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'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

How can cultural elitists like ourselves put TV in the Culture category? Well, where the hell else is it going to fit?

'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby Bludgeon » Tue Oct 08, 2013 8:11 am

I really hate how you could be watching this great new show - in this case, HBO's "Enlightened". You know, Laura Dern - awesome. Pilot episode, awesome intro. Kind of a thematic reprise of her role in the excellent movie Novocaine. Her character Amy Jellicoe is this great high ranking executive who sort of falls from grace like a burning meteor. After an affair with a fellow exec she takes the fall, he has her transferred to another department, after cutting things off with her, just basically sabotages her and the series starts basically the moment it all sinks in, and she flips out big time. After a fantastic tirade through the office making a disaster of everything she singles the guy out, he is escaping with other top brass on the elevator, she's so pissed and furious -- pries the fucking doors open from a full close screaming, "I will bury you, I will kill you motherfucker!"
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I'm like, that's spectacular. Great character. Great series. Great writing. Laura Dern is actually really, really great sometimes.

Obviously, Jellicoe's entire life falls apart at that point in the opening scene and the rest of the show is after she gets back from this $48,000 rehab treatment on Hawaii, she comes back still $24k in debt, and a little bit rehabilitated, but also sort of fucked up from it. Like the treatment did do her some good, but its the kind of place where they also filled her head up with some major bullshit. She's wrapped up in all these self help programs, which I think we've all met people who have been in those where you think, 'boy is that helping or hurting'? But it's kind of not bad, because the writing does sort of 'reveal' how flawed that kind of program can be; so it's a bit of tongue in cheek critical satire. Which, that is a good thing to have in your story.

Even still, what Jellicoe wants, her great driving motivation (to get her buyer job back) is a desire that is ridden with illusions and personal blindness, and a failure to recognize the core of her problems; she's trying to deal with them but they're profound enough that really delving that mine alone and in such a short time is basically just beyond what any one person should or could be capable of. She has this latent rage issue, and the way Dern plays it just under the surface, it's like you want to look away but can't.

So I'm stuck watching the series because at least so far it's really, really good.

But just like every other series -- ridden with rampant traces of bullshit new age politics. -- All these really tired, cliche notions about 'dumping', 'sweat shops', 'union busting', which I could give a fuck about.

I wouldn't mind so much, but I'm really sick of all this 'socially conscious', evangelical bullshit that has become a mandatory institution in any entertainment program a person could possibly attempt to watch.

It's really to the point where it's hard for a serious person to be interested in any cultural influence written any time after 1901. I mean the Pilgrims fled England to get away from a coercive religious authority that essentially endeavored to tell them what to think. Where do we go now, if we want to get away from the same?

I'm tired of being exposed to programming where the overriding focus is to pump out this blaring message about what kinds of people it's 'okay' to have as the boss, what kinds of people it's 'okay' to have as leading roles, what kinds of people it's 'okay' to give all the good lines to -- and who should be in the background, with the bad lines, with the 'shame' roles, with the dunce, unlikable characters.

Is nothing allowed to be good, on the basis of merit? Because the merit of the craft and the work is what I miss most of all, when networks insist on poisoning good story craft with bad social evangelism.

The quandary for me is, if this is what's to be done with the work and the product of all the people I would otherwise be inclined to be enthusiastic about, then who's left to like?

By episode 5 she is organizing a rally about deporting illegals. Why would I watch that?
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Re: 'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby wack wack » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:09 am

Bludgeon wrote:Is nothing allowed to be good, on the basis of merit? Because the merit of the craft and the work is what I miss most of all, when networks insist on poisoning good story craft with bad social evangelism.


Are you aware it's always been like this, and your incredible tolerance for it is finally worn out? Or are you suggesting this social evangelism is something new?

it's always been there, and I'd argue that it is done to a much lesser degree now. Just for fun, watch an episode of Dragnet and take a drink each time Friday launches into a new moral pontification. Betcha don't make it to the second commercial break without crossed eyes.
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Re: 'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby Bludgeon » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:17 am

wack wack wrote:Are you aware it's always been like this, and your incredible tolerance for it is finally worn out? Or are you suggesting this social evangelism is something new?

The first one.
It's always been there, and I'd argue that it is done to a much lesser degree now. Just for fun, watch an episode of Dragnet and take a drink each time Friday launches into a new moral pontification. Betcha don't make it to the second commercial break without crossed eyes.


Just sometimes I feel like its worse. I don't understand what's the point of pumping out this message and trying to steer peoples' opinions in this coordinated way. I mean don't get me wrong I hated the religious nonsense in Little House on the Prairie and all those western shows, also.

Yeah I go back and watch some of my favorite shows like "Northern Exposure", basically my all time favorite, and now it's like, 'there it is, god damn it.'

Can they not stop doing this kind of thing? Do they get paid to put it in there, or do they get fined if they don't have it? It's a waste of a whole art medium.
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Re: 'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby wack wack » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:21 am

Bludgeon wrote:Can they not stop doing this kind of thing? Do they get paid to put it in there, or do they get fined if they don't have it? It's a waste of a whole art medium.


Honestly, I think it's just the socially-conscious bend of most creative minds. I think to a large degree they don't even know they're doing it.

Here's what I wonder: I look back at the aforementioned Dragnet, or some of my cheezy 70s favorites like Emergency and S.W.A.T., and the moralizing seems incredibly ham-fisted compared to today. Was it so obvious back in the day? Will today's "subtle" moralizing seem equally ham-fisted 20 years from now?
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Re: 'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby Stebben84 » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:28 am

Many artists including musicians, painters, writers, sculpture, and yes, directors, include social messages in their work. I don't see television or movies as any different. It's just a bit more obvious. If these programs try to be a reflection of the society around us, then they would be doing a disservice to not include it. To pretend that these issues are not relevant in our society would be putting blinders on.

Look at Renaissance paintings or Soviet Socialist realist paintings. They didn't have television back then so this is how the artists expressed their views on social issues. Think about All in the Family. It was a great comedy, but it was a direct reflection of the social issues affecting society at the time.

So no, it won't stop, it always existed, and it will always continue. Maybe you should just watch cooking shows.
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Re: 'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby Bludgeon » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:35 am

wack wack wrote:
Bludgeon wrote:Can they not stop doing this kind of thing? Do they get paid to put it in there, or do they get fined if they don't have it? It's a waste of a whole art medium.

Honestly, I think it's just the socially-conscious bend of most creative minds. I think to a large degree they don't even know they're doing it.

I can be a bit harsh sometimes but seriously, whatever the writers' beliefs are, basically fine with me, what I get into are really well crafted stories, dynamic concepts, visceral characters, I like writers and actors who can bring on the intensity, maybe to a level that's off the charts, but never lose their focus. Like that opening scene, you are really emotionally involved and you know everything there is to know about the character in the first 40 seconds, if not the first moment itself.

I hate that they do this kind of thing with the subplots. It's like this unnecessary dividing line between the writer and the reader. I wouldn't care if the writer was a devout follower Hayek and Friedman, I still would not want this character I've related to on a personal level and learned to sympathize with, to essentailly start evangelizing the audience.

Also I think it's a really lazy way to fill out the rest of the story with various bits of dogma.
wack wack wrote:Here's what I wonder: I look back at the aforementioned Dragnet, or some of my cheezy 70s favorites like Emergency and S.W.A.T., and the moralizing seems incredibly ham-fisted compared to today. Was it so obvious back in the day? Will today's "subtle" moralizing seem equally ham-fisted 20 years from now?

I know a lot of the stuff I used to think was so smooth back in the nineties comes off as clumsy posturing today. I think it's because our cultural attitudes are often reactions to changing social norms. Usually at the end of a thematic social trend, that's the moment when a generation has become a parody of itself and the absurdity is crystal clear. The 70's were ham-fisted because the 60's were art-school hipster; because the 50's were meat and potatoes. Right now we go back and catch some sixties film culture and it's like well, we can relate to that pretty good. Peter Sellers? Doctor Strangelove? That shit is slick.

I think what will look funny about us today is our ultra-cynicism; where we feel compelled to pick apart and make fun of anything resembling a straight forward statement or expression. Nothing is ever 'say just what you mean', it's like 'how are we supposed to say this'? We'll say anything except exactly what we mean. I have to think the next generation will look back at us and, despite our merits which every generation has, see how we're defining ourselves as a culture obsessed with serious institutional problems, but too preoccupied with the strictures of our language codes, to ever seriously discuss them.
Last edited by Bludgeon on Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby Stebben84 » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:46 am

Bludgeon wrote:Also I think it's a really lazy way to fill out the rest of the story with various bits of dogma.


If it's done sloppily or just as a "place filler" then I agree it can wreck the story. Shows and movies that can weave it in seamlessly and make it a part of the story are much more successful programs in my opinion. If a social issues seems to come out of left field, then it's a reflection on poor writing and can kill the show.
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Re: 'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby green union terrace chair » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:55 am

There's a difference between shows that can weave a social message in seamlessly, those that make a it a focal point (yet tastefully) and those that beat you over the head with the message. Sounds like you've found an example of the latter.
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Re: 'Socially Conscious' evangelism ruins every good show.

Postby Bludgeon » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:56 am

Stebben84 wrote:
Bludgeon wrote:Also I think it's a really lazy way to fill out the rest of the story with various bits of dogma.


If it's done sloppily or just as a "place filler" then I agree it can wreck the story. Shows and movies that can weave it in seamlessly and make it a part of the story are much more successful programs in my opinion. If a social issues seems to come out of left field, then it's a reflection on poor writing and can kill the show.


I thought The Contender was a masterpiece of political subtlety when I first watched it; going back years later I was remiss to realize that the masterful Gary Oldman performance I had been inspired by all that time, was still draped over what ended up to be some very careless writing, as far as his character was concerned. The only message I get from it now, is how careful partisans have to be when they're characterizing their political opposites. The lesson ends up being how we need to avoid one sided tendencies to see what we want to see, when we talk about other people.
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