Sunday, March 20, 2011

Freaks & Geeks: Carded and Discarded

I’m working my way through Freaks & Geeks, which aired back in 1999 – 2000, before I watched much television.  It is, of course, excellent, and I hope to write a post about the series eventually, but I want to comment on episode 7 while it is yet fresh in my mind.

The series takes a break from reality with the introduction of Maureen, a “transfer student from Florida” who befriends Sam and the gang.  Come on:  a pretty girl who, when you’re nice to her, is nice back?  Who could dream up such a fantastical creature?

Why do I find this so painful to watch?

Because I hate being teased, even by a teevee show? 

Because I know it will end badly?

It’s not just that it’s unrealistic, although that’s part of it.  I really enjoyed The Girl Next Door, but that was more obviously a fantasy,whereas F & G’s niche is to present the gritty hyper-reality of high school.  But it’s also the reaction Maureen provokes, or rather, doesn’t provoke:  fear.  In TGND, Matthew is afraid of Danielle, who must work hard initially to, if not put him at ease exactly, then coax him to discover his inner alpha.  But while Sam and his friends seem to understand at some level that Maureen is too good to last, they seem oblivious to the danger she poses, in at least two salient ways:

1.  she ritually humiliates them for their effrontery and general geekiness; and/or

2  a jock AMOGs them.

And before you start, I’ve seen Mystery’s discussion of  how “approach anxiety” is our evolved response to hunter-gatherer social dynamics and whatever; so what?  This sh!t still happens!  Where is their little voice that yells “DANGER WILL ROBINSON!”?  I’m 42, and I’m still afraid of beautiful women, even or especially when they seem sociable.  Yet these kids just wade right in.

Maybe there was a time that I waded right in and got the crap kicked out of me.  Mercifully, I’ve suppressed the memory but not the lesson.

In this case, nothing bad happens.  Nobody challenges them, and Maureen seems constitutionally incapable of recognizing the status differential between cheerleading and model rocketry.


Anonymous said...

I’m 42, and I’m still afraid of beautiful women


Dr. Φ said...

Samson: Good question!

My best guess is that I am emotionally invested in any given interaction with an attractive woman in a way that I am not with an unattractive woman or a man. Why this should be true, given that the interactions are, at the point in my life cycle, non-sexual in nature and (I believe) intent, is beyond me. But I think it has less to do with the probability of failure than it does with the cost of failure.

Trumwill wrote on this recently.

Anonymous said...

I think for me, the fear is hypothetical rejection. Nevermind that I am married, that they might be too young or too old for me, or that they might be married. At least a little part of me likes to think that if circumstances were different, I would be affirmed by them. Or, at least, not completely rejected.

Interacting with an attractive woman, no matter how innocently, opens you up to that hypothetical rejection. That complete lack of affirmation. And for the older and married among us, the memories of what it was like when we weren't secure in marriages.

OR you can sidestep that entirely and simply interact with people whose approval you are entirely indifferent to even on a hypothetical level.

Dr. Φ said...

Trumwill: Affirmation, exactly.

And here is something I hadn't remarked on before: ironically, being married makes the risk/reward ratio worse, not better. Because assuming that we're not actively trying to commit adultery, then the "benefit" of the interaction is likely something innocuous. Whereas in addition to not being affirmed, we run the added risk that the female will loudly proclaim (or subtly imply) that the real reason we smiled / said hello / asked for a pencil is that we're hitting on her. Seriously, who needs that aggravation over a damn pencil?