Filed under: Uncategorized
The Office (the American version) is one of the most conservative television shows I’ve ever seen. Here are three broad reasons.
Although the show has an ensemble cast and multiple storylines/recurring jokes, everyone understands the central, overarching joke is that the boss, Michael Scott, is pathetically needy and lonely, and craves adulation and love from everybody. But I wonder why it’s not more widely noted how often he clutches at empty-headed PC nostrums, wannabe “cool” pop-culture references, Oprah-style confessional group sessions, and similar tried and true…shall we say…left-wing tactics for becoming popular and staying the center of attention.
In other words, Michael Scott understands what few lefties have the self-awareness to understand themselves: many left-wing principles are best understood as techniques for showing off the moral superiority of the person spouting them, so that he will convince others he deserve adulation (and authority). The differences between Michael Scott and the run-of-the-mill lefty are that (1) Scott doesn’t really believe in anything he’s saying, because he’s just repeating things he’s heard on (for example) TV; and so, relatedly, (2) he’s a spectacular (and hilarious) failure at the moral posturing part, because he’s inept and everyone sees through him.
But at least he is astute enough to have picked up on what are the main sales pitches the mainstream left uses for themselves, their brilliance, their superiority, and their claims to power. Even if this is not the show’s intent (and it would surprise me greatly if it were), you can read The Office as a biting satire of leftist thinking and its usage in popular culture – and politics. (Perhaps Obama is essentially a skillful Michael Scott.) A side effect of this taking down of PC leads to my next point.
Stanley is “the black guy” of The Office. At least this is what Michael Scott thinks. But everyone else, including Stanley, ignores that fact.
Although The Office is “diverse”, what they do consistently is to defy any PC notions of race, ethnicity, ‘identity’. The only person who consistently cares about those things, in hilariously inept and latently-prejudiced ways, is Michael. The rest of the individuals mostly just want to be left alone to do their thing, and no one is really that interested in the subject. Not only that, but to play up the various identities – which only Michael does – is consistently portrayed as lame and uncouth. Michael’s PC overtures – I would say, PC notions in general – are made fun of on The Office, over and over again. They have nothing to do with the reality of peoples’ lives. And what do all the characters want to do with their lives? Get married, buy homes, make families – these truly conservative institutions are widely respected and admired on The Office.
The overall effect is perhaps less a “conservative” point of view than a libertarian one. People are treated as individuals, with all their quirks. Race/identity is not ignored but neither is it the be-all and end-all of a person. Stanley is black, so what. He’s married to a white woman, so what. Oscar is gay, so what. Angela from accounting is, of course, a more classically “conservative” stereotype (something like a ‘religious fundamentalist’, albeit not quite) – disapproving of Oscar’s homosexuality, etc. – and that is made fun of too. One of the most vicious targets of barbs is Toby, the spineless dweeb from HR, in theory the office’s most natural purveyor of PC – that’s all he does after all, since he does nothing tangible or revenue-generating. This leads me to,
A final, perhaps most significant reason the show strikes me as conservative is its treatment of business. Obviously it takes place in an “office”, but it’s worth mentioning that this is specifically a sales branch. The creators could have made this any kind of office. It could have been a government bureaucratic office of some kind, or some other place that is only about paper-pushing and form-processing, to try to make the usual points about office work we’ve already seen on Dilbert and Office Space. But what takes place in this office are primarily sales. The heroes and central characters are all salesmen. And being a salesman is treated with respect. We see them manning the telephones. We see them going on sales calls. Think about how rare this is on television!
What sort of jobs do we usually see on television? Lawyers, doctors and cops. People whose jobs are not necessarily about making a profit, but about bringing them into contact with “society’s problems” – which makes it easy to come up with new weekly storylines. These are roles that TV writers know how to write for, if only because there have been so many other lawyer, doctor, and cop shows, but also because such roles are sufficiently distant from the everyday lives of most people (which, of course, is part of their appeal) that you can just make stuff up and only a tiny minority would notice.
But when do you ever see salesmen on TV? When we do see a salesman, it’s likely to be the “used car salesman” character type, a wormy guy with a plaid jacket and no scruples. But on The Office the salesmen are all more or less decent people – well, except Dwight Schrute. But he’s the exception that proves the rule, because as contemptible and strange as that character is, sales is shown as the one area of life where Dwight can function normally. He’s the best salesman in the office! This is almost a paean to the beneficial role sales and business can have on society; just try to picture where Dwight would be in the world without sales.
To be sure, the show does get some mileage from occasionally joking about how this company and office are just middlemen – that they don’t make the paper they sell, they stand between wholesalers and business-side clients. But this fact is never used to smear the salesmen themselves. Indeed, in the world of The Office, sales is pretty much the coolest place to be – the corporate people in New York (while well-paid) are clueless and distant, often neurotic or troubled, a place where people flame out as often as they rise up; Michael the boss (and former good salesman; sales is “where he belongs”) is an idiot as a boss of course; accounting are boring nerds; and the warehouse guys are ok, but underpaid and unglamorous. The “coolest” character is Jim, a salesman. His fiancee Pam also recently moved up in the world – by demanding to be put on sales.
There is no hint of the lefty bias against profit-making or “putting profits over people”. Profits are shown to benefit people. Nobody on The Office could have a job without them (again, this sets it apart from doctor/lawyer/cop shows, doesn’t it?). Branches are closed without them. The lesson is clear. A recent storyline had Michael Scott splitting off and forming his own company with Pam and the temp. When they made their first sale they celebrated. When they sold their company for a nice sum they celebrated. As they should. But this was all “capitalism”.
Maybe my perspective has been screwed up by too much force exposure to PC nonsense, but think about it: How often do we actually see “capitalism” on TV, without a sneer, without cynicism, without portraying the profit-seekers as oily snakes?
The Office is a rarity. Intentionally or not, it’s a very conservative television show.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: elton john, gay marriage, homosexuality, rock hudson
One rebuttal to the arguments for gay marriage is to simply point out that it already exists: homosexuals can already get married every bit as much as heterosexuals can.
‘Marriage’ after all is among other things just a legal union between a man and a woman. This says nothing about whether the man and/or woman in question enjoys having sex with let alone “is in love with” that woman and/or man. So yes, gays can get married right now. There is no impediment whatsoever. The way gays would do this is the same way everyone else gets married: find a willing partner, of legal age, of the opposite sex, and marry them. Elton John did it, for pete’s sake. Was that not a ‘gay marriage’? Oscar Wilde got married. Cole Porter got married. Rock Hudson got married.
All supposedly impossible because “gay marriage” hasn’t been legalized thus gays “don’t have the right to get married”.
“But that’s not fair!” you cry out. “You’re dodging the issue! Gay people only like their own sex, so if they married someone of the opposite sex, they’d be in a passionless marriage with a person they’re not sexually attracted to!” Aside from the fact that the obvious retort to this almost writes itself (“gee, you mean like 95% of married people?”), the deeper issue is that this notion of marriage – that it must involve and goes hand in hand with romantic love and sexual passion – is a rather recent and ahistorical invention. Marriage has not historically been only about romantic passion for heterosexuals, let alone homosexuals.
And by the way a large percentage of what we would now think of and label as ‘homosexuals’ probably did get married historically. The modern notion we have of ‘homosexuals’ is, itself, a recent invention – and a narrow, restrictive, fundamentally conservative one. The ancient Greeks are known for the cliche of older men who had both wives and young male lovers. The modern ‘progressive’ attitude would, I gather, be confused by this: “but that means the man is a homosexual! How can he be married!! That makes no sense!” Apparently Greeks didn’t subscribe to the binary, constricting, either/or placement into such narrow categories as supposedly progressive-thinking people do today.
Consider the sort of thought process behind the below exchange with Justice Powell in the ’80s that extremely-“progressive” left-wing blogger hilzoy cited approvingly a while ago, as some sort of gotcha example as to why Justices need to have understanding/’empathy':
Later the same day, [Justice] Powell came back to Chinnis [one of his law clerks] and asked, “Why don’t homosexuals have sex with women?” “Justice Powell,” he replied, “a gay man cannot have an erection to perform intercourse with a woman.”
This is what all right-thinking people believe, of course. How dense and backward Justice Powell must have been not to understand this! Why, everyone knows that a gay man CANNOT have an erection in the presence of a woman. It’s physically impossible! The laws of biology, or perhaps physics?, prohibit it!
Sorry, but that’s bulls**t. “Cannot”? Without getting too explicitly into the mechanics of sex, and stimulation, and erections…um, let’s just say I don’t believe that for one second. More to the point, it is disproven. Any study, or even a cursory glance at anecdotes of people with gay dads, will show that numerous “gay” people have had sex with members of the opposite sex. The idea that they “cannot” get the erection necessary to do so is not only a weird metaphysical superstition but a total denial of reality. When George Costanza on Seinfeld worried that if “it moved” when a man was giving him a massage, it meant he had latent gay tendencies, this was a hilarious and backward supserstition. We all laughed. But saying and believing that gays “cannot” get an erection, let alone have sex, in the presence of the opposite sex is the flip side of the exact same superstition. It indicates a belief in the idea that there is some sort of invisible or metaphysical “switch” that triggers inside someone that will somehow prevent the sexual act from taking place with the opposite sex if the person “is gay” (which, itself, is spoken of as if it’s a “switch”).
So, to summarize, throughout history it is quite common that people we now consider ‘homosexual’ got married, whether for the purpose of procreation, or property preservation, or simply having a ‘beard’. ‘Homosexuals’ weren’t placed in this separate category wherein conventional opposite-sex marriage was considered somehow physically or metaphysically impossible. Nor is it somehow physically or biologically impossible for people with generally homosexual sexuality to engage in the sexual, physical act of copulation with people of the opposite sex. So knowing all of this just makes it hard on my brain when people go around saying “gays can’t get married”. Um, what about the known, ironclad, historical fact that a lot of gays have gotten married and had heterosexual sex???
One aspect of the gay marriage argument does earn my sympathy. There is an equal-protection argument that has merit. Namely, married people get certain rights that nonmarried people don’t – actually though, I wouldn’t even dignify them by calling them “rights”, they are more like “conveniences”. Married people can submit their taxes as Married – Filing Jointly. (Whoop dee doo, such a thrill.) Married people can, um, adopt? Wait, so can unmarried gay couples. What “rights” are we talking about then? You often hear about “hospital visitation rights” – ok, fine, so married people can visit their spouse in the hospital, whereas when it comes to a gay unmarried couple, the nurses will viciously turn away a gay person from ever visiting his or her dying partner, at gunpoint. Actually, no, having worked in a hospital (with, of course, tons of gay people) I don’t believe for one second that really happens either. But whatever, let’s concede the point: being married probably does have some conveniences when it comes to dealing with government-style bureaucracies, paperwork, and such.
The rebuttal to my point above then would be a disparate-impact sort of argument: namely, yes, ok, gays could get married (to someone of the opposite sex), but this goes against their preference, so it’s not fair. In short: to gain access to certain bureaucratic conveniences, gays have to engage in an action they’re not predisposed, from birth or at least early on, to like. Having ‘marriage’ only be man-woman therefore has a disparate impact on homosexuals’ ability to access those conveniences.
That argument is true, as far as it goes. It does have a disparate impact: the thing homosexuals would have to do to obtain certain government conveniences – marry someone of opposite sex – by definition isn’t likely to be very appealing to them.
Boo hoo. As if all other government-supplied conveniences are somehow equally easy to obtain for every sort of person!
This isn’t exactly a civil-rights issue on a level with “I have a dream…”. But what the heck, if being able to check a box so they can be Filing Jointly on their taxes is that important to homosexuals, I say let’s go ahead and make that change.
But that is no reason to change the definition of marriage.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: bun e. carlos, cheap trick, fountains of wayne, hanson, lovecraft, music, smashing pumpkins, tinted windows
Ok what? Let me explain.
See, the other night, it was oh let’s say two and a half weeks ago, I had eaten too much homemade ghee-based Indian food at dinner and my half-awake dreams were twisted and surreal, yet incorporating real-world elements into a Lovecraftian monstrous hybrid vision. Most of the memories of these dreams were immediately etched out of my brain in an apparent effort at self-preservation, lest insanity take hold permanently.
But one dream element shines through brightly, like a thing that shines very very brightly. In this dream, you see, there was a pop-rock band. The members of this pop-rock band were, unbelievably and improbably and bizarrely:
- The kid from Hanson. He was singing, and somehow all grown up.
- Adam Schlesinger, songwriting genius behind Fountains of Wayne, on bass (?).
- One of the people from Smashing Pumpkins on guitar. That James Iha guy in fact. Totally random right?
- And on drums, none other than Bun E. Carlos from fricking Cheap Trick. (!!) Yes, that Bun E. Carlos. Really old presumably, but still rocking.
I could only guess at what sort of psychopathies could have led my brain to conjure up this unholy vision. Imagine my utter horror and disbelief, then, to discover that this band is REAL and that they are called Tinted Windows. How can this be? And what does it mean?
Some things cannot be explained. Some things just are.
All the news stories I saw mentioning President Obama’s Supreme Court pick made special mention of that quote from a while back where he said he would look for someone with “empathy”. The “empathy” debate has thus trickled up into mainstream news to the point where they feel obligated to make it part of the conversation.
Now look. I’m as fond of finding reasons to criticize the President as the next guy. And I’m guilty of harping on the “empathy” quote myself. But isn’t it time to give it a rest with the “empathy” thing? It was one quote he gave, in one answer, to one question, in a certain context. As far as I can tell, President Obama never said My One And Only Criterion Is That The Person Has Empathy, or anything akin to that. And as far as I can tell, this pick is perfectly qualified.
I think the “empathy” quote should have been discussed (as it was, and I participated), but then dropped. I’m tired of hearing about it.
It’s really time to drop it.
“Who the f*** still uses a pay phone?”
Something I’ve wondered myself….
HT: 2 Blowhards
1. (Doing something dangerous at the playground) “I’m watch-outing.”
2. “Every grownup gets mad at people all the time.”
3. “Nobody can see the wind. Only angels and butterflies can.”