Saturday. 7:30pm. Dewey’s Flatiron (Seth Eagelfeld gets credit for the endorsement), which is within a few blocks of the N, R, 4, 6, F and M. Do holler and let me know if you think you can make it so I can figure out how many tables and chairs to try to grab. I’m looking forward to it!
Editor’s Note: Kate was traveling over the weekend, thus the one-day delay. Consider this an open thread for the first half of this season of The Good Wife. And enjoy!
By Kate Linnea Walsh
We begin “What Went Wrong” with a slightly distracted Alicia and her colleagues defending a police officer, Lauryn, accused of killing her husband. The judge instructs the jury to only consider judgments of “guilty of first-degree murder” or “not guilty,” but the prosecution – led by Cary – is afraid they didn’t make a strong enough case for that, so they offer a deal: Lauryn pleads guilty to second-degree murder (and gets four years in prison). When the defendant asks for Alicia’s advice on whether to take the deal, Alicia says: “I think that you need to make that decision, Lauryn. You can’t defer to anyone else. You know what you did. You know what you didn’t do. You also know sometimes that doesn’t matter.” Alicia’s words aren’t really helpful to Lauryn, but the fact that Alicia came up with those words – especially the last sentence – encapsulates the way her character has evolved over the past two and a half seasons.
Lauryn doesn’t take the deal, and the jury decides on a guilty verdict. Alicia and her colleagues immediately start talking to jurors to figure out what went wrong, because everyone – prosecution, defense, and the judge himself – is surprised by the verdict. Something clearly happened, because in just one round of voting, over half the jurors changed their votes to guilty. It may have had something to do with outside evidence about one of the witnesses that the foreman introduced, but Lockhart/Gardner can’t use that because they found out about it by going through the trash from the jury deliberation room without permission. Instead, they must play a game of cat and mouse with the State’s Attorney’s office as Cary and Dana follow Alicia and her colleagues around and try to stop them from getting useful information from the jurors – a game that culminates in Cary throwing Kalinda in jail for a while. Lockhart/Gardner finally convinces the judge to declare a mistrial based on a technicality: The judge himself accepted a juror’s Facebook friend request during the trial, which counts as unauthorized outside contact with a juror. Everyone knows that something weird went on with the jury, but everyone also knows that this Facebook friending had nothing to do with it. It’s a perfect illustration of the point the show likes to make about using the system to get a desired (or even correct) outcome, even if the means end up having nothing to do with the motive.
While the Lockhart/Gardner lawyers are looking for evidence, Dana uses the threat of the judicial corruption investigation to try to scare the judge into deciding against Lockhart/Gardner, but he’s not playing. The investigation itself, however, is still going on, and Wendy Scott-Carr dramatically confronts Will at the basketball court where so much of the supposed corruption was alleged to have taken place. She tells him that he’s not her real target – Peter is. (She also tantalizingly mentions that Peter used to be part of Will’s basketball game. I’d love to know more about the history between Peter, Alicia, and Will.) In an echo of the case, Wendy, too, is using the system she’s been given to accomplish her own objective. Now, does she mean that Peter is literally the target of the investigation, or that she plans to use the publicity of the investigation to gain support for another run against Peter when his term is up? It could be either, but I think she meant the former, because she said “Peter’s clean this term. But he wasn’t his first term, was he? And you know where his weaknesses lie.” Will: “Well, I know a lot of things.” I’m sure he does. When he refuses to talk without a lawyer, though, she says the next time they talk will be in front of a Grand Jury. Will calls her bluff: “Okay. So be it.” That should be interesting.
Louis C.K. tells NPR how he teaches his daughters about his own show, and about obscenity in culture in general:
There are things in the show I’m able to show them. There’s an episode about Halloween that I showed them parts of. There’s a lot of things they’re able to see. They’re just fun stories. And my daughters, I think they really enjoy what I do. There are certainly some things they can’t see in Louie because … the language is grown-up, and is for adults. They know that. They get it. I’ve played them some George Carlin clips that have cursing in them. I explain it to my kids that some people get uncomfortable or their feelings get hurt by certain words, so you want to respect that in regular life, but there is a reason for these words. They’re not just ‘bad.’ So I’m bringing them along. They’ll see this stuff when it’s appropriate to see it.
This is what’s always puzzled me about so-called parents and decency groups which focus more of their work on trying to get programming pulled than giving parents the tools to do their jobs. The idea that parents don’t have a substantial measure of control over what their children consume is ridiculous. Yes, it’s possible that children will stumble across things that are inappropriate or that might make them uncomfortable if they’re at friends’ houses or unsupervised. But for the most part, if you don’t have infinite televisions in your house and have the family computer in a reasonably public place while you have young children, it’s not as if it’s onerous to protect your children from content you don’t want them to consume.
More to the point, while it’s true that some objections go overboard—I don’t think anyone was harmed by seeing Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Super Bowl halftime show, unless you felt for her embarrassment—it’s also true that kids are ready for certain kinds of content at different ages. I wouldn’t show any 10-year-old Shame, both because I don’t think that children should be watching adults have sex, but also because to get what you’re supposed to get out of the movie, you need to go into it prepared to have a conversation about what healthy adult sexuality looks like and why this is not a good example of it. But this is why you need to have graduated conversations with their children, to help them become comfortable with things that will be in their environment as adults—like profanity—and so they can figure out where to draw their own limits along the way.
I complain about the cheesiness and flimsiness of conservative popular culture a lot of time, but I feel like Tom Clancy has always been a worthy foe in terms of being able to create compelling storylines that do a decent (I haven’t been converted) job of selling conservative policies and ideals. Part of his talent is for inventing villains, from the Japanese pilot who destroys the Capitol in an eerie prefiguring of the September 11 attacks in Debt of Honor to the Chinese leaders who invade Siberia. And nowhere has the Clancyverse done better at upping the stakes and turning conservative boogeymen into national security threats than in the Rainbow Six franchise, which pits an elite multinational team (Clancy’s world is scary, but he does seem to love him some multilateralism). The Rainbow Six team’s gone from combatting eco-terrorists, nuclear terrorists who acquire fissile material during the collapse of the Former Soviet Union, fascists who are hoping to manipulate oil prices and financial markets , anarchist and “Third World” bio-terrorists, border terrorists who threaten that Church of Capitalism, Las Vegas, Hutu rebels, and apparently now Occupy Wall Street-inspired terrorists:
I would love to see the mic check that goes into getting consensus for this kind of nonsense. But as much as I’d just love to knock this impulse, I’m also dead sure that while most of Hollywood will blame one-off Ponzi schemers for much of the recession, conservative artists will try to help cement a narrative that the 99 percent movement and advocates of financial system reform are inherently anti-capitalist and violent. Our culture will identify a few individual villains in the halls of power. But some narratives will demonize wide swaths of people who protest against not just Bernie Madoff and his assorted pop-culture knockoffs, but the bankers of Margin Call and the culture that made them so successful. It’s a lot easier to paint protesters as violent thugs than it is to explain what the financial system as a whole did to us, and helped us do to ourselves. But just because those narratives are easy doesn’t make defaulting to them good storytelling or good politics.
Fox News got all het up about the Muppets being anti-Capitalist before coming to their senses. So it seems strange that conservatives would follow up that loser of a battle by criticizing Sesame Street’s campaign against child hunger by arguing that it’s “Brought to you by the letters ‘B’ and ‘G’… for Big Government.”
This is, of course, a depressing reflection on the state of the current conservative movement. It was a Republican, Sen. Bob Dole, who worked with Sen. George McGovern to make it easier for families to get food stamps and to expand school lunch programs (his commitment may originally have come from his agricultural constituents, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t help people get food assistance). It might be nice to believe that private charity can totally alleviate hunger, but that seems like an optimistic assumption even in the best of times. It doesn’t seem like a tragedy of bureaucratic overreach to suggest that in case of emergency, the government should provide its most vulnerable citizens with access to the minimum essentials they need to be able to work, or study—or live.
And more to the point, do we really want to teach children the value of independence and hard work by suggesting that it’s dishonorable for them to accept food assistance if they aren’t getting fed at home? Not every child’s parents are going to be able to provide everything they need. Not every child’s parents will know what help is available to them if they’re having trouble affording food or clothing if their English language skills are poor or if they’re not terribly plugged in to existing bureaucracies. If we can reach vulnerable parents through their children, that strikes me as a good thing. And if children suffer not just form poverty but from neglectful parents and Sesame Street programming gives them the information and inspiration to advocate for themselves and get themselves access to the resources that have already been made available for them, I have a hard time shaking my head over that. When kids are at a point where their food supply is secure, then might be the time to get all Ron Swanson on them about the problems with government programs.
The bridge is yours.
-When Jonah Goldberg and I are in basic agreement on an issue, conservatives should know they’ve gone too far in a controversy.
-I would be happy to be as gorgeous as Meryl Streep looks on her first Vogue cover at any age.
-Megaupload falls down a copyright rabbit hole.
-God and the Devil agree on this one: Bradley Cooper is in no way fit to play John Milton’s Lucifer.
This seems…worrisome, and not just because it’s a retread of the lengthy philosophical debates that made the first half of this season of The Walking Dead drag:
That’s concept art for Rick, the lead character in Dead Rising 3 on the right. He’s an orphan and works as an auto mechanic. When the zombie apocalypse breaks our Rick is unsure of himself, so he isn’t the same kind of character like Frank West. His plan is to restore a plane and escape Los Perdidos before a bomb goes off and destroys the already ruined city. As a player, getting the plane to fly is one of your main goals.
One interesting tidbit a source tells Siliconera, is Dead Rising 3 has an undercurrent of themes about illegal immigration. Another character called Red leads an underground group of “illegals,” which are infected people that aren’t registered by the government. Annie, Red’s girlfriend is a runaway that’s sympathetic to the infected. While some survivors are helpful, others went berserk. One of the psychopaths you fight is a biker gang member who drives a “Roller Hog” – that’s a motorcycle with a steam roller attached to the front.
It’s a good thing to have a character who’s sympathetic to the characters who are stand-ins for undocumented immigrants. But I’m not sure it’s exceptionally productive to have as a premise the idea that people with diverse motivations for taking a tremendous risk are a diseased horde who ought to be registered with the government. There’s no question that there are big forces that motivate people to come here by means other than the legal process, ranging from economic opportunities in the United States to instability in Mexico. But being acted on big forces doesn’t mean that the decision to come here illegally is any less of an individual choice.
The most productive way to talk about a workable immigration reform solution seems, to me at least, to balance a discussion of those forces with an insistence that we see immigrants themselves as people on their own terms. It’s a lie to paint all undocumented immigrants as dangerous offenders just because they non-violently broke laws to come to the United States. And it’s not really productive or sustainable to insist that all undocumented immigrants are saints—no community or collection of communities can live up to that kind of weight. This metaphor may try to break down the assumptions behind the metaphor, but the construction of the metaphor isn’t wildly helpful in the first place.
Or almost right now. Our conversation will be streaming live here when we start at 10 a.m. EST. And as soon as we’ve got a final cut of the event, I’ll embed it.
There’s something very strange about declaring that just because Parks and Recreation creates a meme-a-minute that it’s a semi-intelligent show, or that it’s “less risky” than its relatively ossified counterparts, 30 Rock and The Office:
Welcome to the meme-ification of the sitcom, a phenomenon in which the latest iteration of television comedy writing anticipates and includes the Internet as a secondary delivery vehicle right from the start. In the last couple of years a particularly digestible style of writing has emerged, well suited to various attention spans and bandwidths: on these shows, and also “2 Broke Girls” on CBS and “Man Up!” on ABC.
There’s a semi-intelligence to these sitcoms: smarter than traditional multi-camera, laugh-tracked shows, but less risky than single-camera progressive fare like “The Office” and “30 Rock.” The meme-ified series compose a new middlebrow, creative enough to alienate conventional sitcom fans and attract viewers in search of a challenge but not complex or jarring enough to be off-putting. (Despite its savvy writing “Community” on NBC is probably a hair too dense to fit this bill.) Their humor plays well for 30 minutes, but is also reducible and portable in ways that make sense online: punch lines are more like catch phrases that feel like Twitter hashtags, and scenes with celebrations, dances and odd body movements look hilarious when looped endlessly as a GIF.
First, if anything, 30 Rock‘s vastly more tied to the news cycle and the pop culture than Parks and Recreation is. And The Office is on its second cycle of the same story: that’s the defined inverse of risky. In both cases, Parks and Recreation‘s relentless optimism and commitment to making an argument about the value of public service are so square, so different from either the irony-saturation or the manufactured, bland cheeriness of most other fare on television that the show’s themes and tone have come out the other side and are cool again.
But more to the point, just because something’s meme-ifiable doesn’t mean it’s stupid. Juxtaposition humor is really hard: something like the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness has to come from a place of both deep character development and great writing. The sight of a very butch man in a tiny hat and veil, the kind of dance GIF this piece refers to, could easily get reduced to a bad drag joke, but in the Parks’ writers hands and on the capable head of Nick Offerman, it’s something far weirder and more delightful.
And it makes a lot of sense that the smart, generally sophisticated characters who populate these kinds of shows, would get meme-y in their actual lives: the Internet’s elevated the kind of in-jokes that groups of friends have had since Sam Malone ran a popular Boston watering hole, given people a tool to broadcast the narratives that govern their relationships. Sure, there’s a cyclical relationship between pop culture and real life, and shows provide grist for the mill. But having your characters act like people act in real life doesn’t mean you’re anti-intellectual or only partially bright. You can fulfill people’s fantasies of living in the culture that they love by letting them talk to their favorite reality stars, like Andy Cohen does on his Bravo late-night show. Or you can show them a riff on their group of friends that turns out jokes a little faster, that loves and fights at a slightly higher tempo, and make your audience wish they were that smart — and then go out the next day to prove it.