December 12th...

...and I have yet to post? Yikers, the month is half-gone! Honestly, I don't know where all that times ends up. If I blink, I will be 50.

Let's see, deep reflections on the fly... Very difficult to do. I might have to settle for shallow waters, with dreams of deeper posts wafting on the twilight of my consciousness.

Bleh, what a horrible phrase. I suppose it's best that I try not to write anything heady right now, after all. I'll end up drooling out thoughts that will sound much wittier now than in the morning.

Here's my one and only rumination: Forced perception. Especially now during the holiday season, when the whole commercial world is trying to shove "traditional Christmas" down our throats, so long as there's a buck to be made. I just saw an ad on TV for a stage show that involves tap dancing Santas (who are really women in costume) spinning around a Christmas tree and high-kicking, sort of like a "Night Before Christmas" on methamphetamine. Combine that with all the big box stores and their holiday ads - "Buy this! Give that! Christmas isn't complete without all this stuff!" - and I feel a bit nauseous. I have a mental picture of myself staggering around a deserted town square in the snow, searching for the real meaning of Christmas. (If I found it, they could make it into "Kt's Holiday Special" and sell lots of matching merchandise, and so the cycle continues.)

The thought on forced perception is that our traditions have become so rushed and hollow that things only take on a sense of meaning because we have always done them, and done them increasingly every year (ie lights, gifts, etc.) or because our society is shouting them in our ear, and to ignore the shoutings would make us feel like we're missing out on something. Shouting, I say - it really is true. Every facet, from radio to TV to the newspaper ads to the signs next to the road all push in the same direction. Stuff, money, self-satisfaction - these are the things that equal happiness. It's an empty chase.

Laugh tracks, there's an interesting case. Modern laugh tracks make me want to gouge my eyes out... although, I guess that wouldn't really help the situation. Recently I watched (against my will) a few current sitcoms, and closing my eyes heard nothing but a steady stream of HA-HA-HA repeating in the background, a chant so hyper that it made me wonder what they'd done to really get the audience to laugh that hard. I suspect it involved alcohol. What made it especially disturbing was how unfunny the dialogue was, the jokes that were supposedly sending a crowd into hysterical fits. Who were these people, with lives so grey and downtrodden that they would laugh at the sort of phrases you might read on a credit card offer? And were we, the bored viewer, expected to baa along like mindless sheep? ("Other people are laughing! It must really be funny!")

Maybe I'm jaded because my favorite funny shows are actually funny and have no laugh track at all - Scrubs, Arrested Development, everything from the BBC. No one is telling me how to laugh, and I get to enjoy subtle little flashes without a big pause for audience response. While I was musing over all of this, I suddenly observed that one of my favorite shows, MASH, has a (*gasp!*) laugh track, and that I hadn't noticed it all along. The curious thing is how mellow the laughing sounds, circa 1970's, compared to today's background roar, as though in the past several decades someone has been gently leaning on the "Volume Up" button. Not many shows have worthy writing, and so the track becomes the adult version of key jangling, providing just enough of a distraction that viewers hang around. What would the dialogue sound like without it?

Hmm. It makes me want to slap, well... everyone. Knock some sense back into the world, with all its fluff and fakery. Isn't that a jolly wish? I, the Ghost of Christmas Slapping, with a wreath of cut-up gift cards around my head and train of carollers behind me.

I'll incorporate it into my holiday special somehow. It will look lovely on a lunchbox.

5 comments:

Erin said...

One of my friends went to see a taping of That 70s show back in its early days and said that the audience often had to do several laughter "takes" to make sure the laughter cues got picked up by the mics. I'm not sure if that will make you feel better, knowing that those huge laughs are cued and redone for effect. Maybe it is a little bit better than people being sheep?

I like Scrubs too, thought Arrested Development was okay and have been searching for a sitcom for ages. I miss the days when the entire point of the half-hour show was to make people laugh. Set up, punch line, laugh, move on to next gag. :) Bring back Carol Burnett!

Maybe that's why I giggle so much at Two and a Half Men. It isn't trying to be smart or irreverant, it's just trying to be funny.

PS Look Kt, my comment is almost as long as your post! :)

SWP said...

http://onionboy.typepad.com/luminousmiseries/2007/12/christmas-salt.html

Here's a link to a blogpost you might find wise and helpful. I did.

http://onionboy.typepad.com/luminousmiseries/2007/12/christmas-salt.html

-W- said...

I thought you were going to write a shallow post, Kt! This was thoughtful and delicious. But you did talk about the shallow part of humanity, so maybe it still counts.

I probably wouldn't buy the lunchbox. But Kt-the-plush-toy-- that would be a seller!

Monster Library Student said...

Kt,

Please email me you address so I can send a Christmas thing. :)

~Monster

Monster Library Student said...

Kt,

What a wonderful reflection on Christmas and with Dad gone this year I have spent a lot of time thinking about what the holiday means and spending my time with thoughts of family and nauseous feelings when I see all the ads.

Also, I TOTALLY agree with what you had to say about current sitcoms...I thought the same thing the other night. I was watching a couple hours of mindless TV and kept thinking "Why are they laughing? This isn't even funny!"

Oh, Friend, I will watch your Christmas special and buy your merchandise to help keep perpetuating the Holiday Haze. :)