Five Great Television Scenes That Speak Volumes About the Human Condition
Don't worry, very minor on the spoilers – mostly ranging from “Walter White sells meth, and Don Draper works in advertising.” A somewhat spoiler in the Sopranos clip, but, I mean, come on.
House of Cards – Money vs. Power
There’s something ruthless about the way Frank plays the game, and it’s his ability to simplify apparent complexities into almost primal motive contrasts that makes many of Frank’s actions almost as douchey as this sentence. Money and Power have arguably been waging a constant, centuries-long war, but in an economy where fortunes are built less by manpower and machinery and more by intellectual property and “creative” innovation, power and money are increasingly beefing.
To a certain degree, both need each other – real influence will intrinsically be backed and validated by money, and someone with money can obviously influence. The latter aptly explains why big tobacco exists. But whether or not you agree with Spacey's Underwood, the eye-opener here is that at some point, you need to pick a foundation. Is it better to build yourself around money or around power? Which one has a better chance of leading you to the other?
All this considered, how much funnier is this article about Ryan Wasserman, social media rockstar?
Memorable Quote: “Money is the McMansion that falls apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries.”
Breaking Bad – Contextual Morality
Gus guides Walt through his own rationale, affirming the fact that “good” and “bad” aren't necessarily universal. Many a Breaking Bad fan will point to this as a brilliant bit of manipulation from Gus; playing to Walt’s weaknesses of having been beaten down all of his life in order to get him to do what he wants. But in reality, this is a lesson that everyone from Gus Fring to Tommy Pickles knows; baby or man, “you gotta do what you gotta do.” Walt learned this early, and in the end it's what helped him, in this case, triumph.
If the context demands it, “manning up” can sometimes trump all.
Memorable Quote: “And a man…a man provides. And he does it, even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up, and he does it. Because he’s a man.”
Mad Men – The Power of Memory
Don Draper explains the power of memory, nostalgia, and why “what used to be” will always have overwhelmingly more sentimental value than “what currently is.” In other words, this is why the internet is littered with lists about pogs and super soakers, even though no one was really that thrilled with either back in the day.
Memorable Quote: “This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine. Goes backwards, and forwards. Takes us to a place, where we ache to go again. It's not called the wheel, it's called the carousel. It' lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”
The Wire – “I Been Straight Up”
This scene brilliantly sums up one the immortal series’ loudest themes – that humans are intrinsically bound to the institutions they’ve voluntarily or involuntarily associated with, and it is those institutions that often blindly define our successes, failures, and actions.
Here, Bodie explains how his situation is no different than many an honest employee. Showing up to work and giving it your best doesn’t mean shit if you’re viewed as a commodity. It’s a scene that skillfully demolishes the American notion that hard work and loyalty will lead to success – and shows that sometimes, it’s the compromising of those morals that’ll lead to results.
Memorable Quote: “They want me to stand with them, right. But where the fuck they at when they supposed to be standing by us. I mean when shit goes bad and there's hell to pay, where they at?”
The Sopranos – What Is All This For?
This article easily could’ve been 20 scenes from The Sopranos. And while that sentence is mostly there to appease everyone who thinks The Sopranos explains the human condition better than Rembert Explains America, it’s also the truth.
Very “the world is a miserable place” David Chase type stuff, but this scene, arguably more than any, tackles the potential fruitlessness of the “grand scheme”- the constant struggle to stay afloat, our heads above the riptide. It’s the classic half empty vs. half full argument, applied to the largest scale possible. This scene stresses the importance of accepting things as they are, something that The Sopranos always found to be oddly liberating.
Memorable Quote: “Seriously, we're both adults here, right? So after all is said and done. After all the complaining, and crying, and fucking bullshit…is this all there is?”
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