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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jumpers

In the last few years, a favorite phrase in disseminating various aspects of life is "jump the shark." Synonymous with smug and swarmy thoughts on all things in the pantheon of pop culture (as it is derived from that one infamous episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie water-skis over a jumping shark), the phrase has become the definition of any and everything's nadir. While that's a funny and shorthand way of describing something, I find it incredibly distracting. What's even more frustrating is when the same people that highly praise something later piss all over it and seem to enjoy pissing all over it for years to come. For those that celebrate this kind of ritual, I wonder what kind of satisfaction they get out of this.

It seems like there's a pseudo-deathwatch for things to "jump." No matter how much praise something gets, there are people that are hotly anticipating when it will begin to suck. In the case of TV shows, the second seasons of Lost and Desperate Housewives are of recent debates. Reading entries on both shows on Jump the Shark.com, the debate is all over the place. From the first show to various things later in the same season to things in the second season, there is no one unifying low point. The same can be said with almost every show listed on the site. But why is there a need to put an emphasis on nadir over zenith?

Back in college, I was guilty of awaiting sour things, but I just don't get any satisfaction from this anymore. Now, I'm aware of the fact that things are new only once, but it's not like everything loses its luster. Certain aspects of luster fade, but other aspects become refined over time. Think about married couples: sure, certain elements won't always be the same after time, but a big part of being married is sticking with the good, the bad and the crucial everything-in-between. Doesn't it sound outlandish to eagerly await a couple's love falling apart? I may be stretching things here, but that's what I think can get carried over into other aspects of life.

For my single friends, committed friends and married friends, I enjoy hearing and look forward to hearing about their lives. I don't even fathom how or when their lives will jump the shark. But people are awaiting sour things in pop culture, which in itself is incredibly temporary and always changing. Is there a really fulfilling aspect of this? No, but that's a part of the enjoyment. It's a nice time-killing, funny discussion between friends and co-workers. I don't mind talking about pop culture, but I don't revel in its flaws.

Especially with TV shows, luster is always going to fade as the show's producers and writers will desperately try to put something on to keep the show going. If I recall correctly, Fonzie jumped on a motorcycle over a bunch of cars and in a later season, he water-skied over a shark. Of course that's recycling show ideas, but can you blame the people behind the scenes for hooking up an IV for a dying horse? No, because a popular idea in business is milking something dry and keep on milking it after that. This is especially true in the TV, film and music industries. When you have a something with stern and set boundaries, can you expect them to remain strong for years to come? Of course not, but with certain TV shows, like The Simpsons and South Park, they can be infinite because they are always changing with the times. For shows like Happy Days and Three's Company, how many times could you enjoy Fonzie saying "Ayyyy" or Jack Tripper falling down?

Despite the fact that TV has been a household fixture since the '50s, it seems like especially people my age love talking about pop culture found on TV and the Internet. Maybe it's because we're a generation that grew up with more options because of cable and wall-to-wall programming. With an abundance of this and how that abundance has grown, the pop culture we get from the TV and the Internet is our visual fast food. While I don't think fast food is inherently bad, too much of it can be hazardous to our overall health.

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