May 31, 2009

Indians in The Goode Family

This weekend I watched the pilot episode of The Goode Family. It's the latest animated comedy from Mike Judge, creator of King of the Hill. Some reviews:

A Clan So Virtuous Even Its Dog Is VeganLike “South Park,” “King of the Hill” arrived in 1997 as one of the indelible culture-war comedies of the Wal-Mart versus Williams-Sonoma era. Created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, “King of the Hill” forged a brilliant neutrality, affectionately portraying the common-sense, ranch-house life of a Christian family in Texas while mocking provincial mediocrity enough to appease the yen for regional condescension on the coasts.

As if he had been required by the Federal Communications Commission to devote equal time to jeering at liberal pieties (which, by the way, he did plenty of on “King of the Hill”), he has produced the Goodes, a family of zealot, vegan, recycling nut cases who don’t fight over paper versus plastic because they believe in neither.

The voice of the patriarch, Gerald Goode, an administrator at a community college where even students qualify for tenure, is provided by Mr. Judge, who could not have improved on his tone of narcoleptic earnestness if he had apprenticed for “All Things Considered.” He is exceptionally funny in the role (as he was playing Hank in “King of the Hill”), and a lot of the writing is too.

But the show feels aggressively off-kilter with the current mood, as if it had been incubated in the early to mid-’90s, when it was possible to find global-warming skeptics among even the reasonable and informed.
TV Review:  'The Goode Family'The humor in "King of the Hill" has always come from a different place than its Animation Domination colleagues, resisting pop culture references and clear-cut punchlines for the trappings of a more realistic, character-driven sitcom. As you can probably gather just from the description, "The Goode Family" is broader stuff, never portraying its central clan as anything other than an extreme, albeit a loving a well-meaning extreme.'The Goode Family' review--Sepinwall on TVWhere "King of the Hill" (which technically wasn't renewed for next season, but which still has a handful of episodes yet to air to wrap up the series) was low-key and so charming that it often didn't matter how funny the jokes were, "The Goode Family" feels broader and more overtly satirical. And while the jokes may be funnier than "King" has been in a long time, the new show also feels more uneven and strained.

[T]he genius of "King of the Hill"--and the reason I kept watching long after I stopped finding it especially funny--was that I could relate to Hank Hill, and the obvious sympathy the show had for him. I've never played football, have a crabgrass-infested lawn and couldn't fix a car if my life depended on it, but I understood Hank and liked him, and it was clear the writers did, too. However myopic or backward Hank's world view might have seemed, he was right more often than not about how much better things used to be.

I think "The Goode Family" finds the Goodes (including Linda Cardellini as teenage daughter Bliss) to be just as well-meaning as Hank, but they're so intense (if often confused) in their beliefs that it becomes too easy to laugh at all of them--and more difficult to laugh with them.
Comment:  Because it's all about political correctness and the environment, The Goode Family includes a few references to Indians. One is this exchange:GERALD:  Don't we try to celebrate people's differences and learn from them?

HELEN:  Sure, if they're, like, Native Americans or backward rainforest people. But not these people!
This bit shows Mike Judge's continuing interest in Native people. It also shows the condescending nature of the series. Helen calls "rainforest people" (aka Amazonian Indians) "backward" because she doesn't sincerely believe in multiculturalism.

In addition, a college scene shows a group of indigenous Peruvian musicians in the background. And the Goodes have a Navajo-style rug hanging on the wall.

Rob's review

The Goode Family misfires for a couple reasons:

1) It bashes liberals almost nonstop. The lines are often funny but there are too many of them. The equivalent on King of the Hill would be if every character ranted about taxes, gun control, and immigration all the time.

Dale Gribble is like this, but King of the Hill clearly portrays him as a wacko. To be like this all the time is unrealistic and unbelievable. People don't assert their values in every sentence they utter.

2) The Goodes are eco-freaks only because it's trendy, not because their beliefs stem from long-held convictions. The Goodes don't know whether to call blacks "blacks," "African Americans," or "people of color." At a supermarket, Helen is overwhelmed by which kind of organic apples to buy and whether to use paper or plastic bags.

If she were a genuine liberal rather than an object of ridicule, she would've developed answers to these questions long ago. She'd be like Hank Hill, who swears by perfectly mowed lawns, power tools, and propane. She wouldn't panic when someone questions her values because those values would be who she was, not some tacked-on pretensions.

I'll try the show again to see if it gets any better, but I'm not hopeful. For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.


Anonymous said...

You clearly have never met a lot of eco-freaks. Most of them are somewhat trendy. Trendiness is why you meet vegans who endorse margarine, both the trans fat kind and the rainforest-destroying palm oil kind (which for all its talk about being cholesterol-free, is 47% palmitic acid). And of course we could always talk about Sea Shepherd (and never have initials been more apropos).

Then of course you get into the eco-freaks who find ecological reasons for their not shaving, nudism, and marijuana use. And of course their preference for juicing and soy smoothies.

But of course, in the 21st century, it's hard to deny global warming.

Stephen said...

Oh man it's hilarious that Rob gets all uptight when his pathetic little POV's mocked.

Rob said...

I haven't met a lot of eco-freaks, Anonymous, but I've met enough people who are vegetarians, shop in organic stores, bring their own bags, recycle, etc. These people aren't being "trendy" and they don't panic when something calls their values into question.

Given how many hundreds of things I've criticized from all over the political spectrum, your comment is even stupider than usual, Stephen. If that's possible.

Stephen said...

"Given how many hundreds of things I've criticized from all over the political spectrum, your comment is even stupider than usual, Stephen. If that's possible."

I just thought it was funny how defensive you seemed about your liberalism in this post. ;) Also I await a reply on the white 'privilege' post.

Stephen said...

"Given how many hundreds of things I've criticized from all over the political spectrum"

Actually you've been silent about bigotry or idiocy from leftists for example you haven't critiqued this (leftist) racist cartoon:

And you haven't criticized Michael Moore's support for terrorists or any of the other nonsense from the left that demonstrates that leftwing idealogy is just as bad as right wing idealogy (dualism is for losers). So nice double standard you have there. ;)

Anonymous said...

I truly believe that we have reached the point where technology has become one with our world, and I am 99% certain that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as the price of memory drops, the possibility of uploading our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I daydream about almost every day.

(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=]R4[/url] DS FFBrows)

Rob said...

The cartoon and Michael Moore don't have anything to do with Indians, Stephen. In general, I comment only on the intersection of Native America and pop culture. How many times do I have to tell you this before it sinks in?

As usual, your personal attack is stupid and wrong. You couldn't come up with a valid criticism of me if you tried.