I love great television that can slave over a single plot development for an entire hour. I love the richness and deliberateness with which shows like Breaking Bad consider individual moments in people’s lives.
But I do believe there is a place in the world for things that move a little faster. There is a place for the bonkers plotting inherent in the world of soaps, where confrontations are constant, every motivation is clear-cut, and the plot that hatches today may blow up by tomorrow. It doesn’t replace things of quality and serious thought, any more than Cheetos replace rice, even though they’re both sort of starches.
I’m not even interested in seeing Dallas, but I find the write up from NPR’s Linda Holmes to be an incredible take on the way that television can segment itself - and how’s that okay.
But there is something about this narrative hectoring about men not understanding manhood that seems particularly brutal in that it specifically attacks them for emotional ineptitude while simultaneously attacking them for having emotions. Men who are emotionally reactive (like Hornsby’s character here) are weak; men who are emotionally inert (like the Man Up guys) are clueless. In both cases, women don’t want to have sex with them, even if they’re married to them.
I cannot help asking, even more than I usually do when I watch scripted comedies: Where, on television, are the men who both like football and remember birthdays? Where are the men who can have a highly insightful drink-and-talk with friends? Where are the men who are great dads, great husbands, great boyfriends? Where are the men who are dedicated to important jobs? Where are the men who aren’t seeking reassurance about what it means to be men? Where are, in short, all the men I rely on in my day-to-day life?
The McGurk Effect is named for a psychologist from Scotland, Harry McGurk, working with John MacDonald. The experiment shows that while our senses seem separate — you wouldn’t think what you see should affect what you hear — it turns out, that’s totally wrong. If our eyes see one thing and our ears hear a different thing, when sight and sound grapple in our brains, the eyes win. Eyes tell ears what to hear. Or so it seems.
Not only that, even if your brain knows this is an illusion, you still can’t hear the truth unless you close your eyes. The illusion is that powerful.