January 15, 2006

OD'd on the O.C.

When living overseas, trends that sweep the US take longer to make an impact on the lives of us ex-pats. But thanks to the relentless proliferation of everything American, I too can become absorbed by hour-long television dramas. And furthermore thanks to the bootlegging DVD pirates I can do it cheaply, quickly and in the privacy of my home.A further advantage is that I don’t have to sit through the mind numbing commercials, or wait an entire week to know what is happening. I can pop in the DVD and four episodes later I forget who I am, where I am living and any notion of reality I may have had before I started.
Like any good addiction, I can get my fix when I what, how I want, and how often I need it. And lately since I have started using, I have been needing a lot. I am here to admit that I am addicted, and if something doesn’t happen soon I may OD on The O.C.

But why the O.C. you ask? How can I the self-proclaimed defender against all things mainstream, the higher then thou self-righteous individualist, the soap-box orator (okay maybe I am getting a little carried away) but how can I be addicted to a show dedicated to the trials and tribulations of a group of air-brushed beauties dealing with such important issues like: teen jealously, teen angst, and how can I be wondering week in and week out if Seth can just be friends with Summer or not. I am not sure how this happened, but I am not ashamed in the least to say I love The O.C.

Maybe it is a primal need human beings have to allow ourselves to get lost in the world of fantasy that soap operas offer. Maybe after spending five nights of not being able to sleep because I felt guilty, firstly for wanting Ariel Sharon to die and later hoping he lives so he will suffer, I needed to lighten things up and lose sleep over whether Ryan will be happy with Lindsay or if he will let his anger take over again. He has been better at handling his emotions lately. Taking the world too seriously can be just as dangerous as not taking it seriously at all. I don’t want to be so jaded and cynical that I cannot laugh at what I detest. And when a show comes long that is self-aware of its shallowness, than I will gladly jump on board and go for the ride.

The O.C. is everything hackneyed and predicable about the soap opera genre: twisted improbable love triangles, power plays, millionaires gaining and losing fortunes, jealousy, miscommunication, and misunderstanding. But there is something fresh about this show. Through the effective use of witty sarcasm and one-liners The O.C. adds a sense of humor not usually seen in the soap opera. Although Beverly Hills 90210 and shows like it were comical to the point of absurdity, they seldom tried to be funny. While tackling deep, serious issues, the characters became caricatures of human beings, but in The O.C. there are no attempts to touch on serious issues, and because the characters are post-modernly aware of their own absurdity and comment on it constantly, as the audience we are allowed to watch them and not feel guilty. The O.C. is fully aware that it is not going to change the world, and for an hour (or four if you are like me) it allows the audience to take a break from over intellectualism and sit back and root for Marissa to get away from Oliver, or comment on what a good guy Jimmy is, although several episodes earlier he was arrested on fraud charges. I am certain everything I am writing has been stated a million times over, but like I said living overseas trends arrive late and while The O.C may not be new it is new to me.

Another area where The O.C. rides the fence between the mainstream and “indie” sensibilities is music. If like me, you are fan of the dramatic scene, melting into a musical montage than this show is for you. I mean an airport departure scene with a cover of If You Leave, the OMD classic by Nada Surf, come on, who could want more during primetime? The producers of the show have said that they want music to be a character on the show, and that they want to find smaller bands to promote. To the diehard anti-establishment militant this is the exact type of subversive tactics “the man” will take to infiltrate the none commodified world, but even as a thirty year old man I like to watch a show where the characters like good music, and better still this music is played throughout the show at strategically perfect times. The cynic in me may argue that this type of blatant promotion is the work of record company execs who know they have a plaint and gullible audience waiting to be told what is “cool” and what is not, but the other side of me thinks: if I were to make a show wouldn’t I want to fill it with good music? Would my love of songs be considered selling out? Would I not want to have my favorite bands perform on my show? Would I not want the character based on me to name drop bands like Bright Eyes and Death Cab? And if this resulted in thousands of teenagers to listen to these bands rather than Ashlee Simpson, isn’t that a good thing?

I have also noticed that The O.C. doesn’t use its grip on the impressionable minds of young audience members to blatantly place products. Except for the obvious placement of Apple products like the iMac and iPod, there are not many obnoxious placements. Sure the wardrobe and makeup- can probably be found in every teen mag, but at least it is nice not see constant references to StarBucks and Cheeros.

So if you are tired of doing anything productive, like reading for pleasure or reading news, or if you are tired of always fighting and need a break, or simply you want to escape into the wonderful world of the American soap opera I strongly suggest you start in The O.C.

Where nothing is ever going to change. The people are young, rich and beautifully sculpted in the images that Park Avenue tells us means success, and for just an hour that is okay. You re-group and get back to trying to figure out how it is that we live in a world where a remote controlled plane, piloted by the CIA can murder 22 innocent people, ten of which were women and children and not face any consequences.

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