The Seacrest Paradigm

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Imagine: you are Ryan Seacrest. It’s a weekday night and you are in for an evening of shuffling around celebrity-wannabes.You have done this many times before. You’ve met stars-to-be, nobodies-to-be, and Lee DeWyze. You have seen legends step in and out of your world: divas, rock gods, icons from the past. Through it all, you have been the constant, you have been the star. You have “flirted” with Simon Cowell for easy laughs. You have lingered too long while hugging teenagers. You have hand-fed deviled eggs to Harry Connick Jr…..so what will you do now? Spin around in J-Lo’s chair? Braid Keith Urban’s hair? Honestly…it doesn’t matter. You’ll do whatever pops into your head in the moment…and it’ll be the right thing to do. YOU are the American Idol…and it is an apt title.

 

It has come to my attention that careful observation and analysis of Ryan Seacrest might just provide the secret to affecting positive change in our schools, communities, and governments. I know this sounds like a bit of a stretch, and, be warned, it will sound like an even bigger stretch when you realize that a large part of my argument stems from labeling Seacrest as the embodiment of narcissism and insincerity.

Yet, this isn’t a hate-Seacrest post. Using Ryan Seacrest as my personal punching bag would be juvenile and pointless. Let’s face it, the guy would almost have to be fun to have a beer with . He meets and interviews interesting people, he has access to celebrities, and seems to have a great deal of “creative” freedom on camera. If you couldn’t have fun hanging with Ryan Seacrest….you are probably a bummer of a person. Nevertheless, I do have some beef with the “character” he portrays on screen.

I intend to explore how his entertainment persona has become a dangerously-accurate paradigm for modern-day leadership. You see…you don’t just encounter Ryan Seacrest on New Year’s Eve or when you stumble across American Idol during a TV-binge. You work with Seacrest, you vote for Seacrest, you debate his policies, and you trust him to educate your children. This is the nation you are living and breathing in right now: The Seacrest Nation.

How is this possible!?

Let’s take a look at the original Seacrest. What is his job, really? I contend that he is an opiate  – a purveyor of happiness who shows up whenever reality is just a little too harsh…too…realistic. A contestant receives harsh criticism – Seacrest commiserates. An unrealistic dreamer is rejected – in comes Seacrest for the hug. Mama can’t stand to see her baby told she doesn’t have what it takes – don’t worry…Seacrest is already holding your hand and cooing softly in your ear. Through Seacrest, every little nobody who tries out for Idol gets some screen time with a somebody. From the audience’s perspective, every wing-and-a-prayer, Muppety dreamer who steps onto the screen is being given a fair shake at fame. Seacrest is like a holy idol..touch the Seacrest and be welcomed into the world of celebrity.

But it means nothing. He forgets. We forget.

Don’t get me wrong, Seacrest isn’t a monster…he’d honestly rather see somebody happy than sad…but…if you think he goes home caring about which nobodies lasted another week on reality tv…you are kidding yourself.

….and there it is. That’s it. That is the Seacrest Paradigm: say whatever you have to say in the moment to send everybody home happy –  then forget. Wear a tighter suit. Wink and smile. Rinse and repeat to infinity.

Seacrest makes big bucks to be an opiate….and we pay a lot of other opiates a lot of big bucks too. A lot of our politicians, bosses, managers, administrators…you name it. There is a Seacrest for every profession. We, as a nation, must be wary of Seacrests. They will dress well, they will smile big, and they will look oh-so-pained at the injustices you have endured. You will leave the room. They will forget.

Now…here is where the blog gets a bit less Seattle-grunge and a bit more hopeful. If you can think back to the start of this post, I suggested that Ryan Seacrest could essentially save civilization as we know it. What do I mean when I say this? I simply mean that from now on, when you see Mr. Seacrest, take a moment to consider the Seacrestian forces holding you back in your own life.  In that moment…make a vow to follow-up and hold your Seacrest responsible for his/her promises…because your Seacrest has a responsibility to you and a lot of other people. He is not a reality TV host. Reality TV hosts are allowed to steal hats from celebrities and prompt cameraman to put uncomfortable crew members on camera for laughs. Real-life Seacrests with real-life responsibilities need to treat employees, customers, and taxpayers like human beings. Real-life Seacrests need to use their brains, make difficult decisions and stand by them.

If we all hold our Seacrests to that standard, we will start to see a world in which things are accomplished instead of avoided.

As for Mr. Ryan Seacrest….thank you for serving as a constant reminder that a world without sincerity and responsibility is as shallow and empty as reality TV. Now, go. Do some jumping-jacks….tickle Mariah Carey…..play some dude’s acoustic guitar….whatever feels right in the moment.

You earned it, my friend.

The Absent Pineapple – A Defense of the How I Met Your Mother Finale

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“Damn it Trudy…what about the pineapple!?” -M. Erickson

If I were to design a banner under which angry How I Met Your Mother fans could gather to sharpen their pitchforks, it would bear the image of the mysterious pineapple that was absent from the final chapter of the story.  Fans looking for the completion of a beautiful tapestry in which the details of Ted’s quest to find “the one” finally came to fruition were sadly disappointed. I think we all partly expected the finale to be the completion of a sort of modern-day myth that showed us the depth and power of true love in an otherwise chaotic world. With so much weight attached to the mysteriously misplaced tropical fruit, it had the potential to be the final puzzle piece in a grand tale of star-crossed lovers pulled together by fate.

Of course…

We all read (watched?) Romeo and Juliet ……that whole “star-crossed” thing doesn’t tend to work out so well in literature.

I contend that the ending of the series, though far from flawless, was ultimately the best and most appropriate ending.

First, let’s get the BS out of the way…the only element of the finale I can’t seem to make peace with is the fact that those bored-looking kids we watched for the last nine years suddenly morphed into attentive, empathetic, hyper-mature adults. Was the pace too fast? Yes. Was the season-long wedding extravaganza a bit emotionally manipulative? Yes. Was it sad to see the “Mother” character shuffled off quietly into death after we bought into her character in a single season? Yes. Were some of us kind of sick of Ted and Robin? Yes – I know I was. Yet, here I am…passionate enough about a silly TV show to defend its fast-paced, plot-bending finale.

It all comes down to perspective.

If you really believe this was a show about Ted patiently awaiting true love – you probably weren’t satisfied with the ending. If, on the other hand, you believe that this show was about a group of young adults who were reluctant to grow up and terrified to face the new phases of their lives, you probably found the ending kind of beautiful.

How I Met Your Mother was a silly show with both brilliant and utterly stupid episodes (an entire episode devoted to Marshall’s faux-spiritual journey to become a master slapper….come on), but it held a place in our hearts because its friendships were believable and the writers had fun experimenting with storytelling devices. It was also a show that spoke to my particular generation and demographic. I loved those characters because of their general refusal to grow up…and darn it…they tried hard. They cracked jokes, they stuck together in the old apartment, and hoped against hope that they would never grow apart. I hate saying goodbye to the phases of my life. I don’t want to grow up too quickly. I don’t want my friends to move across the continent. Who does? Yet..unlike TV stars bound by contracts and corporate money…we all must face these changes…

I started to buy into the finale when I finally started to see those friends accept that they couldn’t live life at the same pace or maintain the intense level of involvement with one another that they had grown accustomed to.

It was all of these difficult new phases that defined the show along its nine-year journey. With every change, the characters fought and worried and cried…but somehow found a way to settle back down together.  We even saw the mother struggling with her own baggage and fear of moving on in life in the brief time we spent with her. She lost the love of her life and even spoke up to the stars begging his spirit for guidance when she was faced with a proposal of marriage. Before the finale’s ultimate “meet-cute,” the writers showed us Ted and the Mother’s nearly disastrous first date. There was clearly still a lot of fear and hesitation for those two to overcome. Ted’s 7-year waiting period to marry the “mother” didn’t come out of left field, folks.

In the finale, those new phases and surprises kept coming at us. I don’t think the creators undercut the depth of Ted and the Mother’s love. I believe that their love was real, and pure, and cut tragically short. They would have stayed together forever if nature hadn’t intervened. I don’t believe that the ending was an attempt to imply that Ted was pining for Robin for all of those years, either. Obviously Ted and the Mother were a better match than Ted and Robin…but ultimately we were asked to mature along with Ted and admit that love isn’t as simple as “fate” or “the one.” It is something that we thirst for and need in order to survive. We were asked to look at love with complexity and admit that we all might have more than one “love” out there depending on the decisions we make and what life throws our way. In the end, Ted was moving on to a new phase of his life…just like he and his friends were asked to do time and time again.

When you look at the ending with this more open view of love, things start to make more sense. The Mother married Ted, but he was very clearly her SECOND love…this doesn’t discount her love for Ted, but it forces us to accept that we are capable of loving more than once. She was able to raise the family with Ted that she never got the chance to experience with her first love. When she died at the end of the series, she was either literally or figuratively reunited with the first love of her life. Ted, similarly, was able to raise a family and get a taste of the storybook life he imagined for himself…the dream that kept him from Robin in the first place…and a dream that would have been unfair to force upon Robin.

Meanwhile, Robin saw her world grow a little lonely and a little cold. She had to face the harsh reality that sometimes people can’t change and that all of her fears about marrying Barney (that we all knew were legitimate fears) came true. Fortunately, she was big enough to be happy that he was upfront about it. When the show-runners gave us that image of Ted with the French horn at the end, I thought it was beautiful to think that the connection those characters had really did mean something – and that they were still allowed to explore the promise of love in a later phase of life. All of their roadblocks had been removed, and we were left on the cusp of yet another phase in our character’s lives. They were moving on, just as fans were being asked to move on.

I think the absent pineapple says a lot about how thoughtful the finale really was. We were all speculating about a PINEAPPLE while, honestly, this ending was staring us in the face at all times over the course of nine years. Ted was ceaselessly pining after Robin (to the point that I would audibly groan whenever it happened), and within the context of the ending, all of that pining actually became valid and revealing storytelling. I had previously assumed that it was lazy, formulaic writing to compensate for a burned-out premise. I was THRILLED to be mistaken about that. It’s tough to call the ending a cop-out when we know that the footage of Ted’s children was shot nine years ago and that the writers always knew which love story they were most interested in telling.

Ultimately, the writers showed us that love can strike more than once, and that even though life sometimes forces us to move on from people and situations that we love, we may only be saying goodbye for a little while. We can find our way back.

My advice to you…don’t go chasing pineapples. Don’t forfeit your life to chance. Act. Grow. Love. Otherwise, you might as well be chasing Sasquatch (sorry, Marshall).

 

 

….or maybe the pineapple wound up on the cutting room floor due to time constraints.

 

 

“This just might do nobody any good.” -Edward R. Murrow

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I need to be upfront with you. I find blogs to be self-indulgent, unnecessary, and (often) poorly written. Blogs are presumptuous, and allow the blogger to achieve a sense of validation without any true responsibility or investment. This blog will be no exception. You have been warned.

So, how will I indulge myself in this blog?

I intend to scour the sad landscape of commercial pop-culture for the little bits of valuable philosophy and intellectualism that are packed in there behind all of the marketing and crowd-pleasing. At this particular moment, I expect my main focus to be television: past, present, and future. Sometimes I will praise the beauty and depth of the messages we are presented with, and sometimes I will bemoan the LACK of meaning and understanding in the programming that lights up our flatscreens.

I figure that any media we consume is only as meaningful as we allow it to be – so why not turn my escapism into something that can guide my existential development? If this experiment ever leads to thoughtful, intellectual discourse with my friends, family, and coworkers…so be it.