Tag Archives: TV

the chicken or the egg

 

I don’t think most people work jobs that are, in and of themselves, fulfilling. On any less than pleasant journey to work, it’s not uncommon to see people enveloped by any piece of technology that can provide some escapism. But even while people are working they’ll sometimes try to enhance what can feel a bit stifling. There’s everything from the usual water cooler talk about pop culture, and then occasionally you might hear the musings about how some trope from escapist TV would fit into the day. “Hey, what if a pack of mutant bikers just came and started circling the place?”

Between the life that one populates with pretend scenarios to make easier, or the TV that we let act as the window to vicarious lives — what comes from what?  

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Sentimentality and the work of Shinichiro Watanabe

Some of Watanabe’s greatest influences are from American culture – the elements co-opted by ‘cool’ specifically, and shows like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo are often appreciated along that line. But I think this minimizes Watanabe’s particular kind of sentimentality, which in and of itself is sort of the opposite of cool. (Read more of my piece at Den of Geek: http://www.denofgeek.com/tv/anime/30651/sentimentality-in-the-work-of-shinichiro-watanabe)

Lifestyle TV

Via the 17th century (and Wikipedia), a courtly precursor to tennis, one of the most lifestyle-driven sports.

Via the 17th century (and Wikipedia), a courtly precursor to tennis, one of the most lifestyle-driven sports.

To some degree, most people probably covet a lifestyle at some point in their lives: some seemingly predetermined mold of living that just looks right. A show like Mad Men benefits from the sheen — the aesthetic, the lifestyle — that was the cultural ideal of the 1950s. Specifically, Mad Men benefits in exploring how empty and shallow so much of that sheen was, while also being able to milk those qualities for entertainment value. But beyond that narrow realm of idealized-looking people in fancy clothes, the disconnect between lifestyles and substance rarely seems to change.

Even as the economy has stagnated due to unrestrained greed, there’ve been more and more TV networks catering to an upwardly mobile lifestyle. And, well, why wouldn’t they? TV is generally a for-profit business that caters to advertisers, and lifestyles are a premier business model. There’s never just one thing to buy; items, places and experiences are all part of the lifestyle tapestry. Often that collective is unified by the idea of ‘the best’: consuming the best food, living in the best place, etc.

Even though it’s yet to put an ‘F’ for foodies in its acronym of Home & Garden Television., HGTV is probably the premier channel of the lifestyle lot; so many shows, so many boring privileged people looking for the best life has to offer in property.

Bravo has probably been at the forefront of shallow lifestyle TV. Its output seems increasingly obsessed with utilizing the insecurities of those who proclaim to be living some golden dream. A foodie-centric show like Top Chef almost seems quaint in comparison.

There’s also Esquire now, which slightly minimizes an obsession with drama in favor of yuppie/hipster driven reality shows with a magazine-like sheen. Glossy and not particularly deep, which is the thing with lifestyles in general.  In two weeks, the Bio channel will become FYI, another network focusing on — you guessed it — lifestyles.

Obviously lifestyle is quite a broad term, but I do think that the ‘style’ part of the word is intrinsic to how we think about it. As style is thought of by some people who use fashion as their ticket to being special, so is  the idea of a lifestyle.  In that vein, it’s not something everybody can have exactly. A lifestyle has generally been the domain of those with resources.

I guess the idea of a lifestyle will always be comforting, because it’s an insulated way to live. But places becoming tailored to lifestyles is generally one of the elements of gentrification — the process in which people  are mostly as (positively) relevant to society as their privileges are.  Maybe those privileges could entail resourcefulness as opposed to just resources, but it seems like we’re presented lifestyles as a dressed up approach to being a consumer as a way of life.

Too big for Sunnydale

From my latest piece at Den of Geek: When the mayor introduces himself to Mr. Trick in season 3 of Buffy, the latter makes a brief comment about how people telling him they don’t want his kind around got old long before he was a vampire … This episode explores -isms not in passing, and in a very natural way – isms that all boil down to fear, weakness, selfishness and insecurity. All the things that McCarthyism exploited. Using Judy’s racial background and Angel’s undead-with-a-soul status as a way to explore being different builds on an archetype – but there’s enough depth for it to be far more meaningful than it could have been.

Quite proud of this

And you can be, too (well, of having read it).  An excerpt from my piece on Sleepy Hollow and diversity at the great Den of Geek: “What separates Sleepy Hollow from other shows? It doesn’t completely disavow the ethnic backgrounds of characters played by people of colour – and not in the Seth McFarlane way, where without different backgrounds and the general existence of women there would be no one to say ‘Ha ha, you’re ______’ about, thus eliminating a good percentage of the show’s comedic material…”

All too fleeting

Estella Daniels as Nala and Elliot Knight as Sinbad in the Sky One series .

With their 2012 take on Sinbad, Sky1 took the legendary sailor and gave the family-action adventure genre a thoroughly modern spin. Beyond contemporary notions that heroes come in all shapes and sizes (and colors), the casting of Elliot Knight as Sinbad was a rare instance of them being actualized. While the classic stories have always been ripe for adapting with people of African and Mediterranean descent, past iterations have rarely (if ever) seen anybody like that take the lead. Boldly excellent casting didn’t stop with Sinbad; it extended itself to all the members of the show’s ensemble cast. While the show had plenty of action to keep Sinbad and his friends busy, there was also a care given to character- and world-building that’s chief among the reasons the show deserved more than its twelve-episode run.

An appreciation of how long it took to become a (Super)man

Somewhat ironically, with the comic fandom consensus being that the characterization of billionaire Lex Luthor was one of the show’s strengths, it’s during these “post”-diabolically induced financial crisis days that I’ve considered Smallville in a new light. The lack of an assured bright future has trickled up to the higher echelons of the middle class, and the void between being an older young person and a full-fledged adult has probably most prominently been regarded in Lena Dunham’s Girls. In that show the main character is cut off by her parents, complicating her plans for literary greatness in the modern world. Clark’s decade-long journey to adulthood took place in a world where his father’s Kansas farm had realistic financial difficulties, though those difficulties did have a tendency to be most apparent in a fleeting emotional sense. More prominently, Clark’s paralyzing longing for the kind of life his adoptive parents have in lieu of a destiny as an alien “chosen one” is not without its parallels to real life. For more people than ever, a clear sense of upward direction seems like a very alien feat.

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That’s an excerpt of a piece I wrote for Den of Geek — the whole of which you can find here:

www.denofgeek.com/tv/smallville/26019/smallville-becoming-superman