Despicable Us!

As a society we look up to people we admire, that stand for truth and justice. The good guys. Or do we? I was watching The Office (the American one, not the British one, but either one would work in this situation) and I realized what a dick the lead character was. I thought to myself, how could such a douchebag be the protagonist in this story arc, the star, the one we love to watch fail. Don’t get me wrong the show is hilarious, but I think we’ve lost our way.

I then thought that this was just an isolated incident. So like any self respecting lover of pop culture, I went through my top three favourite TV shows. This is what I came up with.

Breaking Bad: Walter White, a meth dealing, murdering, conniving double crosser with a heart of gold. Okay so this one isn’t going to pass the moral compass test, but he was dying of cancer. But then he got better…dammit Walter!!

House: Gregory House. A sociopathic curmudgeon who is addicted to Vicodan (a pain killer), unorthodox approaches to curing patients border on reckless, radical therapeutic motives, and a need to mess with his co-workers for no apparent reason. Strike two. Come one Gregory, I know your leg hurts but running your car into someone’s house is pretty psychotic.

Mad Men: Donald Draper. A philandering, boozer who has a past that is not only mysterious but is down right scary. He will sleep with your wife and then take your money. He may be nice to look at but don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

I may have just sounded like I think these guys are assholes, but they’re not. I watch them get in and out of situations every week and I still pull for them, putting them under a microscope may show their weaknesses, but it is them surviving in spite of all this that makes their charms more attractive. Like Walter White, he is the nice guy that was pushed too far, everyone can relate to this on some level. House is the genius no one understands so he has to lash out to keep from going insane. And Donald Draper is in advertising, been there, done that. How does the old saying go? “I told my mother I played piano in a whorehouse, I didn’t want her to find out I worked in advertising.” Sorry, maybe a little harsh, but anytime you mix creative people and expense accounts, you’re asking for trouble.

Maybe this is the mirror held up to our society, there is no good guy or bad guy anymore, I call it TV Noire. Maybe everyone is guilty of being bad. There are all kinds of other examples in the television landscape: Nurse Jackie, Dexter, Two and a Half Men (new and old), True Blood, Weeds, Jersey Shore, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Days of Our Lives and five hundred channels more.

So next time you are cheering for the bad guy to get his come uppins, think to yourself, who is the bad guy? When I was a kid you loved the hero and hated the villain, I never asked for Darth Vader pyjamas, who would wear those? But these days you have kids that love the villains more than the heroes? These days it isn’t about what side you’re on, but what you do to survive that gets your story in the paper or on the television screen. Look how many “based on a true story” movies there are lately. So survive, but you don’t have to do drugs, murder or cheat on your loved ones to do it. Unless you can get away with it, then you’ll get your own TV show, it’s all about perspective!!

1 Comment

  1. I’m glad you brought this issue up because the shows you mentioned make me cringe. (I’m a TV lightweight anyway, so….)

    I like the idea of “TV Noir” very much, and “Comeuppance Prime Time” is a close second. Very, very on the nose.

    I have my own theories as to why we love fractured men pushed to the breaking point. I think it has something to do with Gen X head writers of TV shows of a certain age working out the issues involved with being a contemporary male.

    My own husband, very much an early Gen Xer, either has watched, or will watch all of the shows you mentioned. Catharsis is part of it, but identification is what keeps bringing viewers like him back.

    Wow, this is a great post. Great ideas, good execution. You’ve given me a lot to consider– and I appreciate it!


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