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Filtering by Tag: TV

Hope Springs Eternal (from the Superficial)

Stephen Swanson

Stephen Swanson relishes this time of year: a time of awards, good intentions, and hope.  He believes that shows, like the Golden Globes, the Miss America Pageant, and the Bachelor not only fill our time but also our lives.

Amid controversy about Ricky Gervais' hosting of The Golden Globes, the possibly worst set of "talents" ever displayed on the Miss America Pageant, resulting in the crowning of the youngest Miss America ever, and perhaps the dumbest Bachelor ever (or are they the dumbest Bachelorettes?), it would be easy to give up on things.

If I add to this the new book out showing that I might be devoting my life to a complete waste of time, as students learn mostly nothing at college, then it might be even easier to just say...pooh!

But I can't.  I just can't.  I know that this season of American Idol will be a complete debacle without anyone Simon-ish to reign in the Hollywood dream factory, but I want to watch the train steadily ignoring the "Bridge Out Ahead" signage.

What's my secret?  Well, there are a couple of things.  First, there is a hope built into this sort of cycle.  There is a realization that sometimes things can surprise you.  Steven Tyler might come out tonight and tell contestants to stop dreaming and grow up.  I doubt it, but it'd be cool if he did.

The hope comes from two main sources.  First, hope comes from the succession of exciting things coming up.  We've got the playoffs in the NFL, Valentines, the Oscars, March Madness, Easter, opening day of baseball, mid-terms, and a new dedication to trying to at least work out twice a week.

There is not time to give up.  One can shift from hope to hope like when video gamers desperately lean to try to get Mario over the gap that he jumped just a pixel or two too early.  We can lean a long way before we collapse around July.  We can keep moving forward in an effort to maintain momentum.  And, sometimes it works!

Secondly, and perhaps more powerfully in the long-term, there is the comraderie of watching the oncoming, impending doom.  You can turn to the person beside you and give a look that says, "This is REALLY happening!"  The look also says, "Thank goodness we're not on that train."  And, for a second before the horror hits, we find comfort together.

I do not, obviously, mean to imply that Miss America or The Bachelor is like a train going off a cliff.  It's nothing like that at all, but it takes so much more time to explain to students and people around you about what's going on in Haiti or Tunisia than why Brad does not deserve to "win" anyone, even these women who've asked for it.  It's so much easier to give the context of Hollywood wheeling and dealing around the yearly awards than to discuss the federal budget, healthcare, or education.

Therefore, I take momentary hope and relief from the grind towards the lowest common denominators of disorganization, incivility, and violence to just complain about the sparkly, red rose on Natalie Portman's dress and gossip about how it could be that we didn't know she was pregnant. It's just easier to keep with the flow and to hit only the most recent and superficial of information, to go with the "gut".  The brain and logic only get in the way of fun and living.

Stephen Swanson teaches as an assistant professor of English at McLennan Community College. Aside from guiding students through the pitfalls of college writing and literature, he spends most of his time trying to remain  aware of popular culture, cooking, and enjoying time with his wife and son. He holds degrees in Communications (Calvin College), Film Studies (Central Michigan University), and Media and American Culture Studies (Bowling Green State University. In addition to editing a collection, Battleground States: Scholarship in Contemporary America, he has forthcoming projects on Johnny Cash and approaches to analyzing detective narratives in terms of ethical responsibility.