Friday, July 22, 2011

All In The Family

I was just watching an episode of All In The Family where Mike and Gloria go on vacation and Archie and Edith start fighting with one another. Archie calls Edith a bunch of names ("Edith the Good", "perfect", "not human"), Edith starts hysterically wailing and demanding that Archie apologize, saying things will never be the same between them until he takes it back. Then Edith basically gives Archie the silent treatment, hoping to coerce him into apologizing and Archie tries to get Edith to warm back up to him without apologizing. Eventually Archie kinda apologizes in his own way, and they all live happily ever after.
It got me thinking about how big an influence television is in the life of the modern American, and how scary that is considering the nature of sitcoms like this one. In order for a show to be funny and interesting it has to have plenty of conflict. This conflict is usually created out of the personality defects of the characters; sitcom characters are the most neurotic collection of maladapted, passive aggressive, obsessive-compulsives that you'll ever find. What's more, the better the show, the more conflict, the more neurotic the characters. So the most watched shows have the most screwed up people.
Now if you have a country full of people who grow up with these neurotic messes as their role models, how healthy is that country going to be? Deception, manipulation, emotional blackmail, procrastination and passive aggression will be as common in society as they are in the sitcoms.
And what's to be done? Nobody is going to tune in to a show where the clear-thinking main characters sit down and discuss their problem rationally before it gets out of control... that's not funny.

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