I think it’s a generational thing: My generation, those born in the 80′s and those who came after, are lucky to live in a world where gender doesn’t define our relationships. We’re allowed to be friends with members of the opposite sex, more than any other time in our history.
My whole life, I’ve always felt more comfortable around women than men. As I’ve gotten older, it’s changed a bit, and I’ve managed to develop a great group of guy friends. But still, there’s only so much masculinity I can take before I have to seek a more feminine presence, and I’m still incapable of delving too deeply into personal sentiments with men. My female-identified-friends are the ones that hear about my romantic tribulations, my career decisions, my creative and personal insecurities. And I don’t think I’m alone; we are living in a time where many men and women are friends, without the trappings of romantic relations.
What’s remarkable is mainstream media’s unwillingness to acknowledge this paradigm shift, this lessening of gender dichotomies. Those friendships on television and film must still be defined by romantic tension, even if it’s abstract or vague.
It’s appropriate that one of my best platonic friends right now is a woman with whom I’ve discussed this topic with at length. Brenna and I have developed a list of our favorite platonic TV relationships. As usual, they are “nerdy”, though that’s also a more and more ambiguous classification.
(This is also an incredibly heteronormative list, but that’s another discussion)
Having a birthday in the middle of December strengthens the relevance of the new year for me. December 17th is the beginning of the holidays for me, a week from Christmas, which is a week from new years. Two weeks to celebrate the end of a year. It is because of this that I chose to put my two weeks notice in at my service job on December 16th. The last two weeks of 2013 were the most difficult, most intoxicated, most trying, and most enjoyable weeks of the year. And, with any luck, they were the last two weeks I will work in the service industry.
It’s remarkable how improved my life is since the end of 2012. 2013 felt like I was pulling myself up, recovering from a fall. Now I’m back in school, and looking at a brighter future, trying to discover what it is I actually want to do be doing.
I’m accruing tens of thousands of dollars in debt in order to pursue… something. I know it’s right, but that doesn’t stop a paralyzing fear from sneaking up on me from time to time (every day), that I’m ruining my life this way. I left work in order to focus on these vague, undefined, elusive goals, but it hasn’t started out great.
Well, someone in charge of Agents of SHIELD has clearly been reading my blog, because this last episode was the best so far, due mostly to the raise in stakes. Joss Whedon said that the Buffy episode “The Pack” was one of the most important learning experiences for the team. Originally, none of the “scoobies” were taken by the Hyena spirit (man what a goofy season). It wasn’t until they decided Xander should be taken that the show worked. The same logic works here: Infecting Simmons with an alien virus gave the show some much needed drama and characterization. It also thankfully took the attention from Ward and Skye (BORING) and put it on Fitzsimmons (CHARMING AND ADORABLE).
Seriously, I’m starting to really realize that SHIELD’s main failings come from how terrible of characters Ward and Skye are. I love the interactions between May and Coulson (More May, SERIOUSLY), and of course: LONG LIVE FITZSIMMONS
Note: I wrote this entry before viewing episode 5 of SHIELD. There’s an addendum added to the bottom.
Entertainment, by its very definition, is supposed to be enjoyable; you are not expected to convince yourself that something is enjoyable, unless maybe a friend is involved with it. So when I find myself actively working to enjoy Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I know something is wrong. It’s like Dollhouse, all over again, except this time the expectations were so much higher.
I’m not saying S.H.I.E.L.D. is bad, it’s just that by episode 4 of Firefly we were given “Shindig”.
The Expectation: I love Marvel. I love their cinematic universe. And Gods Above know how much I love Joss Whedon. I still hold to the opinion that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the greatest show ever written. The fact that my favorite TV writer was taking on a new show set in the same universe as the films, and right after he did such a fantastic job with The Avengers? Even the underwhelming trailers did not deter my enthusiasm.
The Reality: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been met with a resounding “eh”. io9, my favorite sci-fi blog, hosts a multitude of commentators who loathe the program. Go Google “Agents of SHIELD is”, and tell me the first 4 adjectives that show up in the predictive search. I’ll wait. Now, I don’t agree with most of those, but I will say: If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was not helmed by Whedon, and taking place in my favorite universe, and if Clark Gregg wasn’t in it, I wouldn’t watch it. It’s just not entertaining enough, and, like I said, I have to convince myself to like it.
But let’s break down what’s wrong with it:
I wrote a list of Top Five Musical Episodes of Television, and realized I had to develop some stipulations to keep Neil Patrick Harris from dominating the list. Here’s a separate list of NPH’s top five musical numbers, in a very rough order according to my current feelings and recollections without doing too much research:
When I examine my life, the aspect I’m always the most grateful for is my friends and community. Despite my debilitating nerdiness, I’ve always managed to have fantastic, varied social groups. I’ve been blessed with a certain amount of extroversion and social capability, and I pride myself on my awareness of social issues, especially sex and gender issues.
All of this is thanks to my early and continued exposure to the theatre. When I was a child in an arts magnet school, my favorite class was Drama. Drama in high-school introduced me to a world of new people, many of which I’m still friends with today. Majoring in Theatre Arts in college awarded me with some of the richest social experiences of my life, something I prize more than any other sort of experience.
While I loved theatre, there was nothing I ever loved as much as musical theatre. I had a chorus role in high-school in Grease, and played Linus in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown when I was a senior. I was completely obsessed with Rent, and was lucky enough to audition for it in college, though the production was shut down before anyone was cast. Reefer Madness is one of my favorite comedic films, and I don’t even like weed at all.
So when a fantastic show has a musical episode, it’s like my whole artistic world coming together. Luckily, some of my favorite shows have fantastic musical episodes.