Stereotypical by Design

There are a few TV shows that I enjoy watching over and over again: The Office, That 70s Show, All Stargate Series, and My Name is Earl.  Today found me marathoning My Name is Earl in the background while I diligently worked on whatever it was I somewhat accomplished today. My Name is Earl is a good show, not just because it stars Jason Lee, one of my favorite Kevin Smith movie actors, but because it’s based on the idea that if you do good things then good things will happen.  While I’m pretty sure Earl’s concept of “Karma” is a little off target, he means well and manages to do even better than he means – no small feat.

One particular episode grabbed my attention more than the others, even though I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen it at least a dozen times. The episode guest stars Christian Slater as one of Earl’s previous “victims” that ended up on his list of wrongs that need to be set right. Christian Slater plays a stoner who Earl and his brother were able to rob blind because he was so high that he apparently had no idea that his entire kitchen and living room were being slowly removed and sold off for money. When Earl goes back to make things right with Christian Slater, Earl finds him living up in the mountains in a self-sustaining community. It boggles Earl and his brother Randy’s mind that these people are living away from the rest of the world, off the grid, not eating meat, and talking about some radical global climate change and sustainability ideas.

Earl is not the most learned of men, so it makes complete sense that all of these new ideas seem crazy to him, that a meal without meat makes no sense at all. What struck me the hardest was actually Christian Slater’s character, Woody, and how he was portrayed. Woody has a lot of strong beliefs that I agree with, but he is also a vegan, a stoner, and a hippie.  While I have no problem with any of those things, those labels are instant deal breakers for many others. It makes me sad that such important topics like sustainability and global climate change are tied so tightly to other unnecessary belief structures.

One of my idealistic goals in all of my life changes has been to prove that a normal person can make this type of change, maybe I could be an average person’s shining example, prove possibilities do exist. Watching this episode of My Name is Earl gives me the feeling that I’m pretty far from “normal” or “average” in this sense. I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenging dichotomy that exists between the way the world is and what your brain lets you think is true. We are unique yet unable to feel special, the same yet unable to feel connected. I don’t know that I could ever be an average person’s shining example, as I am moving further and further away from that comfortable median known best for it’s sorts of normalcies.

Some people might wonder what the point of constantly re-watching shows is when today’s society is filled with more content than any of us could hope to watch/read/listen to in a single lifetime. The best answer I can give is that I’m not the same person I was the last time I watched the series, just as I will not be the same person the next time I put it on. It doesn’t matter that the show is the same – it is I who is changing.

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