Treatment of Circumcision on TV

Circumcision ... appears frequently in television sitcoms.... [I]t is reasonably safe to say that whenever circumcision is discussed ... the defining motif is uneasiness.

- Leonard Glick,
Marked in Your Flesh, p241

It happens remarkably often. You'd think a circumcision episode was obligatory.

The stories convey some interesting underlying themes/myths:

  • "If circumcision of a baby is discussed, baby will be circumcised." (Ari [Zighelboim]'s Law).
  • "The foreskin is disgusting." (In "Marked in Your Flesh" Leonard Glick traces this view back to Jewish reactions to Christian polemic against circumcision in the second and third century C.E.)
  • "Anyone may be as insulting as they like about the foreskin or the man who has one. They have no feelings or rights."
  • "American gentiles are not routinely circumcised: Jews circumcise - and gentile men who want to marry Jewish women." (Judaism specifically forbids converting in order to marry a Jew, but that is never mentioned. Other Jewish rules concerning circumcision are also ignored - because the Jewishness of circumcision on TV is only a plot device - a deus ex machina - to explain and justify the otherwise inexplicable American circumcision.)
  • "Circumcision is highly controversial and (paradoxically) no big deal."
  • "Circumcision is safe, quick, painless, and beneficial."
  • "Circumcision is harder on the parents than the baby."

Foreskin restoration is a recent element. It is always presented as surgery. (When non-surgical restoration enters sitcoms the comedy will doubtless be based on the public and noisy loss of huge weights, shaming the restoring man and convincing him that restoration is foolish.)

Game and Talk Shows
Game shows generally refer only to Jewish circumcision.
Talk shows promote circumcision through ignorance and misinformation.


A - M

21 Up (UK)
2 Broke Girls
30 Rock
According to Jim
All In The Family
Al Shatat (Syria)
American Dad
Aqua Teen Hungerforce
Arrested Development
Asylum (UK)
Being Erica
Bethenny Getting Married
The Big Bang Theory
The Big C
Big Love
Bob Paterson
Caroline in the City
Casualty (UK)
Chicago Hope
Children's Hospital
Circumcized [sic] Cinema
Comedy Inc.
Cougar Town
The Crazy Ones
The Critic
Crossing Jordan
Dawson's Creek
The Deep End
Desperate Housewives
Dharma and Greg
The Drew Carey Show
The Drinky Crow Show
Early Edition
EastEnders (UK)
The Family Guy
Farscape (UK)
Five Days (UK)
Freaks and Geeks
Friday Nigh Dinner (UK)
Game On (UK)
Give my Head Peace (UK)
Go Girls (NZ)
The Good Wife
Grosse Pointe
Help Me Help You
Home Improvement
Herman's Head
Judging Amy
Kids in the Hall
The King of Queens
King of the Hill
The Kumars at No. 42 (UK)
Kyle XY
Ladies' Man
Law and Order: SVU
The League
Living in Captivity
Married with Children
Masters of sex
My Name is Earl
My Wife & Kids
Mystery Science Theater

N - R

The Nanny
New Girl
Night and Day
Northern Exposure
The Oblongs
Off Centre
The Office (US)
Offspring (Australia)
Parks and Recreation
The Practice
Queer as Folk (UK)
Quantum Leap
Queer as Folk (US)
Raising Hope
Real World
Red Dwarf (UK)

S - Z

Scott & Bailey (UK)
7th Heaven
Sex and the City
Shameless (US)
Shortland Street (NZ)
The Simple Life
The Simpsons (Krusty, Itchy & Scratchy)
The Simpsons (the V. E. T.)
The Simpsons (Bart's first communion)
The Simpsons (They Saved Lisa's Brain)
The Simpsons (Labor Pains)
Six Feet Under
South Park
St Elsewhere (UK)
Stargate SG1
Strangers With Candy
Strong Medicine
30 Rock
Till Death Us Do Part (UK)
'Til Death
21 Up (UK)
2 Broke Girls
Ugly Americans
The Venture Brothers
Waiting for the Boatman (UK radio)
Waking the Dead (UK)
The War at Home
The Wayans Brothers
Will & Grace

(Three hypotheticals)
The X-Files
The Simpsons

Game and Talk Shows

@ Midnight with Chris Hardwick
60 Minutes (NZ)
78th Academy Awards (2006)
Ace of Cakes
America or Busted
Attack of the Show
America's Funniest Home Videos
Big Brother
A Big Steaming Pile of ME
Blind Date
Blue Collar TV
Brand X
Chelsea Lately
Comedy Central
The Daily Show
Embarassing Illnesses (UK)
Extreme Male Beauty (UK)
The Graham Norton Show
Inside Out (UK)
The Joan and Melissa Rivers Show
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
Late Night with Conan O'Brian
The Late Show with David Letterman
Live at the Apollo (BBC)
Man and Wife
Mario Lopez: Saved by the Baby
Mischief (BBC)
My Penis and Everyone Else's (BBC)
My Penis and I (BBC)
Penn & Teller: Bullshˇt
The Pickup Artist
Politically Incorrect
The Quest for the Holy Foreskin
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Real Time with Bill Maher
Rich Girls
Saturday Night Live
The Soup
Sticky Moments (UK)
Sylvania Waters (Australia)
The Tonight Show
Whose Line Is It, Anyway?
V. Graham Norton


(Additional contributions are welcome. email me.)

Related pages:

  • "That Thing" - portrayal of the foreskin and circumcision in popular media
  • Circumcision in the movies

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