A provocative insight entered my head last night while I was attending a Dodgers game. That’s the great thing about baseball. You can contemplate philosophical issues between pitches. (Unlike football, where between-play conversation leans more frequently towards, “A leg shouldn’t be pointing that way, should it?”)
More about the intellectual breakthrough I experienced sitting in great seats along the third base line shortly. But first, a brief recap.
“Previously on Just Thinking…”
I was discussing my abandoned faith in the cable news outlets I once assiduously relied on, not because they did not know things that turned out to be determinative in the election but, judging by their oblivious reaction, because they alarmingly did not know they didn’t know.
I went on to reference a new book entitled The Knowledge Illusion, which argues that, when it comes to actual “knowing”, our accumulation of personal knowledge derives not from self-generated insights and understandings but from others, primarily our most significant peer group, whose beliefs we dutifully adopt so they won’t kill us or at least withhold invitations to their kids’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.
(The book has an encouraging upside, as all books wishing to be popular must – there are no Best Sellers entitled How To Be Extraordinarily Depressed. Absorbing an externally assembled body of knowledge makes it unnecessary for us to continuously reinvent the wheel… in every imaginable arena. We simply internalize the prevailing culture’s “How To” manual and we’re off to the races. The “price of admission”, however, is jettisoning the flattering illusion that we invariably “think for ourselves.” Not bad for not having to create the refrigerator from scratch.)
I consider the book’s thesis between “Ball One” and “Ball Two”, only I turn it around, pondering not how we know things but, in the context of the cable news media’s hopeless performance during the election, how we don’t.
This enticing intellectual exercise, which came to mind while Dodger fans in my vicinity were swatting a beach ball, brings me inevitably to Judd Apatow.
You see the connection, don’t you?
Let me spell it out for you, just in case.
I don’t know if you remember Knocked Up – the film played in theaters ten years, or, for a heightened perspective on the interval, three upgrades of “Smart Phones” ago.
In Knocked Up, a spontaneous one-night stand between Ben Stone, a shlubby slacker – hard to pronounce, though nonetheless accurate – and Alison Scott, a knockout media striver, leads to an unplanned pregnancy and ultimate connected relationship. For me, Knocked Up was the most structurally sound of Apatow’s screenplays.
But something bothered me about it.
Fundamentally, Knocked Up is a fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, with unprotected intercourse rather than dancing. Although Knocked Up was enthusiastically reviewed, there remained the unavoidable issue of, “Really? Her… and him?”
I know. They’re doing “opposites attract.” But it’s a difficult sell. Are not Ben and Alison a little too opposite? Is she not too beautiful and upwardly mobile for us to comfortably accommodate the idea of “Her… and him”? I know “willing suspension of disbelief” but come on!
I considered how to narrow the “Ew!” gap, reduce the insurmountable chasm of their multi-leveled inequality.
The solution involved Alison’s job – the host of an “Entertainment Tonight” type of vehicle. Knocked Up made it an unquestioned “given” that she was successful. But it occurred to me, “Successful at what?”
There’s a scene in the hospital in which the impending parents have a big fight. If provided the opportunity, I would have advised Judd Apatow to adopt this ameliorating inclusion.
To provide a more balancing credibility for the relationship, the guy should go after her career, refuting her claim that she’s a “journalist”, saying something like, “Journalist? Hey, it’s not like your Christiane Anampour reporting from Afghanistan. You’re more like this spokesmodel for the new Volvo but instead of a car it’s Justin Timberlake.”
I believe that would have helped. Take Alison down a peg – reduce the troublesome chasm.
Why didn’t Judd Apatow come up with that solution himself?
Because he could not see what I saw.
To Judd Apatow, coming of age in a media-crazed culture, a host job on E! Entertainment is enviably important. But in the overall scheme of things, even the generation I am not close to being a part of would ultimately concede…
The woman’s blathering “eye candy” with a hand mic.
But if that evaluation not in your mind – because, borrowing from The Knowledge Illusion – you see how it all ties together? – your peer group cohort considers the job “hotsy-totsy”,
It never occurs to you that it isn’t.
Moving to a more meaningful arena…
During the 2016 campaign, the non-Fox cable news commentators believed that reason, evidence and personal decency would ultimately prevail. Why wouldn’t they? It always had. And their peer group cohort – which, incidentally, is also my peer group cohort – unequivocally backed them up.
This cultural validation led the non-Fox cable news commentators to argue reasonably and sensibly day after day, unaware of a necessary caveat – because it was literally “inconceivable” to them – that in this particular election, although the tangible evidence against the Republican candidate was overwhelmingly persuasive…
“That may, in fact, not matter.”
“Passionate intensity uber alles” was not an available alternative on the palette. Hence, the title of this offering,
It’s like being congenitally colorblind.
You just don’t see it.
It’s nobody’s fault.
That is simply the way it is.
Though that understanding does not stop me from blaming them for leading me hideously astray.
Which is why I don’t watch them anymore.
Why should I?
Would you trust a color-blind passenger saying, “You can go now; it’s green”?