What we read while immigrating into Arizona…
Nothing can make me like LeBron James. I don’t care if he is a champion now. I don’t care if he is the NBA Finals MVP. I don’t care if he put up one of the greatest playoff performances ever this year. I don’t care if he helped Shane Battier get a ring. I don’t care if he overcame the worst cramps in human history to do it. I don’t care if he’s humbler, happier, and more mature than he was two years ago. I don’t care if spends his off-season saving small children from burning buildings. Nothing can make me like him.
And yet the tide is turning in his favor. Throughout the year, fans and sportswriters seemed to be letting up on LeBron, as if the statute of limitations on detesting him had run out. Seth Davis, of Sports Illustrated, seemed to make this argument almost explicitly. And now that James finally has his ring, I suspect the intense fandom that lined up behind whichever team happened to be playing the Heat will die down a bit; it’s not as fun to root against something that’s already happened. Continue reading
Most of the problems with HBO’s Girls come from the name. By titling her show so simply, Lena Dunham implied that she was speaking for an entire gender. Having her character announce in the pilot, “I think I might be the voice of my generation,” also didn’t help her.
Of course, this says far more about the current state of television (and society) than anything else. Shows created by, produced by, and starring women are so rare that when one appears, it is expected to make a statement about the entire gender. A show that was allegedly supposed to speak for so many couldn’t help but get criticized for being so narrowly targeted: There were no minorities, or people from poor backgrounds, or sympathetically portrayed men, etc.
But this is not a fair standard: Nobody expects Louie to speak on behalf of all men. Even someone like Tyler Perry, who is in a similar situation as one of the few African-Americans with complete creative control over his work, isn’t expected to speak on behalf of all black people. In fact, it would be seem phony and unrealistic if someone like Louis C.K. tried to tailor his vision to fit social conventions; it would ruin the show.
By the same token, it would feel phony and unrealistic for Dunham’s character on Girls, Hannah, to have a black best friend. Continue reading
What we read while we all just got along…
Mad Men’s recently wrapped-up fifth season was possibly its best season yet, and at least its best since season two. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the most ambitious season thus far because it dealt most directly with morality—and was the least preoccupied with subject of happiness.
Most of the time, Mad Men is all about happiness: Is happiness an illusion? Is it ever sustainable? Are the things that make people happy the same? Etc. This can be compelling, but it tends to get self-indulgent and repetitive quickly.
What made Season Five so different, though, was that it took as its starting point the idea that Don Draper, the perpetually self-loathing protagonist, was actually happy. He was finally in a happy marriage; he had a cordial relationship with his ex-wife and he was getting along with his kids; his company was relatively safe, and his relationships with most of his co-workers were good. This was so jarring to some viewers that they seemed intent to find problems where none existed. Every fight with he had with Megan supposedly hinted at the faulty foundation of the marriage—even if the fight was minor and they made up afterwards. People seemed completely unwilling to accept the idea that Don could be happily married and generally content; it was so unlike the Don we were used to. Continue reading
What we read while not Having Another…
Back in 2009, fellow NPIer Josh asked, “What Common Human Behavior Will be Viewed as Mistaken in 100 Years?” He used that question to talk about vegetarianism, but the question popped into my head recently regarding football. It is starting to seem inevitable to me that football—a sport everyone here at NPI loves—will be seen as barbaric and immoral in a generation or two. The more science exposes about the long-term effects of concussions and subconcussive impacts, the more it seems that there is simply no safe way to play football.
Right now, however, football’s popularity seems invulnerable. The highest rated show on TV last year was Sunday Night Football; it was so highly rated that it, combined with the Super Bowl, kept NBC—NBC!—from finishing last among the four major networks this season. This year’s BCS National Championship was watched by 24.2 million viewers, and that was the lowest rated championship of the BCS era. In a recent piece on football’s popularity for Grantland, Chuck Klosterman pointed out that 25 million people watched the NFL Draft, “a statistic that grows crazier the longer you dwell upon its magnitude.” And, if anything, the football’s popularity seems poised to grow as an influx of popular young stars like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Tim Tebow enters the league.
In other words, football’s decline seems both inevitable and impossible. Continue reading