If we live in a golden age of great television shows, the vast majority of these shows have featured angst-ridden white male protagonists. This shift from heroes to anti-heroes has been frequently and rightly characterized as a broader interrogation of masculinity itself, one occasioned by crises of its creators, crises of culture, or both. But while current prestige-magnets like Mad Men and Breaking Bad might offer revisionist takes on white maleness, they also offer their audiences renewed fantasies of the same. Young men buy suits cut to look like Don Draper’s; aggrieved Internet communities close ranks in protection of Walter White’s right to be the One Who Knocks.So what's great about Eastbound & Down is that it deprives the beleaguered white male of hope.
Eastbound & Down isn’t so much a show about white masculinity in transition or decline as it is a biting send-up of male fantasy itself. Powers fancies himself an alpha dog, gunslinging, rock ’n’ roll outlaw, a fiction he believes to be reality, and to which he believes himself to be entitled. Kenny Powers’ problem, in a sense, is that he’s watched too much TV. If Mad Men is a drama about the encroaching demise of a certain white male dominance, Eastbound & Down is a satire of its vacancy, and its bankruptcy. The latter is a whole lot funnier, and often more daring.Because hopeless, pathetic decline is hilarious. To paraphrase Mel Brooks: Tragedy is when a woman or person of color feels disrespected or bullied. Comedy is when a white man falls into an open sewer and dies. (Here's the disemparaphrased Mel Brooks quote.)
I quoted the subtitle of the article above — because it made the content of the article clearer— but now I see enough additional meaning to make me want to quote the title. It's "Breaking Ball." That's not just a play on "Breaking Bad" and a reference to crushing testicles, it's an allusion to the show's milieu, baseball. Eastbound & Down shows baseball as "gross and debauched, a morass of juiced-up players, abusive fans, godforsaken locales, bored and boring spectacle."
Many of the actors on-screen... boast hilariously unathletic physiques, and seem to have last donned a glove back in the days when home plate came with a tee. It’s the ugliest depiction of the game in recent memory, a hilarious and welcome desecration of one of the old white America’s favorite civic religions.Take that, white America.
CORRECTION: This post originally ended with this parenthetical:
(And can golf ever catch a break? It's the most coolness-resistant activity on earth. It's the sport most associated with Obama, and the man most associated with the sport is Tiger Woods, and yet it's still the domain of the old white guys — fat old white guys.)Meade proofreads and corrects my inference that "tee" was a joke about golf. I guess that says something about the connections in my brain. Running down the out-of-shape, declining white males led me to thinking about golf. The reference is to the children's game of tee ball. I don't think children playing tee ball wear a batting glove. That's what threw me off. But obviously, they do wear a glove to play defense in tee ball.
ADDED: Meade reads my correction and informs me that children playing tee ball do wear batting gloves. I'm surprised. There's so much more gear these days, what with helmets to tricycle and knee pads to roller skate. And then as I'm writing this, Meade interrupts to inform me that the author of the article meant a fielder's glove, which I know, but my point is, when I'm reading and words are used to call up an image in the mind, and I see "tee" and "glove," I picture a person at a tee wearing a glove, and that takes me to golf, not tee ball. Or is that how the female brain works?