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I've been watching Gilmore Girls and have some very mixed opinions...does anyone know of anywhere to find some interesting writing about the show?
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Ideal weekend: rain, books, tea, and geek comedy ftw. Tons of schoolwork, maybe less ideal, but some of it is actually really interesting.

(I went on a bureacuratic treasure hunt through the university and managed to sign up for an "introduction to lit theory" class, ("But why?" Lit department. "It sounds really interesting," I say. "You understand it's theory, yes? Just...theory.") and it's honest to god making me giddy. I'm sitting there in class while the prof explains the breaking of genre in Thelma and Louise and literally bouncing up and down a little. Structuralism! OMG, structuralism. Where has this been all my life?)

Anyway, ahem,

Community was pretty good, though on-the-nose social satire might not be their strongest suit. Read more... )

Interestingly meta episode from TBBT, which usually isn't meta in the slightest. Not as bleak as last week, but it had it's moments.

I got into an interesting argument elsewhere about which show is more politically progressive, and I really do have to go with TBBT, even though that maybe makes me insane. Community simply embraces a kind of post-modern fantasy of progressivism, you know? Both shows think the world is fucked and are critical of it, but Community creates an escape, while TBBT admits its power.

Characters on Community do escape, but into this fantasy world. (Community is at it's most interesting, I think, when it suddenly looks in the mirror and admits that Greendale isn't real life. But then it shies away from that again.) One that is properly racially diverse and celebrates education, growth and the ability of good friends and can-do spirit to get you through anything. TBBT has a bunch of people trying to do that, and failing. Dismally, pathetically and gracelessly, to an intrusive laughtrack and embarrassing jokes. (I find that hearbreaking and clear- eyed, but I see why it's not everyone's idea of a good time.)

It's just my usual argument about finding any kind of story that merely gets representation right more than a little politically tepid. Just because your show/book/whatever is wonderfully sensitive and inclusive of race/gender/orientation/etc, doesn't make it actively progressive, merely tolerable. (For example, Meljean Brooks books or even Brooklyn 99, at it's worst.) It can even obscure, rather than expose, the underlying structures of oppression.

I get that "exposing structures of oppression" might not be everyone's idea of a useful thing for a sitcom or a romance novel to do, but we're actually quite happy being super-critical of representation in precisely the most popular, omni-present sort of media. I really don't know which is more politically effective - the cynical exposure of misery or the presentation of a hopeful alternative.

It's very possible that the work the latter does, with the normalization of gay characters or women in the workplace or whatever else these things have contributed to has been more socially worthwhile. But as art, I prefer something like Scandal or The Big Bang Theory, or even Remington Steele, that subvert the post-modern progressive ideal by having it crash up against good old human folly and weakness. Showing the characters trapped in their socially curated needs to fit in, to be loved, to feel cool, strikes me as more interesting and more powerful than showing the people who've magically escaped.

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I see - and sympathize - with all complaining that no one is writing fic for your favourite rare pairing or obscure old fandom, but I will raise you all the sublime frustration that no one is writing serious meta for your critically unregarded comedy loves.

WHY can I not find a good analysis of the political subtext of Brooklyn Nine Nine? WHERE is the critical deconstruction of the narrative tools in How I Met Your Mother? HOW is no one jumping around on a barricade about class issues in Community? Why dost thou betray me and leave out to dry and with no one to talk to, oh fandom?

I'm going to sit here and stare at the wall, y'all.

Well, at the books, because I'm in a library.

Ooh, that one looks interesting.

Apropos, do you know how incredibly boring, obvious and unimaginative most serious books about tv are? All that "Philosophy of Mad Men" (we have no less than 3 books about Mad Men, and the series isn't even done!) or Women on TV: from Lucy to Friends type stuff. I sort through them a lot because that section tends to be a perennial mess, and SO OBVIOUS.
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There we go, perfect contrast-and-compare geek comedy Friday morning. And a lot of tea. I have missed you!

I know it isn't fashionable, but I really enjoy both Community and TBBT. One is a pleasant, fun bit of fluff that makes me feel good about myself and the world and delivers a few laughs, and the other is a dark, challenging, often deeply subversive and empathetic show that uses laughter to create tragedy.

Community, of course, is the fluffy one. I wasn't madly, utterly in love, but that was fun. The second episode was better than the first, mostly for bringing back my favorite aspects of Community in spades - that Gormenghastian quality that Greendale has. My favorite episodes of Community always give the sense that this place is almost a portal fantasy, that it can contain anything, any potentiality. Nothing is too wild, too improbable, and yet it operates on a strange, inscrutable yet consistent logic of it's own. It almost has a certain grandeur, something kind of epic.

In the repilot episode things felt a little...well, pedantic. Too ordinary, too small, too self-referential and tangled up in itself. The second episode, on the other hand, had so many of those touches of through-the-looking-glass common sense. Yes, of course the Dean is trying to fix everything by learning excel. Of course his thoughts are in a mournful French singing. (my favorite bit.) Of course it's possible to start a riot at Greendale with one comment. Of course there's a class about Nicholas Cage, and of course it can drive a person mad. That's the Community I love.

Big Bang was...what was that? I often feel like i'm reaching for the notion it has a really dark subtext, but that was just text. Giant red blinking neon text. I laughed in place the laughtrack didn't, for heaven's sake. After six and half seasons, the show finally took Penny, for the first time, to that uncomfortable, exposed, failure place that it usually reserves for everyone else. BBT has had other pretty dark episodes before, but never anything so explicit, or, in a way, so kind. For once, humiliation wasn't meant to also be funny.

Maybe it's because, up to now, Penny was still the character that illuminated everyone else's problems. She was a visitor from some far off, more merciful land where quirks are endearing and failure is just something that makes friendships stronger. (Maybe that community college she's never graduated is actually Greendale.) No longer. This is the episode that makes her a native. She hates where she's at and she can't move, because she knows she can't do anything else. Through here own choices and decisions, here she is and she has to live with it, even as it crushes her self-esteem and self-respect day by tedious day. Something that had been a mildly insulting running gag is flipped on it's ear and becomes horribly serious, is revealed to have always been horribly serious and deliberately insulting, hiding and festering and turning into a great, gangrenous wound under the laughter.

...I'm going to finish that really, really long Community vs. Big Bang through the prism of Ender's Game essay some day. I really am.
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I admit I completely lost the plot for long bits there (admittedly, because I was mostly less watching and more half listening while sorting through some tedious spreadsheet stuff and ocassionally just reading) and I have to confess I don't feel anything much for any of the characters. (Maybe Pinnochio, who is like this interesting comment on privelege, I (over)think. He has to be super-special-extra-plus-plus good, all the time, just to claw his way to basic humanity and stay there, which everyone else can have for free just because they accidentally happened to be born human, no matter how badly they behave.) However, I have a soft spot for total and utter crack and nonsense, so, you know, all aboard.

I did however love the end of the season, in a cheap giggly way, simply because Peter Pan was the first thing I ever got meta about. Seriously, I must have been like 12 or 13 and I read it somewhere or someone explained it to me and OMG. Peter Pan is kind of dark. Even though it's a happy children's story, I didn't have to take it simply as told. It was a revelation. I literally went around for weeks starting conversation with increasingly random people with "Listen, he never wants to grow up. And Hook is being chased by a ticking clock. Do you see it? Do you? Do you? A clock!!!"

Which is to say: one, I was an obnoxious kid, and two, deconstructed villain Peter Pan shall forever have a place in my heart and I'm really looking forward to catching up seasons 3.
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I fought Tumblr and Tumblr won.

I think. It's hard to tell.


December Meme to cheer me up!

What do I look for in TV Shows?

Honestly, I haven't a clue! At least, I can't put my finger on it. I like TV more than movies - again, I'm not sure why, as such, except that I clearly watch a lot of TV and very few movies.

One thing is that I like the immersion and continuity of a serialized show. Having this world and characters that I can drop by and visit again and again, and both have it be the same and watch it subtly evolve. I always get a bit of a kick when I see an early episode of some show and get that sense of, gosh, look how different it is now! Look how much they've changed without us noticing! So I sometimes get a little bored with shows that are all paradigm shift, all the time, where characters never really get to inhabit a particular more-or-less status-quo setting for a while. (I think it's one of the reasons I was never able to get into Orphan Black that much, despite it superficially ticking all my obvious boxes.)

Related to that, I love a good sense of place especially when the nature of the place is relevant to the story. I loved Broadchurch for the small town and cliffs-at-dawn porn. I loved The Bridge, with it's complicated border town setting. Northern Exposure or Gilmore Girls goes without saying, but I love things that celebrate cities too. I loved the sense of DS9 being this living, breathy, messy commercial port of a place, and I love anything that gets described as "the ship is practically a character," - Farscape, Firefly, etc.

I usually like a lot of big, complicated character dynamics. Anything that's too tightly focused, where it's just one or two characters, really, alone in the world, often quickly starts to feel a little limited and claustrophobic to me. (There are exceptions - early Supernatural, Remington Steele - but I usually delight and rejoice every time it seems like there might be another recurring character there.)

Humor is also crucial. I have a short attention span. If something is too relentlessly serious, it's just going to lose me. Little hits of humor are what actually keeps me looking at the screen and not wandering off to make a cup of tea and get some work done and leave it to run in the background.

If there's some combination of that, being done well, I'll usually manage to stumble on through whatever else is wrong with a show, be it shoddy plotting or irritating characters or what. (well, to an extent.) There are other story-tropes I gravitate to, obviously, but I'll look for "people driving themselves mad" or "people settling into normal lives" or "messing around with perception of gender" in any medium, always. This is particular to television, I guess.
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So i'm still trying to figure out why I fell for The Big Bang Theory so hard. It's a sitcom with a heavy reliance on bathroom jokes, ffs. I've been bumbling around the internet looking for some nice meta, but can't seem to find much. I suppose I shall have to make up some of my own. I mean, it may be silly to put so much thought into a sitcom, but I always think popular things are worth thinking about, and things that are simple on the surface are worth thinking about, and comedy is particularly worth thinking about, so whatever.

Here's the thing - I typically really invest in the drama in comedies, (and I have a hard time with overly humorless drama.) I need a comedy show to have some edge to it, something a little bitter and sad. That's why I actually liked the recent anti-geek episode on BBT. Sure, it was heavy handed and had a quite obnoxious gender angle that was probably unnecessary and worse, lazy and shorthand for what it seems like they were trying to do. But the episode as a whole? It was nasty, and with that, it had a certain raw honesty. Things don't change, things don't move, what hurt last year is going to hurt this year, and will hurt next year too. I'm ok with that.

Watching Amy makes me kind of twitchy and uncomfortable, but also allows me to laugh and get a bit of catharsis. I mean, I have been that person. I am still that person. More as a teen and in my early twenties, but still now, I will have this moment of being social and having a strange, giddy awareness that this is extremely fragile and weird. "Here I am, hanging out. Just like that. Like a normal person, with other people. At the mall, ffs. Like a person who hangs out at the mall." But, simultaneously, being kind of uncomfortable and having some degree of self contempt for even indulging in all this icky social stuff - "What the hell, this boring. What am I, some kind of person who hangs out at the mall? I'm going home to read academic papers for fun and watch Star Trek. Alone. Like I do." 

So when Amy is blissing out over slumber parties or hand holding at the movies, I can identify. No coincidence, IMO, that those things are very gendered. I think BBT often has a fairly nuanced grasp of gender as something preformed, and is honest enough to admit that it can be a miserable thing to buck. In general, the calculus of happiness/misery, non/conformity, intimacy/isolation on the show is...non obvious. It's not status quo, but it's not that kind of psuedo-academic-liberal emancipation from all mores wish-fulfilment thing either. This stuff is thorny, and thorny it shall remain, and that's what I expect from comedy - not to paper over the cracks.

Anyway, back to Amy. She's needy and desperate for any human contact, and that's funny but it's also sad. It's the desire and the contempt for the desire at the same time, like somehow seeing the two sides of the same coin at the same time. Her neediness is sympathetic, and real, but it's still needy and pathetic. Watching things go round and round, wondering if it will ever escape that duality is, I can't help it, funny. And sad. And also still funny.


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