Off the Edge: Lots of Pretty, Pretty Ones…

Off the Edge

I recently went on a BBC TV binge. I watched a lot of great, strange shows that seem to come out of the UK. I went back to one of my favorites, Spaced, and while on my Frost and Pegg marathon I found the show Hyperdrive and became incredibly addicted to that, even though, like Spaced, it’s a very short series.

While watching both of these shows it occurred to me that these kinds of TV shows would never be made in the same way in the states… Nick Frost, while a great lead and a terrific comic talent, just doesn’t seem like the kind of show runner they like in the states. Nick is a husky guy with irregular teeth. The female lead, Miranda Hart, is a very tall woman, also pretty husky. The other male lead, Kevin Eldon, is a thin, balding man. I started to wonder how this show would be cast if it had been made in the US. Replace Nick Frost with Matt Bomer, Miranda Hart with Nina Dobrev, and Kevin Eldon with Misha Collins. The comedic timing and talent of the original cast replaced by people more pretty and photogenic performers.

The three principles in the BBCs Hyperdrive

The same goes for Spaced Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes replaced with Josh Lawson and Sara Rue younger, sexier people. Despite the fact that the original story of Spaced kind of had them as 20-something losers.

The Cast of the UK Spaced

Watching those two shows made me wonder where all the regular people are in US TV and films. I know a lot of people who watch shows or go to movies just because they like the way the actors and actresses look. It got me thinking, where are all the “normal” looking people in TV shows and movies? Of course “normal” is very subjective but few people would consider Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Aniston, and Kate Beckensale as “normal;” all of them definitely holding firm positions on the “extremely attractive” to “absurdly attractive” on the physical appearance scale. Shows like Burn Notice, True Blood, Arrow, Supernatural, they may all be great shows with good performances…but are just full very un-normally “pretty people.” Grizzled soldiers, hardened prisoners, brilliant scientists, and slacker losers are all the same chiseled-jawed guys and slim fit girls.

Natalie Portman: Your typical Scientist…

Of course British TV isn’t better in every case, and I don’t watch much TV in general, but I’m hard pressed to think of a US TV show that isn’t chocked full of American Apparel models with Blue Steel expressions and full, pouty lips. Almost universally. Even when a show is built around a personality the rest of it is cast with hot eye candy as friends and family.

Gerard Butler as Attila the Hun…who was likely of Mongol Origin… That’s authentic…

The entertainment industry has become an almost entirely visual medium. Yes of course music is an auditory art, however since at least the advent of film, if not the advent of public performance in general, the visual impact of a performer is often significantly more important than their musical talent…and we all pretty much know it.

As someone who considers himself to operate essentially on the “normal” side of the physical appearance meter it struck me how little of “normal” we see and makes me wonder how much talent goes untapped in the market due to a performer’s appearance. Every piece of our entertainment is now designed wholly to appeal to the attractiveness of the individuals involved. I’d like to see a “return to normalcy” in media. Where talent, personality, and ability makes a show great. The last time I can think of a show not fully stocked with the beautiful people it was Roseanne; a show that started in 1988 and ended almost 20 years ago! I’d say we’re long overdue for a move away from all the beautiful people.

How to be a Good Fan: Building Them Up to Tear Them Down

Off the Edge

This topic is one of the most alarming to me, it says a lot about the nature of our culture’s priorities and mentality.  I’ll leave geek culture for a bit and enter the only part of the sports realm I know.

Manny Pacquiao circa 2003 was an incredible, but one-dimensional fighter.  Aggressive, courageous, talented, fast, powerful.  He had it all.  He shocked challengers, from up and comers to established, brilliant, hard-fighting, more skilled boxers (Marco Antonio Barrera anyone?  Styles really do make fights…).  He his reputation increased when he stepped up from Featherweight to Super Featherweight to Lightweight.  Even fighting a draw and disputed victory with Marquez, he was hailed for giving a great fight.  He demolished champions, sometimes ferocious long-running champions like Ricky Hatton, crushed Oscar De La Hoya in a fight OSCAR sought, so he could beat the best fighter of the era and retire (thinking the little Pacquiao would be too small to be effective), pounded dangerous fighter Miguel Cotto.  He did even more by fighting the massive but stationary Antonio Margarito.  Manny’s showing some rust a bit now, but even worse, going all the way back to his conquest of De La Hoya, a fight many ring experts picked him to lose based on the legend and size of Oscar, fans started to turn against him.

“Overrated,” he “picks his fights,” “he’s limited in ability and just made to look good by fighting old, drained, and chosen fighters.”  Media started to look into his private life.  How’s his marriage?  How are his taxes?  What kind of business is he in?  Is he overspending his money?  He’s not that nice, he can’t be.  His movie was a bomb.  He lost his first election.  Etc.  Etc.  Eeetttc…

It’s this kind of attitude I just can’t understand.  We love you, we love you! Oh wait no we don’t.  We hate you!  We hate you!

It happens in so many areas of entertainment.  TV shows are the “new” thing, then quickly abandoned as the “worst” thing.  Bands and musical artists sell more than anyone ever has, then are quickly hated.  Some of it is over-exposure.  The “summer hit” rarely means the artist will be the next U2.  For example: The Macarena.  Biggest hit of the summer one year when I was in school…  In the U.S., Los Del Rio never showed up again, and the dance and song Macarena went from national pastime to a reviled joke.  The opinion changes from, “this is fun, this guy’s great, this show is the best” to not only “this isn’t good anymore” but to “this is the worst thing that ever existed and, not only that, but it always has been.”  Then why did you love it six months ago?  Like I said in the CBG post, maybe you’re the one who’s changed.  If you hate the exact same song you loved six months ago, it may mean that you hate a little bit of who you were when you loved that song, too.  Maybe that’s why we so violently turn against things.

With Pacquiao, I think it’s partially the change from “up and comer” to “made it.”  For some reason, fans love the up and comer, but can’t wait for the NEXT up and comer.  Once Manny made it, the only thing fans wanted to see was the next guy whose coming up to beat him.  When no one really showed up (he beat Bradley…sorry guys) it just became, “I just want to see him beaten!”  I haven’t quite pinpointed this mentality.  It’s like the fans of a band who only like the underground stuff.  Once they release a studio album, they “sold out” and are no longer worthy of our undying love.  Like Maynard says though, they likely sold out long before you’d ever heard of them.  Is the music still good?  If the answer’s “yes” just sit back and enjoy it without complaining, “it was better when” just to be pretentious and snobbish.

On the other side of the coin, sometimes something that doesn’t last long causes outcry simply because it didn’t.  Three popular examples: the original Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Edgar Wright collaboration Spaced, the UK Office, and Firefly.  I haven’t seen the latter yet, but the other two were written to be limited in run.  Firefly wasn’t, but many feel it was unjustly cancelled as it was a terrific sci-fi show.  One of the things I feel about Spaced and the BBC Office is these shows were great because they were so short in their run.  They packed hilarious good ideas into 14 episodes or so each and never grew stale, or made dumb sitcom mistakes.  It makes me wonder if the same is true about other shows many feel ended before their time.  If Firefly went 12 seasons, would it have been as incredible?  Joss Whedon has been elevated into a geek god, but Buffy eventually ran out of steam… I can’t think of any shows that maintain the same level of quality throughout their run.  I wonder if Spaced had gone into season 8 would it have had a fan outcry of “this show is terrible…it’s not what it used to be” — some fans say that about the difference between its TWO seasons, though fans of the first tend to agree both are terrific.

The only lesson I can think of with this is “enjoy what we have while we have it.”  Fighters, as Marcellus Wallace said, “have a short shelf life and don’t age like wine.” Manny, Jones Jr., Tyson, Duran, Ali, all had great careers.  They have (or will eventually) turn to vinegar in the ring.  It’s the aging process.  So why do we hate them for getting old and not being what they used to be?  Stupid songs can be terrific fun.  Almost ALL popular 80s music has that stupid sing-along quality that can grate at your brain.  But still fun to sing along to!  Even shows you loved as a kid that may seem incredibly lousy now (I’m thinking Thundercats), why hate them for being lousy now?  Just love the fact that you loved them then.

Fans shouldn’t see things in black and white.  It’s not the “greatest of all time” or, related to the last post the, “worst thing ever.”  I think of them as “things I loved then,” “things I’m into now,” and of course, “things I can’t believe I ever liked!”  All said with a smile.  After all, we’re always changing; the things we love will change as we do.  But we shouldn’t hate the things we used to love.  They help explain who we were then and helped make us who we are today.