Victoria Jelinek

Arrested Development

arrested-developmentThe upcoming Netflix series Ozark is on the horizon. I’m excited for it ‘cause Jason Bateman executive produced it, and is directing and starring in the series. An extra boon is that the talented and wry Laura Linney will co-star. I always liked Bateman, but he won my admiration through the TV series Arrested Development, so I thought to revisit this work of genius as we wait for Ozark to be released (2017).

Arrested Development is based on the radically dysfunctional family Bluth (fictional of course). It’s more subversive than Modern Family (btw, I like Modern Family very much). Each season of this brilliant sit-com was always in danger of cancellation despite numerous awards, including several Emmy’s. But this didn’t stop creator Mitchell Hurwitz and the rest of the team (inclusive of Ron Howard, who is its narrator) from defying the usual crowd-pleasing antics of the genre. It made them more satirical and absurd as though they had nothing to lose. The show flouts political correctness as it takes clever and humorous swipes at everything in contemporary society: the comfort of family; the general incompetence of businessmen, inclusive of the television and movie industries (the narrator critiques the art of narration during an episode); war, via “mama’s boy” Buster Bluth’s progression in the US army; and the flawed things we all do to get through our day. One of my favorite episodes includes the montaged intervention for alcoholic mother Lucille Bluth, which turns into “one of the Bluth family’s better parties.” There are running gags about self-absorption, repressed sexually, physical shame, fecklessness, and naiveté. At the center of it all is Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman, whose dry, self-effacing wit and deadpan comic delivery, are ideally displayed here.

Watching Arrested Development is time well spent as we wait for Jason Bateman’s new series Ozark, which also promises to be based in the darkness of modern reality.












Gulliver’s Travels

Gullivers Travel book coverAuthor Jonathan Swift wrote that the purpose of his writing, “is to vex the world rather than divert it.” Throughout Gulliver’s Travels, Swift satirizes scientists, academics, snobs, politicians, lawyers, doctors, and – unfairly – women. Swift further parodies travel writers’ preoccupation with appearing to be “experts” in everything they write.

Lemuel Gulliver, a sea-loving surgeon and “everyman” travels to four lands and has numerous adventures. The imaginary worlds, fantastic characters, and exaggerated stories of Gulliver’s strange and exotic adventures, draw the reader into the narrative (and inspire film adaptations). Gulliver begins the journey larger than life in the land of the tiny Lilliputians, and after observing mankind’s tendency toward greed and selfishness, he finds himself most contented in a land of horses governed by reason. The moral of the novel suggests that the only ideal world is one in which humans do not rule.

“Satire,” Swift wrote, “is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” The staying power of Gulliver’s Travels lies in the fact that the more things seem to change, they really don’t: mankind has been, and continues to be, motivated by avarice and folly. The practice of economically exploiting other countries was the policy of English and French colonial governments during Swift’s time, just as modern world powers go into underdeveloped cultures and consume their resources. Conflicts of religious ideology, as observed in the battle of the “Big Endians” and the “Small Endians,” are still apparent, as evidenced by the discord throughout the Middle East. Even the feuds between the “High Heels” and the “Low Heels” in the novel continue between and among current political parties.

Despite Swift’s critique of humanity and its institutions, however, he seems to have felt passionately enough about mankind to hope that those who read the book would reconsider themselves and the world around them in order to help make it a better place – “vex” readers into thinking, rather than “diverting” them into switching their thoughtfulness off.