal ground).
Also unique is that Frank (Danny DeVito) and Dee Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson) are nowhere to be seen! While their absence doesn’t absolutely improve the episode, it allows for more focus on Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis and Mac (Rob McElhenney). In many ways, this ends up being a “feel good” episode between them, albeit still very dysfunctional. Also, forgive me in advance for taking this episode too seriously, but it’s interesting to dissect it, especially in light of future season events.
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The story begins with Mac’s “Project Badass” tapes, providing deeper insight into Mac’s obsession with appearing tougher than he really is. There’s eventually tension between Mac and Charlie, however, because Mac saw him smashing the tape (or so he believes). To complicate things, Charlie calls Mac his “best friend” and asks him to beat up whoever’s sleeping with The Waitress (Mary Elizabeth Ellis ). The problem is, Mac potentially is that guy! This triggers an informal competition between Mac and Dennis over Charlie’s friendship. It’s interesting that it’s informal, too, as the gang often tries (and fails) to make things official.
Charlie’s drinking problem (and beyond)
When Dennis implies that Mac may be the one with The Waitress, Charlie’s alcoholism is enhanced. Instead of sharing the 24-pack with Mac, Charlie downs it himself, demonstrating his inability to cope with reality sober. In addition to the slurred speech and barely being able to stand, Charlie ultimately wets the bed (“Hey guys, if I’m peeing, wake me up.”). Of course, alcoholism has been a running gag throughout It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and here we see it being provoked by Dennis. In the darkened hall that is Dennis’s mind, he knew that such information would harm Charlie. Still, he knows that he can cynically nurture Charlie into depending on him (which actually ties into the later episode, “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System” (another classic from season 5!).
Mac isn’t quite off the hook, either. The fact that he wants to “bang” Charlie’s love interest over a silly tape is childish. At the same time, the point is not what specifically the object is, but that it means something to Mac. However, it turns out that Mac hasn’t even had sex with her yet and she’s mostly interested in finding and destroying Frank’s sex tape of her (the actual tape that Charlie destroyed).
Mac’s sexuality (and beyond)
Random conservative-leaning critics of It’s Always Sunny have scoffed at season 13 for being too “woke.” That was partly because Mac had a full episode devoted to his coming out of the closet. Not only did this episode include a big dance routine, but it was a relatively serious episode (though Frank and Rickety Cricket were responsible for plenty of laughs). However, these critics should look at this season 4 episode which strongly hints that Mac is either gay, bi or simply unsure of his sexuality. Not only does he not have sex with The Waitress but insists that she dresses up as a man in order to do it! He also gets flustered and says he just wants to get it over with. Does that sound like the most gung-ho, macho, heterosexual dude stalking the earth? Probably not.
While not everyone understands this situation, it’s one that was certainly faced by many closeted men over the years. On the one hand, they had to live a lie about who they are, which would be confusing. On the other, many of these men didn’t hate their wives, or their children, or every aspect of their lives. They were conflicted after being lied to for so many years and forced to lie to the world (and, in certain cases, to themselves. They were not “straight.” So this episode is a pretty heavy nod in that direction, although it’s not totally overt.
Sexuality is obviously a complex thing, as people can technically love each other even without a strong sexual connection. Not only are there straight people who eventually discover they’re bisexual, but there are gay people who learn they’re bi as well. Ultimately, the characters accept Mac regardless of his sexuality. This episode’s also about misunderstanding in platonic relationships. Although Charlie, Mac, and Dennis are bad for each other, they do care about each other. Similarly, Charlie cares about The Waitress and wants it to become a romantic thing, although his obsession would definitely be frowned upon in real life.
What are your thoughts on this classic It’s Always Sunny episode? Let us know in the comments!