Rob Lowe on TV shows today: ‘But what about the objectification of men?’


Before I read Rob Lowe’s GQ interview last week, it honestly never occurred to me that the man still had so many attitude issues. There’s a reason why he kept dropping out of TV shows over the years: he’s a douchebag who believes that he’s too good for the shows. Well, Lowe has a new interview with Vulture about his latest show, The Grinder, which I’m sure he’ll be leaving in two seasons (if the show gets a second season). Before reading these quotes, it’s important to know the premise of the show. Rob Lowe plays an actor on a hacky dramedy called The Grinder, only to quit the fictional show-within-a-show because he feels objectified, so he goes to his brother (Fred Savage), who is a lawyer, and Lowe then tries to impress everyone with his fake-lawyer skills. You can read the full Vulture piece here.

On the title of his new show, The Grinder: “News flash: We’re being funny on purpose. You can all rest easy. I also want to say, in a world of a show called The Leftovers, in a world of a show called Numb Threers [Numb Threers is CBS’s Numb3rs] , whatever the hell that show is called, do you really want to tell me The Grinder is the worst title you’ve ever heard? Really, you wanna go there? ‘Cause I will go there! Numb Threers. The Leftovers. No one wants leftovers! I love the people at HBO, and I love Justin Theroux. Terrible, horrible title! Cold leftovers! They wanna get in my face with Grinder?”

The premise of The Grinder is fine: “I understand where it comes from, but it does make me laugh — the chattering class goes on and on about the lack of original concepts. But then when they are faced with an original concept, they fret over how to sustain it. So you really can’t win. Should it be more banal and generic so you don’t worry about where we go? We can do that if you want.

The objectification of men: “We did a whole sequence of why he left The Grinder. And the reason he left is he felt objectified. People go on and on about the objectification of women, and rightly so. But what about the objectification of men? When was the last time you saw Grey’s Anatomy? So what I love about this show is these wry, insightful looks at contemporary culture in entertainment as seen through the eyes of a regular Idaho family because they have a conduit to it in my character.

He would do anything for a laugh: “Believe me, after the scene we did last night, I know I’ve left all my dignity at the altar of comedy. We did a scene where Jason Alexander, as the creator of the show within the show, wants me to take my shirt off one too many times. And I’m like, “I took my shirt off in the church sequence, I took my shirt off in the jury-deliberation sequence, do you think maybe we can do this Thanksgiving scene without me taking my shirt off?” He’s like, “Man, you’re the Grinder. You’re the sex symbol. Don’t overthink this. Give the people what they want.” And I very slowly and shamefully unbutton my shirt. And then he looks at me and I realize what he wants to see is nipple. It’s a parody of that great Irene Cara scene in Fame, which I’ve never forgotten. There’s nothing funnier than a sad, shameful stripper — when played by a man.

[From Vulture]

I’ll admit it, I did have to stop for a second and really wonder…are TV shows sexually objectifying men these days? Like, is it a rampant problem that needs to be dealt with? And I think the answer is no. Some of the Shondaland shows show beefcake, of course, but I tend to believe the male nudity/shirtlessness on TV today is usually in the context of female nudity. As in, a couple is getting naked together or it’s literally a tit-for-tat within certain scenes. So it’s not that there’s this rampant objectification of men, it’s that there are a handful of shows that objectify men just as much as women have been historically objectified on screen.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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49 Responses to “Rob Lowe on TV shows today: ‘But what about the objectification of men?’”

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  1. Christin says:

    So did a photographer just happen to be at the beach when he emerged with his wet t-shirt?

    Grow up, pretty boy.

  2. Susan says:

    Rob is at his funniest when he is skewering himself. I’m sure he will offend people with his comments and his show…but in the warm safe embrace (sarcasm) of anonymous comments I am going to confess….I LOVED THE SHOW! I really liked him on Parks and Rec and he’s even better on this. My husband and I were both cackling and we rarely do that, especially on a pilot episode.

    • Joy says:

      I adored him oh Parks and Rec.

    • lucy2 says:

      I’ve heard the show is really, really good. I plan on checking it out.
      I never liked him until Parks & Rec either, and even then not until his character explained why he was always so upbeat. The flu episode is when I was in 100% though.

      I get the impression he’s not the easiest guy to deal with IRL, but he does seem to be good in comedies.

  3. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I don’t think any human should be objectified, and I want to be fair. But a shirtless man is not viewed the same way as a shirtless woman. And frontal nudity or bottomless or whatever it’s called is much more frequent with women than men. I don’t know. Maybe this isn’t fair, but it feels a little fake.

    • bettyrose says:

      Look, if tv promoted a message that you have to look like Rob Lowe (not my type but conventionally accepted as attractive) to find happiness and love, that would be a negative message for awkward, geeky young men. But, nope, the Jesse Eisenbergs and Seth Rogans of the world continue to get the hot girls (in tv land).

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        So true. Remember the women who dated George on Seinfeld? That used to grate on my nerves so much.

      • lucy2 says:

        And Jerry, he was no great physical specimen either, yet had beautiful girlfriends all the time.

        And I agree that ideally no one should be objectified, men included, but given the history of humanity, women have had it far worse, and have all the other sexist issues to deal with on top of that.

      • Franca says:

        Or Kevin James and Leah Remini in King of Queens? The oposite of that would never ever happen on TV.

    • Otaku Fairy says:

      If by ‘objectify’ we’re going by the literal meaning of the word and not what it’s usually mistaken for (Sexual or sexually attractive isn’t what objectify means) then I agree, nobody should be objectified.

      As a man though, someone like Rob Lowe is able to allow himself to be portrayed in a sexual way without the torches and pitchforks coming out (and the torches and pitchforks that come out only when a woman does it but not when a man does it is it’s own form of objectification since it says that men are individual people who get to do what they want with their bodies but women are a group of things that become compromised, or even ‘stolen merchandise’ if any woman does the same.)

  4. Jordan says:

    I’ve always liked Rob Lowe, but he is sounding like a major douche lately.

  5. Lilacflowers says:

    Can we talk about botox?

  6. Pedro45 says:

    He probably believes in reverse racism too. Please. Rob needs compliments about his looks like he needs oxygen.

    • Naya says:

      Oh, but would someone stand up for the put upon, wealthy, successful, famous, handsome, able bodied, straight, cis, neurotypical, white, middle aged man.

  7. Skins says:

    Shut up

  8. mkyarwood says:

    This is a tough issue. It has to do with the weird, American, double edged sword of lust and chastity. That odd pairing between some serious Puritanical issues and ‘freedom’. A man can certainly feel objectified, but a lot of them kind of ‘like’ that. Which leads to the dismissal of ‘male rape’, which is a major problem.

    Most other countries view our breast obsession (boobs for products good! boobs for babies bad!) as confusing. It’s only objectification as long as we deny the natural, nude body as normal. Which is why I don’t hate on Miley Cyrus. Changing the narrative is the only way to erase objectification. She’s using her titties for good, y’all!

  9. Miss Jupitero says:

    I heard about a teacher who really nailed tjis one. He asked the women in his class to describe all the things they do to avoid sexual assault. It was a long list. Then he asked the men to describe what they do to avoid getting raped. Long silence. They could come up with amything, and most had never considered the idea before. Need I say more?

    • Who ARE these people? says:

      Wow, what a great teacher. And what a great talking point for us all to bring up with the men in our lives – sons, fathers, husbands, brothers, colleagues… they can be so oblivious.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      wow. Bingo.

  10. Meija says:

    Oh Rob please dont talk

  11. littlemissnaughty says:

    Wait, what? I’m still stuck on that Numb3ers comment.

    • Esmom says:

      It does kinda trip me up but I don’t think he was funny in the way he called it out. And The Leftovers is based on a book with the same title so he should be calling out the author, not HBO, if he hates it so much.

      I read his first book and enjoyed it a lot but he’s sounding more self righteous here than he did then.

      • Chris says:

        Has he seen The Leftovers? The title is appropriate. It’s not supposed to be sexy or enticing. It’s about people trying to put their lives back together after suffering tremendous loss.

        I was a huge Rob Lowe fan in the 80s. Then I read his book. I wanted to vom. My eyes were going to roll out of my head. I can’t name another person who comes across more self-impressed.

    • Betsy says:

      That’s what I’ve always called it. You name it something stupid, I’m going to call it something stupid. The one bright little point in an interview of blah!

  12. karen says:

    The Leftovers is a great show….that’s all I got.

  13. Izzy says:

    OMG STFU, Part Deux.

  14. Franca says:

    Has anyone seen You, Me & The Apocalypse, the new show’s Rob’s in? The first episode was really good.

  15. QQ says:

    Is this thing he is crying his male tears about not something that he has profited HANDSOMELY from??, Girl Bye enjoy your couple of seasons or whatever

  16. meme says:

    I know most of you disagree with me but all these young “starlets” objectify themselves by posing naked or nearly naked in mens magazines, wear barely there clothing, etc. They are doing that because they WANT to be seen as sexy and be desired by men.

    • Pedro45 says:

      No, they are doing that because the entertainment world is run by men and that is what is expected of them.

      Have you never heard of the male gaze?

      • Jayna says:

        Come on. It’s not so black and white and all politically correct, all women objectified and only doing it for one reason. There’s plenty of that. But many of those actresses or pop starlets love being objectified and love being lusted after and play to it because they want to.

      • Josefa says:


        I agree. People like to paint women in the showbizz as these poor little doves who are being mistreated by big bad men. Girl. They are getting paid millions for dancing in scarce clothing. Why is it so hard to believe some of them may be totally into it? Heck, if a magical fairy offered me to live Rihanna’s life for a week I’d accept in a heartbeat.

    • Anne says:

      didn’t Mila Kunis say once that she felt pressure from studio bosses to pose for men’s magazines? I think she was essentially told she had to do it or her career wouldn’t go anywhere.

    • Otaku Fairy says:

      @meme: Wanting to be seen as sexually attractive is not the same thing as literally wanting to be ‘objectified’ something that most humans don’t want. (although the word has lost some of it’s meaning, to the point where most people think the word objectify just means sexual or sexually attractive). Still, there are women who go naked or wear revealing clothes because they find it edgy/rebellious/badass, those do it not for the purpose of being seductive specifically for the men, but those who do it to get EVERYONE’S attention, those who wear something just because they think it’s pretty/beautiful/cool/good-looking, those who do it to make some kind of statement, and those who are actually just naturally comfortable in less, but only cover up when they’re going to some important place where they’re expected to dress more conservatively. The point is, there are many reasons why a woman may choose to wear something revealing. It’s not that wanting to be sexy to a specific person or group of people is the only reason women do it- that’s just the only motive society BELEIVES.

      @Pedro45, Jayna, and Josefa: You’re all technically right. There are women who don’t want to show skin but agree to it because of pressure to be sexy for men and there are women who legitimately want to be nude/nearly nude or wear those ‘scandalous’ costumes as long as it’s on their own terms.

  17. Greenieweenie says:

    The chattering class? Like we natter, while Rob Lowe is a doer? Please. Also, dictionary definition of a red herring fallacy.

  18. emma says:

    I think men are objectified and stereotyped as women are in tv and film. However, we also get to see male roles that move beyond those stereotypes and showcase a variety of personalities & idiosyncrasies. Whereas female roles hardly ever move past these conventions. So the issue isn’t that women are the only one’s being objectified – it’s that women hardly ever get the opportunity to display anything beyond it.

    • lucy2 says:

      And don’t forget the difference in the paychecks.

    • Brittney B. says:


      Objectification might belittle SOME men… but ultimately the majority of TV is catering to a male gaze. If men feel uncomfortable when they see another man being objectified — you know, those rare moments that stick out because they’re the exception to the rule — how do they think it feels to walk around in this world as a woman?

    • I Choose Me says:

      Nailed it.

  19. original kay says:

    aw, poor baby needs to go sit beside Matt Damon and have a commiseration circle jerk, how hard it is to be a white man in hollywood.
    poor fellas. I feel badly, truly.

  20. Jaded says:

    I watched The Grinder last night and his character is basically Rob Lowe being Rob Lowe – a total famewhore, a hugely inflated ego, shallow as a pan of dirt and utterly disingenuous. Art imitating life.

  21. Josefa says:

    I’ve always said the same – I don’t give a damn if the women shown in a show made for men are all dumb and underdeveloped characters and just there for eye candy. It’s a show for men and I probably won’t watch it anyway. I just wish women had an equivalent.

    And that’s why I have a soft spot for Ryan Murphy shows. There’s shirtless hunks engaging in homoerotic action for absolutely no reason while the women are the ones actually carrying the stories. The shows may be campy and stupid but heck, they are a lot of fun (for me, at least). I know Murphy isn’t the best example I could give for gender equality in TV, but I admire the fact he so unapologetically makes dumb shows geared towards women and gay men. Straight men had like 6 seasons of Entourage – I think it’s cool we can get a version of that with the roles reversed.

  22. Lea says:

    He isn’t wrong, the studios know men love to watch half naked pretty young women. In the last years they finally realized the female audience loves to see hot guys.
    That’s why we get Aiden Turner’s sweaty sixpack in Poldark or Henry Cavill’s naked behind in Tudors. They target women with this. In blockbusters it’s normal now to see well-toned men without shirts. Shows use more and more sexy guys who run around in towels or rip their shirts up. This one twilight guy had to run around just in shorts for a whole movie. The female audience has become powerful.
    Just look at all the fans of the Fassdong or the exteme manly Jason Mamoa. Woman go crazy for these guys and are fangirling all over the internet. Shows like Outlander wouldn’t survive the first episode with an unattractive male lead.