Category: ted wheeler

Karen: Ted, do you think we talk about our relationship enough?

Ted: Yeah. Are we having chicken for dinner.

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Do you think there's a possibility that Ted and Karen will divorce in season 3? Their marriage is has basically devolved into a loveless arrangement at this point. They only seem committed to continuing it to preserve the image of a perfect nuclear family, and in Karen's case to stay financially solvent while being able to keep her job as a stay-at-home mother. (Which, for the record, I do think she truly enjoys. Her children are her heart, even if she has trouble expressing that to them.)

Depends on where they go with the story, something like that would take up quite a bit of time and would affect Nancy and Mike quite a bit. I think with the inclusion of the Billy and Karen scene last season it’s definitely a strong possibility that they go down that path next season. I agree they definitely have a loveless marriage and I would love to see a plot focused on how that has affected their children, Mike especially, so even if we don’t get a massive divorce plot I think we’ll definitely see their marriage crack a bit more or have a greater focus on the Wheeler’s dysfunction.

Ted: This isn’t how I raised you.
Mike: Funny, I wasn’t aware you raised me at all.

My hot take on Karen is this: The Wheelers remind me of a family I’m close to who aren’t even conservatives or anything but have this picture post card vision of what a family is and that involves a lot of gendered activities, so father son bonding and mother daughter stuff, we see Karen is much more in Nancy’s business and trying to get Ted to “deal” with Mike but he doesn’t fit and Ted is lazy so Mike kinda falls through the cracks

Yeah I definitely think strict gender roles play a big role in the Wheeler family dynamic, I mentioned it before here and here. Nancy definitely fits (at the beginning of season 1) is more stereotypically feminine so Karen has a much easier time connecting with her and understanding her perspective and although Karen isn’t perfect she’s willing to put in a lot more effort to communicate with her kids even if she does this in rather ineffective ways.

Mike on the other hand doesn’t fit into the strict gender roles of the 1980′s, not only with his interests but with the way he views his relationships, expresses himself and interacts with others. All of this combined with Ted’s indifference towards him and unwillingness to try and communicate with Mike in a way that isn’t scolding or condescending and insincere has created the closed off and lonely Mike we see in season 2. The idea of toxic masculinity is more overtly explored in Steve and Billy but I think Mike as a character illustrates how being unable to talk about his feelings or have a safe place to express himself has severely eroded his mental health and lead him to unhealthy coping mechanisms that isolate him further from the people who could actually help. We see in season 1 how Ted immediately shuts down Mike and shows no willingness to actually communicate with him. This has lead to Mike feeling alienated from his family and when Karen actually tries to connect with him it doesn’t work because through his dad he’s learned that his parents aren’t a viable option for expressing himself so he’s obviously not going to talk to his mother. Being constantly invalidated, scolded or ignored just for having emotions especially when Mike was dealing with so much grief and guilt pushed him to close of from everyone, including his friends because through learned behaviour he thinks that’s the only acceptable thing to do. Although Ted’s emotional absence didn’t have obvious effects in season 1, In season 2 we see Mike, unlike the other boys wasn’t equipped with the emotional tools to reach out to the people around him and certainly didn’t have the same kind of established family support systems that the others did. The perpetuation of toxic gender norms don’t just result in the bullying from Steve in season 1 or misogyny from Billy in season 2, they create a social environment where men are discouraged from sharing their emotional burdens, exacerbating and further stigmatising mental health issues.

Dad calls her whore but I like to call her mom.

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So I have an aunt and uncle (well two sets that are like this) that remind me of the Wheelers they have a son and a daughter, and the girl was mom’s kid her responsibility, and the boy was dad’s kid and he’d take the lead on things. But Ted is lazy and Mike isn’t a boyish boy so Ted doesn’t relate to him or try to and His mom sees it as Ted’s job to deal with Mike

Yeah, Nancy and karen actually have things in common and she actually tries, where as Ted puts in no effort to connect with Mike on his level. You see Joyce taking an active interest in Will’s drawings and his D&D character but neither Karen or ted ever try to understand him. You can especially see the disconnect between Ted and Mike with his sports metaphor in season 2, as though that would relate to Mike at all.

Following on from the middle child anon – it may be a gender thing, my sister who’s the middle child was spoilt a lot more because she was the middle of 5 sisters, Karen would possibly relate more to mike if he was girl, maybe she expects that ted is relating and talking to him alone, could’ve promised him not to tell anyone that sort of thing

Yeah I agree, I definitely think that would be a part of the Wheeler dynamic, considering their attempts to live as the perfect nuclear family. We definitely see in season 1 Karen takes more of an active roll with Nancy, confronting her about Steve and arguing with her, while with Mike she’s far less confrontational and waits for him to come to them (possibly because she doesn’t feel confident in trying to connect with him and get him to open up), Ted is the one who offers to talk to him. She has far more in common with Nancy and probably feels more comfortable trying to connect with her, while Ted is just as emotionally closed off to Mike as he is everyone else, so I presume Mike really gets the short end of the stick when it comes to parental support.