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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Freaks and Geeks

I am a latecomer to the show. I couldn't watch it while it was on, since I was always too busy for anything but "Buffy". But now that it's on DVD, we've been renting it and watching it. I just finished watching the last episode, and by gum, I'm impressed. Well-written, well-acted, the whole bit. It was scary close to how high school really was, but even during the scenes where you are cringing for the characters as they go through the standard high school humiliations, you laugh because somehow you know they will get past this. You know it because they are written so realistically that you can just imagine their lives past high school with ease.

I was really impressed by the second to last episode. The writers introduced a situation that you generally won't see on TV. One of the minor characters has a girlfriend he is head over heels in love with. (The show is so realistic it's touching. They are shown cuddling on her bed, fully clothed, over the covers.) In a fit of adolescent passion, she decides to spill the sort of secret that you know will be held longer and longer from lovers the older she gets--she was born a hermaphrodite, though now she is as girl as any other.

I almost fell out of my chair. I can't believe they introduced this storyline on national television, though god knows people need to hear these stories. I waited for the expected dramatic overreaction this stuff gets on TV. But nothing. He took it in stride.

During the rest of the episode, you see him struggle over it, mostly out of a painful ignorance about things like this. (For a couple of funny scenes, you see him try to figure if he might just be gay, something that he doesn't understand but is fully prepared to accept about himself, if true.) And there are the usual misunderstandings--one of the hardest parts of being in love with someone is having to figure out which of their secrets are okay to share with select friends and which are not, a struggle that is worked well into the script. But the best part is that they played it so realistically. Not that people don't get upset by stuff like this. The funny thing about people that I've learned is that they can be surprisingly resilient about things like this.

By the end, he chose the girl over his issues with her gender status at birth. But it didn't play as this moralistic bullshit. At no point was his orientation towards women belittled or anything inauthentic like that. But it was clear that people are better able to accept that not everything is black or white than we might sometimes think.

Anyway, it was just one of of a bunch of episodes, all of which were great. But I just saw it and I admired their bravery for tackling the subject and doing it in a manner that seemed both no-bullshit and also laudatory towards people for our ability to get past our own crap and decide to be happy.

17 Comments:

Blogger Linnaeus said...

Freaks and Geeks was particularly popular among me and my friends because we all grew up in the area in which the show is set. So I enjoyed it on two levels: the the broad themes that we can all relate to when we were kids, and the specific local references (15 Mile Road, Farmer Jack's, the Iron Horse).

I don't have the DVD, but I'll get it soon.

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