[prose#8] Embracing Arrested Development and Community

Or, Why I’m Sad It’s Not 2003 Anymore

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a bit of an obsessive personality (there are at least five people who are falling out of their chairs, laughing, as they read that sentence). They know that I tend to fixate on certain areas of pop culture for brief lengths of time. At some point, I’ll have to talk about my fascination with the Christian boy band, Plus One. Or my love for Paul Newman. Or my recent fixation on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The StrengthsFinder says it’s because one of my top strengths is Input, which means I like to find out things. For example: I decide I like Paul Newman. I do my best to watch every movie he’s ever been in. I watch youtube videos of interviews he’s done. I Google Image search him. I memorize his IMDB.com page. I read books about him. I become a walking trivia encyclopedia… until the obsession passes and I move on to something else.

All that aside, my most recent pop culture fixation is Arrested Development. Thanks to the beauty of Netflix, I watched the entire series in a matter of days. I always follow that sentence quickly with “each episode is only 21 minutes long” and “the series only lasted two and a half years,” just to hopefully remove any judgment welling up in the eyes of the individual I’m talking to. Both of those justifications make me sad, because that means the entire series is only 20 hours long. I may have used that calculation to help me fall asleep for a number of weeks.

Arrested Development was a show before its time. I say this because I keep hearing of peers who have recently discovered the show — which ran from 2003 to 2006 (IMDB, duh) — and are despairing the fact that it went off the air with very little fanfare. It truly is comedic gold: understated, ironic, and incredibly uncomfortable, exactly what my generation loves in comedy.

The show brings familial dysfunction to a whole new level. The plot centers around Michael Bluth, who is having to hold his family together after his father is arrested for a number of business-related crimes. Michael does his best to run the business, keep his family from spending whatever money is left, and raise his son amidst such social dysfunction. Of course, each family member has his or her own set of weaknesses and fears that give the character strength and struggle. This sounds like a serious drama, but here’s some levity for you: they own a frozen banana stand. The oldest son is a horrible magician. The youngest son hasn’t gotten through his Oedipal stage. The mother hates one of her sons, tolerates another, and dotes on the last, leaving her most vicious barbs for her daughter. Hilarity ensues!

Here’s why Christians should embrace this show (or nonChristians, or anyone really)– besides the fact that it’s really, really funny, it’s an amazing picture of persistence and acceptance. Sure, none of the Bluths really like each other, but they all love each other. And none of them could live without the others, as much as they would protest. Each character has such obvious foibles, but there is always someone who balances out their faults. It’s usually Michael who does that. Michael tries to leave time after time, ditch the lot of them to survive on their own which he knows is impossible. They are nothing without him. But he, in turn, is nothing without them. He needs to have someone to take care of, fires to put out (occasionally literally), and people who need him.

No matter how dysfunctional the Bluths are, they stick together. I feel like, in communities, we let go far too quickly. We start seeing someone’s faults, how glaring and obvious they are, and how uncomfortable and awful they are. We may throw them a bone, noting a good quality or two, but in the long run, their faults win the day. In doing so, we separate ourselves from this other, highlighting the differences and the impossibilities, instead of realizing that our faults are often what make us interesting characters, and that we all have them. Instead of pulling away, we should draw toward, because we’re all we have, really. I at least feel like I should be sitting next to someone while I eat lunch instead of eating by myself. We humans are social. We need people.

In conclusion, watch Arrested Development. And love people.

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