Tag Archives: themes

What the Modern Sitcom Says about Millennials, Our Fears, and Our Obsession with Love

The Mindy Project, New Girl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Man Seeking Woman, and How I Met Your Mother.

What do all those shows have in common?

Well, for one, they all feature a millennial as their main protagonist. This protagonist is also single. In fact, most of them even kick off their pilot with a break-up of some sort.

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This introductory break-up signals that love is going to be the end goal of the series. Of course there will be other ambitions and goals to meet along the way- especially for female protagonists (apparently women still have to prove that marriage isn’t our only goal in life)- but each of these comedies revolves around a quirky protagonist’s struggle to find a partner.

The “searching for love” trope has become even more common in contemporary sitcoms than the “quirky but loveable family” trope that was so common when we were kids.

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Even just by comparing hit TV shows, I think it’s safe to say that we Millennials tend to struggle with different issues than our parents did at our age.  After all, what is a sitcom for but to mock our deepest fears and help us laugh at ourselves?

Having binge watched most of The Mindy Project, New Girl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Man Seeking Woman, and How I Met Your Mother, I’ve noticed a couple of common themes running through these shows.  

1. Women worry that they’ve been too successful, while men worry that they haven’t been successful enough

Mindy (The Mindy Project) is a OB/GYN, Jess (New Girl) is a school principal, Rebecca (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) is a lawyer, and even Liz (sister of main character Josh in Man Seeking Woman) is a lawyer. When all of these women find themselves unexpectedly single, they are introduced to a kind of panic none of the male protagonists are forced to face: will I be too old to have kids by the time I find someone?

In contrast, Nick (New Girl) and Greg (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) are bartenders, Josh (Man Seeking Woman) is a temp, Josh (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) works at a “laid-back” tech store, and even Mindy has dated the occasional DJ.

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This is a bit of a red herring, since Ted did eventually become a pretty successful architect.

Continue reading

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Taylor Swift: History’s Greatest Monster

When I first heard that pop star Taylor Swift had paid off a fan’s student loans, I was honestly and truly impressed. The average student loan debt is around 30 thousand dollars, and can easily pass six digits for some folks, and knowing that struggle all too well myself, that kind of spontaneous kindness struck me as really neat. When Evan wrote about that on Friday, reporting the payment was less than 2 grand, it kinda took the wind out of my sails. Don’t get me wrong- I think Evan hit the nail on the dead in saying that anything good is good, but I still couldn’t help thinking:

“Is that it?”

Still, I decided to suspend my hostilities towards the woman and actually do some more research into her- fully prepared to be proven wrong, or to admit that my dislike stems purely from taste in music.

Still, it seemed the deeper I dug, the more I’d keep returning to that same question.

“Is that it?”

Now back in November, Evan had written another post trying to defend Swift, arguing that her music isn’t for everyone (no argument), plenty of other singers have cashed in on lost-love themes (also true), and at the end of the day, she’s just being herself.

Problem is- I believe that.

While it’s entirely possible that Swift’s just another interchangeable, committee-designed pop figure, I’m completely willing to believe that she’s being who she is. Only who she is isn’t all that good.

Let me break it down here. Continue reading

Fixing Ghost Movies

A while back, we had a discussion on everything wrong with our attempts to make exorcism movies. Good ones, anyways. That done, I figured we might try to keep the ball rolling and talk today about how to repair our stories of ghosts and haunted houses.

Now as a disclaimer, I’m coming into all this with some bias. While I’ve never had anything particularly against these kinds of movies, ghost and haunting stories have always been my least favorite kind of horror. Heavily reliant on jump scares, rather than psychological horror, they’ve always struck me as being not all that much different than an amusement park ride. That’s all just to say that I’m not what you’d call an expert by any means, but I think  we can all agree on some ground rules here.

Let’s get started.

Drop the Victorian Crap

It’s not every ghost story that’ll include junk from this period in time- just most of ’em. If you see the ghost, 9 times out of 10, it’s some woman in ragged-but-unmistakable Victorian garb. This is actually one of the arguments skeptics use to discredit most paranormal claims- we’ve had so many people die since the 1800s that the fact that most every “sighting” is of a specter in turn-of-the-century clothing just shows how deeply ingrained this trope is into our psyche.

Of course, that doesn’t stop the film industry from showing nothing but that.


Granted, in the movie’s defense it looks like it actually is set in the 1800s, so the whole Victorian schtick is at least explained- that still doesn’t make any of it less tiresome.

And it’s not just the ghosts- it’s everything.  The settings, the props- old mirrors, dolls, mysterious antique boxes, little red balls that’ll inevitably roll down the stairs seemingly of their own accord. The moment the audience sees ’em there’s a collective internal groan of “here we go again”.

Right back at ya, Tina…

It’s a question of realism- who even has this kind of stuff anymore? 30 or so years ago, yeah, I could see someone inheriting some old turn-o’-the-century junk, but these days it just feels out of place. Horror can’t be horror unless the threat feels real, and the classic “you’ve inherited a haunted mansion” story is becoming harder and harder to buy.

We don’t exactly have a ton of these things lying around either…

Don’t get me wrong- I understand why people choose these settings. You can’t exactly do a convincing ghost story in a cramped apartment in the middle of the city, and as much as Japan tries to cash in on technology-horror (see One Missed Call or The Ring), it’s still a really tough sell.

There’s gotta be some other options, though. Haunted farm. Ghost town.  Heck, even some new housing development could probably be scary if you added the right twist. I’ve even seen a submarine make for a pretty decent haunting-story. All in we have got to stop relying on these old crutches if we want to make something worth watching. Continue reading