Friday, 30 January 2015

30/01/15 - Theories and whatnot

Following on from last week’s peculiar Gatsby/Titanic unusualness, I thought it’d be interesting to look at a few conspiracy theories in popular culture this time.
In a nutshell, a conspiracy theory is an idea that posits a cover-up or web of lies orchestrated by a number of people in order to mislead the public, or shield them from certain events. In the case of TV conspiracy theories, what we’re looking at is a plot construct that masks the reality of the main character’s true existence. For example:

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
None of it actually happened, and Will is dead.
Think about the lyrics of the theme song, just to
refresh your memory.
Will was murdered on a basketball court in Philadelphia – that ‘one little fight’ got him killed. So his journey to Bel Air is actually him being cast into purgatory, where he confronts his demons and issues, and receives mental challenges to help him work through them. The ever-complex Uncle Phil steers him into analysing his behaviour – punishing the wrong answers, praising the right ones – in order to move him toward ascending to heaven or descending to hell. Phil is his guardian angel, helping him to make sense of it all; Jazz, conversely, is the devil, and is constantly being cast out of purgatory.
Will only sees his mother sporadically, which we can take to symbolise the times when she’s visiting his grave. The final episode of the final series sees everybody moving out of the Bel Air mansion, demonstrating that Will has finally sorted out the demons and angels of his past experiences and has found the path to redemption in heaven.

Saved By The Bell
In the show, Zack Morris has it all – he’s popular, charismatic, attractive, good at sports… he’s the all-American aspirational high school kid that everybody wants to be.
But it is, in fact, all a fantasy. Zack’s life is so horrible, so depressing, that he’s created this dream scenario in which he’s respected and admired, rather than facing the grim reality that he’s a nobody. It can all be found in the lyrics to the theme song:
‘By the time I grab my books, and I give myself a look, I'm at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by… If the teacher pops a test, I know I'm in a mess, and my dog ate all my homework last night; riding low in my chair, she won't know that I'm there…’
C’mon. As if Zack Morris is ever ‘in a mess’. He’s always on top of the situation, right? He’s fly, like the Fresh Prince. He doesn’t get flustered by school issues, he’s the man.
However… the song begins with a bell – ‘When I wake up in the morning, the alarm gives out a warning’ – which immediately jars. A warning? Warning him of what? School holds no fear for him. Hmm. And the end of the song: ‘…tomorrow it'll be alright. It's alright, cos I'm saved by the bell.’ These bells symbolise his shift from the real world to his own private fantasy.
Zack is miserable at school. He hates every minute of it. But when that bell rings, maybe he’s got a fresh chance of a better tomorrow? The theme song is the marker of the end and beginning of Zack’s reality – it bookends a dream, everything between those bells is escapist fiction.

Spongebob Squarepants
Quite a simple idea, this. Spongebob and his pals live in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. In the 1950s, the USA rather callously tested some massive nuclear weapons in the Bikini Atoll (read more about that
here). Spongebob and his cronies are all freakish mutants, brought into being by the huge fallout of that nuclear testing.

Rebecca Black – Friday
This is a song rather than a TV show, but worthy of inclusion because it’s UNCANNY. Working through the lyrics in order, we find numerous references to the JFK assassination. Why is this cheesy little popstrel so enamoured with presidential shootings of the 1960s? We don’t know. But she’s all over it, look…
‘Got to have my bowl, got to have my cereal’ – Kennedy reportedly eschewed the sausage that morning, opting for cereal instead. He was keen on maintaining a healthy colon.
‘Ticking on and on, everybody’s rushing.’ Reference to the Cold War there, sounds like ‘everybody’s Russian’.
‘Got to get down to the bus stop.’ The Monday after the assassination, JFK was due to sign legislation on public school bus transportation.
‘Kickin’ in the front seat, sitting in the back seat.’ Kennedy was sitting in the back when he got shot, of course. The internet would have you believe that his driver was named Samuel Kickin, which would validate this line neatly too. (Let’s ignore the fact that reference to the obviously fictional ‘Samuel Kickin’ can only be found in relation to this Rebecca Black theory…)
‘It’s Friday, Friday, got to get down on Friday.’ JFK was assassinated on a Friday. If he’d ducked down, he might have survived.
‘Everybody’s looking forward to the weekend.’ Hoping to find out the truth about the assassination, presumably.
‘Tick-tock, tick-tock, want to scream.’ My goodness, she’s insightful.
All the pieces fit. But why…?

…and so on. The internet is a strange place, there’s lots of this kind of stuff. Let’s finish with a Rugrats theory that’s simply too horrible and depressing to even paraphrase here, I’ll just link to it.

There we are, then. Why not try needlessly over-analysing some television when you get home? Perhaps EastEnders is a fantastical projection of Auschwitz? Maybe University Challenge is a satire on cultural elitism? You can make anything sound true if you make up some ‘facts’ to support it, go nuts. Report back next week.




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