J. Awkward Prufrock’s Pop Culture Plugs

Hi everyone! I really really really didn’t feel like writing today. But that has been the situation way too often lately. You gotta push yourself to make things happen! Work begets work and yadda yadda. Once again, however, that pesky writers’ block planted itself firmly in front of me, crossed its arms, and dared me to try and move it. I hate both confrontation and passive-aggressive behavior, so even though I was angry with the writers’ block, I didn’t know how to deal with it. But eventually I sat in a corner and cried for awhile and I think I annoyed it into a somewhat-submission.

To figure out today’s topic, I thought, What’s been going on in my life this week? What awkwardness ensued? The thing is I spent a lot of my week avoiding people and indulging in the things I’ve been enjoying. So I thought, why not talk about the things I’ve been (and maybe haven’t been) enjoying?

I know y’all probably don’t give a hoot about my endorsements but if curiosity is what ails you, here’s your cure.

Trial & Error

Please, for the love of God, if you care about keeping good comedy on TV, please watch this show. A lot of people are calling it the new Parks & Rec, and I can understand the comparison because it does adopt that workplace documentary style. But it’s also really well-done satire. Its proposed format is that each season would parody a popular true-crime documentary. Season 1 tackles The Staircase. If you’re like me and you love comedy and also can’t seem to get off the Serial sub-reddit two years later, this show is for you! John Lithgow is brilliant and each episode is laugh-out-loud funny. I’ve been hearing a lot of cancellation rumors due to poor ratings and I can only think it’s from lack of awareness, so I thought I would do my part and tell both of my readers (thanks Mom & Dad!) to check it out. Thursdays at 8pm on NBC!

S-Town

Speaking of Serial, have you heard about its affiliate, S-Town? Yes, yes, you have. S-Town in no way needs my endorsement as the number one podcast on iTunes, but I seriously cannot get over how good it is. It starts off as a murder investigation, but it morphs into a fascinating portrait of a tortured genius, the crippled state of the world, the dynamics of human behavior, the nature of time, and what we leave behind after we’re gone. It would make a terrific novel or play. I hope that’s able to happen.

Beauty & the Beast

Alright, here’s where we get a little awkward and weird. The cartoon Beauty & the Beast was one of my favorites growing up. The new live-action version terrified me. The thing is the cartoon is already separate from reality, so you can enjoy it for its cuteness and catchy songs, but when it’s live, you’re like, “Wait, so, she’s in love with a dog and there are legit eternally-damned souls trapped inside household objects because their boss was a shallow douchebag? That’s messed up.”

Granted, the Beast was hotter as a beast.

Belle was my favorite Disney princess as a kid. I really identified with her as a girl who liked to read and dreamt of getting away from the people who thought she was weird and finding “something more”. As I watch the new movie, however, I realize that those are her only defining characteristics. The Beast was really the main character in this script. They could have done a lot more with her. And it pains me to realize that this girl dreamt of leaving her little town for “something more” and it turns out “something more” is a big, old castle near the town. Did she just mean more property? Were the lyrics more literal than I realized?

I also found myself very confused by part of the spell being that the residents of the town forgot the castle and everyone in it. I assume the Beast’s family governed the town. How did they get organized after they woke up one day and lived in total anarchy? How did they function economically without the castle as the town’s biggest employer? So many questions. I don’t think the witch thought this through.

But the most tragic thing is that these were two French aristocrats who seemingly found each other not long before the revolution. They were probably lynched in their yard. RIP Beauty & the Pretty Boy.

Ugh, you live, you learn, you grow, you mature, and you realize we’re all doomed.

On that note, I would love to hear your endorsements. What are some TV shows, books, movies, podcasts that you’re enjoying? Go to a cool museum recently? Or just stared into the window of a really old guy’s house? Send me the address! I’m always looking for a good distraction.

P.S. If someone more tech literate than me could make a meme of Belle telling the beast to “Come into the light” and, it turns out, the beast is Daniel Radcliffe from Horns, I’d be ever appreciative. In return, I could offer you my firstborn or eight Smash Burger coupons.

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Everything I Needed to Know About Life, I Learned from Nick at Nite

If there has been one thing I could count on in my life, it’s my ability to sit and watch TV for hours. I binge-watched before it was cool. I am the binge-watch hipster. I remember my small group of friends in high school used to brag about how little TV they watched, and I would just sit there quietly. The absolute worst punishment I could get as a kid was having TV taken away. I would write my parents long, pleading notes as to why whatever wrong I committed did not deserve such retribution. I was a good kid! TV was my friend! All summer vacation meant to me was more time to watch TV.

I had some kid-friendly favorites, like Hey Arnold! And the TGIF lineup, but by far I was most drawn to the hits of the 70s and earlier. I worshipped Nick at Nite. I lived for the Block Party Summer where they would marathon my favorites all the way through the night. I’m pretty sure my 20-year battle with insomnia was sparked by staying up until 4am watching Happy Days.

I’ve never understood the stigma that TV turns your brain to mush. To me, it’s just as credible a form of storytelling as anything else (though I have my pretentious opinions about reality TV, as any true hypocrite would). I’ve turned to TV to learn some of my most important life lessons. Sometimes, it worked. I’ve got some pretty snappy comebacks up my sleeves.

And sometimes, it didn’t.

As Plato says in The Republic, art has a place in society provided one has the antidote: we need the capacity to understand that art is a reflection of reality, but sometimes those realities are hidden underneath layers. I was not old enough to use a peeler and so I took sitcoms at face value. And so I thought that life was pretty much a series of shenanigans until someone got married or had a baby. Whether or not the shenanigans continued after that remained to be seen.

Because I was never good at making friends, being terrified of people and all, I would often use what I saw on TV as a crutch, using lines that I’d heard to make conversation and physical habits I’d learned from said shenanigans.

For example, there is an episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy goes to charm school. The charm school instructor tells Lucy that charming women swing their hips while they walk. Comedy ensued when Lucy, in response, very exaggeratedly swung her hips to their limits, causing her to lose her balance. Now I inferred that Lucy was doing it wrong, based on the laugh track, but what I picked up on was the “charming women swing their hips” point. As 8-year-old me understood it, charming people, in the very least, often got to hang out with princesses. Knowing a princess would no doubt shower me with friends and admiration, so I decided from that point forward, I was going to swing my hips when I walked.

The next day I swung my hips with every step I took. It didn’t seem to change anything, much to my disappointment. But when my class was all lined up to go to gym, the cutest boy was standing near me, and so I started swinging my hips even larger, as Lucy had done (because the reality within the comedy was Lucy’s lack of understanding how much to swing her hips but how was I supposed to know?!). The boy just looked at me and said, “Why are you walking funny?” And so my charming dreams where shattered.

Then I thought, maybe I was simply not a Lucy. Lucy was a bit older, after all. Maybe I was a Jan Brady. Jan and I had a lot in common. We were both the middle child and…actually, the similarities end there. But that was enough to make me test the Jan walk. Jan Brady had the opposite walk of Lucy. Jan kept most of her joints perfectly straight and swung her hair instead. I showed off this new groove to the boy. He responded, “Seriously, is there something wrong?”

The problem is really that I’ve never recovered from these two walks. I’ve had many people try to teach me to walk like a human but ultimately it just ends up looking like a duck, balancing big, swinging hips on top of locked knees. Just call me Lucy Brady.

This went on and on. I loved The Nanny and thought talking like Fran Drescher would make me seem streetwise and New York-witty. Nothing is cooler than the Fonz. How about buying a pleather jacket from the Gap and dropping my “ers”? Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to make a juke box go with my first, but I have gotten double prizes from a vending machine with my hips. Must be all the swinging.

I thought twitching my nose like Samantha Stevens would be a neat party trick. I probably looked like I was about to sneeze through most of the 90s. I quoted Archie Bunker when I was upset with someone. That never went over well with my parents.

I sat up at night, watching TV, and wished life was a sitcom, where I had my own laugh track and the villains got a pie to the face at the end of the episode. Or even a drama, where my woes were a tear-jerking focal point for everyone around me.

While I never succeeded in becoming a character, this did inspire my love for creating characters and for generally choosing to see the funny side of life. And so I am ever thankful to TV, especially Nick at Nite, without whom I may have been spared a lot of embarrassment in my attempts to be somebody else, but I wouldn’t have the passions or sense of humor I have today.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, it’s Spring Break and there’s a Little House marathon on so…