Posts Tagged ‘Freaks and Geeks 2009’

Will You Dance With Me?

November 10, 2009

“I was wondering… did… uh…uh…do you want to go to the homecoming dance with me?” As the camera frames Sam’s innocent face, the viewer lingers on to his each and every stutter instantly reminding one’s self of one’s own battles with schoolyard insecurities.  The viewer is instantly brought back to the days of fanciful crushes and the hallway hellos, but as the silence between Sam and Cindy becomes more deafening, the viewer also remembers the times that those crushes crashed and those hellos went unsaid.  As Sam’s hopeful eyes gaze into the possibility of acceptance, we too painfully remember those same feelings of desperation.  After all, the viewers know all too well that Sam is not really looking to go to the dance per-se, for what he is really looking for is confirmation of his existence in the social hell some deem to call high school.  Sam is looking for acceptance, belonging, love, and self-confidence, but he is fruitlessly searching for a happiness that is simply out of his league, and as a result it does not come as a shock to anyone (except perhaps to Sam) that Cindy already has a date to the dance.  In other words, it does not come as a shock that Cindy, the popular cheerleader, has in fact been confirmed within the social order.  But why must we watch this same sad tale over and over again?  This story of unrequited teenage love is not only prevalent in Freaks and Geeks, but also in My So-Called Life and Skins as well.  Moreover if it is so painful for one to watch (and I do not think I am the only one that cringed at Sam’s question) why do we keep on watching the same sad woe in coming of age stories?

As we watch stories like this unfold, we like to see ourselves as the sage and superior onlookers, but are we actually sage or superior to little Sam?  Moreover, do we ever actually come of age or do we perpetually remain underdogs?  Perhaps we continue to watch the same sad story of the defeated, because we will always associate with the underdog, and thus we watch for the day that David actually does defeat Goliath.  This hope that love will indeed conquer all, even for the weak, is what permits us watch Brian Krakow, of My So-Called Life, make as ass of himself in front of his neighbor and crush, Angela Chase.  This hope is what draws us to sickly, lonely Cassie as she approaches Sid longing to find someone that actually cares about her.  Thus, we see Cassie, Brian, and Sam as character extensions of ourselves, and consequently these fictional victories in the battlefield of love are internalized as our own as well.  As Jason Mittell states in his essay on “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television,” one the chief pleasures in shows like Lost “is the show’s ability to create sincere emotional connections to characters” no matter what kind of outlandish activities or predicaments the characters may have gotten themselves into (Mittell, 38).  This is the type of emotional appeal that connects viewers to the show and has them coming back season after season, for the viewers genuinely want to see characters like Sam land his first date and finally have someone to dance his slow dance with prevailing over the social order.

“I hate high school.”

November 10, 2009

High school is all about trying to fit in despite the constant judgment and stereotyping by others.  This is a concept that is present in almost every television portrayal of this tumultuous time in the lives of youth, and is the core of Freaks and Geeks.  As the title suggests, every student fits into a certain predetermined category, and the show focuses on the freaks and the geeks.  

Lindsay is struggling to find out who she is and where she belongs, and in this search for herself she is transitioning from the geek group to the freak group.  Even though she is unsure of whom she is, the rest of the school seems to be pretty sure that she is a geek and nothing else.  Her struggle to depart from the constructed image that everyone has of her is really introduced when she first goes out on the “smoking patio” with Daniel.

Daniel and Lindsay walk out onto the patio as some rebellious rock tune plays in the background, and Lindsay hesitates.  Daniel doesn’t seem to notice and walks towards his friends, leaving Lindsay behind and alone.  She looks unsure of herself, but seems to get a small burst of confidence and walks towards “the freaks.”  The music fades as Daniel introduces Lindsay to Ken and Nick who remain reclined on the bleachers.  The first thing that Nick says to Lindsay is “you were in my English class last year right?  You’re that chick that got an A.”  This establishes the fact that Lindsay is stereotyped as a geek; that when people look at her all they see is the smart girl.  Lindsay tries to downplay her nerdiness and jokingly replies “yeah well, what are you gonna do?”  Ken looks at her judgmentally and responds “I don’t know, what are you gonna do?”  Will Lindsay be able to part with her geek image and prove to them that she is a freak?  Nick and Daniel seem to laugh the comment off but Lindsay looks a bit disturbed by it.  She realizes the comment is a challenge.

Lindsay brings up the dance and the guys jokingly attack her for it.  They obviously disapprove of such a lame suggestion of going to the dance.  Daniel looks down at his feet as if he is embarrassed for her, and then sits down with the other two guys.  There is now a visual separation between Lindsay, who is standing, and “the freaks,” who are all sitting on the bleachers.  She is once again isolated, just like when she entered onto the patio.  

Then Millie shows up, and Lindsay is literally in between the freaks and the geeks.  As she turns to look at Millie, I’d like to think that she’s remembering Ken’s comment asking her what she’s going to do.  She makes a choice in this moment, and she chooses the freaks.  As the camera switches between shots of Millie, and shots of Lindsay standing with “the freaks”, each seem distant from each other.  There is a widening gap between Lindsay’s old life as a geek and her new life as a freak.  This scene is the moment where she makes the decision to reinvent and prove herself as a freak, and sets up Lindsay’s dilemma for the rest of the series.  Unfortunately for Lindsay, due to shallow high school stereotyping, she has to conform to one or the other, and can never really be herself.