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Most people, I’m pretty sure, don’t think of sitcoms as stressful (By the way, that's Janet looking stressed out on the right in the picture). Age and social conditioning have somewhat improved my ability to tolerate the horrible climactic moments of sitcoms—I used to run out of the room at the point where the Big Problem was brought into the open. For this “sensitivity,” I have been ridiculed, but that’s all right.

I don’t want people to be embarrassed. I don’t want them to feel ashamed. I don’t want their weaknesses, which they’ve taken such pains to conceal, to be revealed. I can’t take the tension. I can’t take the fear that the people around them won’t understand and love them anyway.

I know, in my head, that in sitcoms it turns out all right. But my gut begs to disagree. At any moment, the kindly, gentle laugh at the silliness of the human condition might turn into humiliation. Reality and its nasty possibilities break through the pleasant illusion of a benign universe.

The trouble I was having with Anansi Boys seems to have been that kind of problem. Way back when it first came out, I bought the book because I loved American Gods. I slogged through the first four chapters, reading more and more slowly as I realized that Bad Things were going to happen to Fat Charlie. Then, figuratively, I ran out of the room, hid in the bathroom, and didn’t come out until the next commercial.

The interval from that point until yesterday allowed the tension to relax. I didn’t have to experience the build-up to chapter 5. Jumping in at that point, I coped with the Bad Things and even managed to enjoy the undoubted skill of Gaiman’s writing. This time I’ll finish the book.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 1st, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
I'll keep this in mind when I give Anansi Boys its second try. I think it was part of my problem with it too. Odd, because I like drama, where bad things happen to people all the time. Maybe it is the mix of comedy and sadness that's so hard to take. I just reread Saffy's Angel, a book I love in a series I love, and was finding it hard. The others deal with problems but are somehow just funny and sweet; this one deals with troubles so tragic, and so close to my heart (memories of a girl who was orphaned at age 3), that even though it is also funny and sweet, it was painful going.

I find sitcoms almost unwatchable for the same reason you give. The worst ones are the plotlines where someone lies (usually about something incredibly trivial, so that you want to shake them and say "JUST FESS UP!") and the tangles just get worse and worse for 22 minutes until it all comes out and we can all breathe again. That's the plot of 65% of sitcom episodes, so I just don't bother.
Oct. 7th, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
I'm done with Anansi Boys and it turned out well. Perhaps because of my own story, I think of Saffy's Angel as an adoption story, so I felt perhaps a little jealous of the nutty sweet big family, but generally safe.

Your point about the lies is exactly right. And I do not watch sitcoms at all anymore unless I am with my parents and they are tired of watching Fox News. I bring my knitting. ;)
Oct. 3rd, 2010 02:58 am (UTC)
I completely agree about the stressfulness of sitcoms. Three's Company was one of the worst.
Oct. 7th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
Wasn't it awful? I can't remember a single plotline, just the overarching sense of fear and embarassment!
Oct. 7th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
And it was always something easily avoidable, like Janet left a note explaining something, but Jack didn't read it, or the car keys fell behind the couch and no one bothered to look there, or someone didn't answer an important phone call. Stuff so stupid that it would never happen in real life, and yet it drove me bonkers because they got themselves into such big trouble. Every. Single. Week. At least with a show like the Brady Bunch they had the excuse that most of the idiocy was being done by children. :D

Plus, looking back now on the "Jack pretends to be gay" premise makes me feel Ill. So very wrong.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )



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