September 27, 2013

Comedy is when a white man falls into an open sewer and dies.

Jack Hamilton has a piece in Slate subtitled "Forget Walter White. Eastbound & Down is the most original, disturbing, wrenching show on television. (And it’s hilarious, too.)"
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?

38 comments:

BJK said...

(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.)

The tee comment is not about golf, but T-ball (the version of baseball you play around age 5, before kids are deemed ready to hit off live pitching).

AustinRoth said...

To me, a key point in the article was this - "Eastbound & Down begins its fourth and final season this Sunday at 10 p.m. Given its low ratings and general lack of critical or cultural buzz, the fact that it’s made it this far feels like divine intervention..."

Anyone who doubts there is a purpose-driven media war against white males, and maleness in general, going on needs only to read about this pathetic show and realize they kept renewing a low-rated, critically panned series and broadcast it for four years!

What other earthly reason would a profit-driven organization do so except to send a desired social message?

damikesc said...

Remember, that article --- not racist. At all.

mrs. e said...

"Or is that how the female brain works?"

Well, no, not if you played and coached.

TosaGuy said...

The show should stay on until Jerry Reed gets a Grammy.

Henry said...

What other earthly reason would a profit-driven organization do so except to send a desired social message?

A really well defined demographic? That's all you need to make a profit.

surfed said...

Correction - I'm no golfer. I have enough expensive habits as it is (sailing, surfing, kyaking, guitars, etc.). But Perfesser you are clueless when it comes to golf. No old white fat guys on the PGA tour. All young, fit and very, very healthy white guys.

Big Mike said...

Honestly, lady, where would you be without Meade?

And the text says "... last donned a glove back in the days when home plate came with a tee." It doesn't necessarily mean they wore batting gloves. When their side is not at bat the T-ball playing kids wear fielding gloves.

traditionalguy said...

Manipulating self image is a powerful tool. Religions use it. Military basic training uses it. Now "popular network shows" use it.

If a white man resists seeing himself as a degraded and worthless loser, well then he is labeled an extremist anarchist. Why else are the billions of rounds of anti personnel ammo being stored up at every Federal Agency since Obama made his plans. The white men might rebel and see themselves as good and courageous men.

That self image tug of war is why Cruz and Palin have been being targeted for ridicule. They portray the image of white men as a sane people worthy of respect.

Roger Sweeny said...

Is Charles Reich dead? Cause I think he's been reincarnated.

Krumhorn said...

Sorry, Ann, but there is no reasonably authoritative explanation for the workings of a woman's brain. Far too much random electrical activity up there....

.............

- Krumhorm

Libertarian Advocate said...

Had to post a comment just because you've turned comments back on.

Mark S said...

I coached T-Ball for 3 years and I can count on one hand the number of kids who used batting gloves. Now, as you get into the higher levels of Little League, you start getting more batting gloves. But for T-Ball, it's very rare (at least in my experience).

Paddy O said...

I've never even heard of it. Which isn't to be dismissive, but it is to suggest that there's not really this big movement in society represented by this show.

What came to mind, and I don't know if it fits in this genre, is the movie American Splendor. There's an anti-hero, the average guy, yet a guy trying to live his life, the average life.

Sorun said...

Jack Hamilton ... is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado–Boulder’s Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture.

So, duh, what else would Jack Hamilton find significant in a TV show -- everyone's race.

EDH said...

Running down the out-of-shape, declining white males led me to thinking about golf... [when] I see "tee" and "glove," I picture a person at a tee wearing a glove, and that takes me to golf, not tee ball.


"Hey whitey, where's your hat?!"

surfed said...

Comparisons

Woman's brain set:
emotional skills
verbal skills
shopping skills
relationship skills
communication skills
family skills
intuition skills
etc., etc., etc.

Man's brain:
Sports
Eating
Sex
Men only need food and one of the others and we're good to go.

Steve said...

There are no protagonists in Eastbound and Down. It is just Kenny Wayne Powers having fun and doing stupid shit. No decline of the male archetype in the "golden age of television." The male archetype at Slate Magazine has declined to the point that they only recognize urban metrosexuals who disdain riding mowers and tall cans of beer in favor of merino wool sweaters and contrasting keffiyeh.

Tragedy is when Slate writes like they have any knowledge of what happens west of the Hudson river.

Salamandyr said...

That Slate author is a race obsessed moron.

Diamondhead said...

Suffice it to say this "writer" seems to have absorbed some questionable notions about the nature of race and masculinity. This is typically the case when someone makes it their life's work to study race or gender.

Walter White is a tragic figure, not a paragon of masculinity. Kenny Powers's character is absurdist - like Falstaff or Ignatius Reilly (heaven forgive me for the comparison) - he is meant to be amusing. The idea that a white man is supposed to look at East Bound and Down and see the demise of his masculinity is its own kind of absurdist humor.

LarsPorsena said...

"Jack Hamilton writes about culture for Slate. He is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado–Boulder’s Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture. "

How can I get a gig like that?
'Post-doctoral researcher', 'Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture'??? LOL! Can't make this shit up! LOL!

chrisnavin.com said...

Hey Mark,

Get some helmets on those kids, even when they're fielding. Don't want to end up like the NFL.

Are those batting gloves discriminatory against Left-handers?

Do you welcome all genders and non-genders on your team?

Any Muslims or non-English speakers? Better make them feel welcome.

Is there any bullying out there? The Department of Health & Safety can send you a bullying logbook.

Crunchy Frog said...

Or is that how the female brain works?

Estrogen poisoning.

Sam L. said...

Well, it's SLATE. Clearly this is a man of his milieu, who has internalized the horribleness of his male self, and others' male selves, into self-hate.

I've never heard of this show. Clearly, I don't need to look it up.

Ambrose said...

It's beginning it's 4th season and I'd never heard of it until this morning's paper. And even then, I thought the article was promoting a brand new show until I read this post. I know, it's me.

R.A. Crankbait said...

That must be why I haven't followed a TV series since "Star Trek: The Next Generation" went off the air. (Maybe it was cancelled because the white men weren't wimpy and angsty enough).

William said...

I don't know what the statistics are, but there's a lot, perhaps a preponderance of Hispanic players and fans. The writer thinks that real sports are only those sports where blacks dominate. He's a tad bit racist.

Lem said...

... seem to have last donned a glove back in the days when home plate came with a tee.

"Back in the days" is too vague.

For one, they still make home plates with a tee.

Second, "Donning a glove" means a fielding glove, singular, as opposed to batting gloves, plural. And yet the writer refers to a "batting tee." Why?

Obviously, the writer is mixing gloves here... driving Althouse batty.

Unknown said...

I spent this afternoon on the roof of one of my whiskey aging warehouses talking with the foreman of our construction crew about the hydraulic scaffolding his team is using to re-brick the outside of this 1930s-era colossus of a building. Crappy male-bashing TV shows and guys studying Race and Popular Culture didn't come up. The decline of the white male ain't happening here.

Mike Sigman said...

I'm not sure a lot of this is "anti-white-male" so much as it's a reflection of the fact that we now have several generations that have been taught to hate the US. So they hate the US and try to help bring it down ... but they've never thought what happens after that.

Carl said...

If we live in a golden age of great television shows...

Ah ha ha ha. There's a reason GOOG (owner of Youtube) trades at $860 and TWX (owner of HBO) trades at $66. Or maybe he meant "great" in the Ozymandias sense?

So what's great about Eastbound & Down is that it deprives the beleaguered white male of hope.

Of course, anyone who's deprived of hope based on a cable-TV show in the ratings toilet is pretty much a priori a laughable loser who's likely to end up penning angsty self-hating screeds for Slate online to get attention.

I dunno. This stuff is so old and predictable I can't even muster energy enough to click the link. I'm amazed Althouse has the energy to read it all the way through and then actually comment on it without falling asleep at the keyboard. Must be the cerebral stamina gained by a lifetime of plowing through 900-page legal opinions on the precise penumbral boundaries of trademark infringement caselaw without using No-Doz.

Moneyrunner said...

Where can I go to get the last 5 minutes of my life back?

Ray Zacek said...

Comedy is when a nosy white Hispanic get his cracker butt kicked by a black teen he's been following; tragedy is when the white Hispanic is armed.

jr565 said...

"So what's great about Eastbound & Down is that it deprives the beleaguered white male of hope."

I've watched the show a couple of times and it can be funny. But, I didn't get the implied subtext when watching the show.
Why is this suddenly a show about race? And more importantly why is depriving the beleagured white male of hope somehow a good thing.


I suppose you could argue that what's great about The Wire, is that it deprives the beleagured black man of hope. That's what's so great about that show. I love seeing the black man deprived of hope.
WTF?

jr565 said...

Austin Roth wrote:

Anyone who doubts there is a purpose-driven media war against white males, and maleness in general, going on needs only to read about this pathetic show and realize they kept renewing a low-rated, critically panned series and broadcast it for four years!

What other earthly reason would a profit-driven organization do so except to send a desired social message?

I'd certainly agree that Hollywood is seeking to undermine Western Society and it's values. And perhaps even the white male dominance of the patriarchal society. Blah, blah.
But, using Eastbown Down as the example for the thesis? There is no racial subtext that I can see except that the main character happens to be white, and a doofus.

Sometimes the cigar is just a cigar. Some guy who is part of the University of Colorado–Boulder’s Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture might see a racial subtext, but he'd probably see a racial subtext in Little House on the Prairie.
"What does that show tell us about the decline of white male dominance?" Er, I don't know. I thought it was about a Little House on the Prairie.

Archie said...

Mocking the White man is all well and good until he gets tired of it, gets organized and then kicks the shit out of all those in the country that so desperately need it. Halcyon days ahead.

Featherless Biped said...

My wife made the observation, recently, that much of what is going on among young people (especially those identifying as "progressive") is very similar to the 1960s:

* they don't fear communism -- in fact, they'd like to try it (without all the sucky totalitarianism, of course)
* any kind of attempt to inculturate them with any sort of tradition is met with incredulity
* it's all about class and privilege (thank you, Karl Marx), and since those things line up easily with race, it's all about race, too.

Traditional people like myself are prone to read the above as indictments, while the progressives see them as badges of honor.

Alex said...

I guess the cultural elite has forgotten that the whitey's contribution to science, medicine & engineering.