I read Jason Collins announcing that he was gay. This is a pretty big deal since he’s the first active player to come out in one of the major sports in America. What made me really happy was seeing this collection of tweets reacting to his announcement. Our culture’s changing.
In the past, I’ve been rather cynical about the ability of a simple tweet or facebook post to change things. I satirized clicktivism before the term was coined. On the one hand, some cynicism is warranted. A lot of times campaigns can be lazy, and focus more on awareness than action. Afterwards, there’s no follow through. Who remembers Kony? CISPA passed, even though the predecessor was defeated.
Yet, the problem with cynicism is that its only antidote to apathy is… well, more apathy. “It doesn’t make a difference what I do, so I won’t do anything,” goes the thought pattern. By doing nothing, you tacitly uphold the values of the dominant viewpoint. However, by tweeting support and changing your facebook profile to an equal sign, you’re helping to create an atmosphere of acceptance. It isn’t doing nothing; it isn’t purely slacktivism. It’s encouraging and empowering to see your feed flooded with a message of tolerance.
This is especially important when there is still so much intolerance. If we’re quiet, then all anyone hears are those loud-mouth bigots and fuck them.
This is probably one of the most important things I’ve read online: The Meme Hustler. Seriously, a large portion of what I read online quickly disappears from my mind. Evgeny Morozov’s take-down of O’Reilly’s (Tim, not Bill) techno-utopianism is great reading for those of us who defend democracy. This will stay in my mind for a while.
Sitcoms are comforting; that’s their main feature. We develop a connection with the characters, we enjoy the rhythms of the jokes and emotional beats. Pilots are almost universally terrible and usually it takes several episodes before a show finds its sea legs. But then the characters grow on us. Even the characters once grating have now become charming. This comfort eventually entraps the sitcom and it kills itself if the network hasn’t already killed it. A sitcom can only go on so long before the grooves wear out and you’re left with something flat and untextured. The characters become caricatures. The rhythms that were once comforting become too predictable.
There are other deaths though. An event may force a change in the show and then it is no longer what it once was. That counts as death… from a certain point of view. That’s what happened with Community. Dan Harmon was fired, and now the show feels different. It feels off. Sitcoms are about familiarity, and this show lacks some essential element (or elements) that make it feels like Community instead of some zombie show. But what is different? I mean, each season has a distinct feel, and I never really complained about their differentness before the disappearance of Harmon. So, it’s not just that Community feels different, but that its DNA has been fundamentally altered. It no longer feels familiar.
I have one hypothesis I’d like to test. I recently read Harmon on story structure. You can find it here: Story Circle. Everything goes in a circle and there are very specific steps. Old Community adhered to those story beats, and I’m guessing new Community doesn’t. Of course, I’ll have to test this hypothesis. I mean, I think the German might adhere to this structure, but it was still rather low on the laughs. This means I’ll actually have to rewatch season four episodes, which I don’t look forward to.
Other hypotheses: The jokes just aren’t as funny. The types of jokes are different or the pacing is different. The music is different. The editing is different.
I’m guessing there’s a combination of things, but it would feel so much more comforting if the story structure hypothesis turned out to true.