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“Mad Men” tomorrow, “Community” today

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, April 2, 2012 12:46 EDT
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The Orange Couch isn’t going anywhere. For what should be the only time in the run of our new online video series about “Mad Men”, an episode will have to be delayed a day. But we have a very good reason!

Sorry, y’all. As much as I love “Mad Men”, I wasn’t going to miss Wild Flag’s triumphant show that happened to coincide with the airing of “Mad Men” last night. No one with sense would have missed that; it’s probably the best show I’ve seen in years. And I go to a lot of shows. It was an amazing reminder of what rocking out can really feel like. 

(Please, no “Portlandia” jokes. It just reminds me that Carrie Brownstein is more famous for a sketch comedy show on an obscure channel than for being a fucking genius of rock. Which makes me depressed, because it tells you what’s so wrong with this country. I love that show, I really do, but the dwindling lack of interest in music as an art form, even amongst my generation, and even amongst the “hip” crowd that watches “Portlandia”, is just depressing.) 

Despite this, I still have some quick thoughts on a TV show before we hit you with the wallop of “Mad Men” analysis. Who saw the most recent episode of “Community”? The answer is “probably not many people”, which is a shame, because they actually found a great way to both get their product placement money and satirize the crap out of Citizens United and the claim that corporations are people, a claim Romney made famous. 

The joke was that because a business on campus had to be owned by a student, Subway actually incorporates into the body of a human being, so he can take some classes at Greendale and dodge the restriction. This was both hilarious and kind of depressing as a joke, because I’m guessing a lot of the audience wasn’t able to piece together the connections between this supposedly over-the-top satire and real life, where corporations have been declared persons in the court—but only if it gives them more rights. (They still don’t have person responsibilities.) 

But of course, corporations aren’t people, and people aren’t corporations. Because corporations can’t do things like fall in love and have kinky sexual desires, but people can. And “Subway” falls in love with Britta—and vice versa—creating all sorts of chaos. 

A few things about this episode really stood out to me. One, while “corporations are people” is funny enough to build a sitcom plot around, the writers made the joke even funnier than that. They also managed to send up the relationship between out of control capitalism and the misogynist, sex-phobic bullshit that eats up so much of our political energy. Decades of Beltway belief that these are entirely separate issues is dismantled within minutes of scathing satire on this show, as the Subway representatives lay a major bout of slut-shaming on Britta because she knows how to have a good time when getting naked with someone. The conservative impulse to own and control and to squelch actual humanity with all its glorious passions is seen as the commonality between prudery and corporatization of America. Corporate-conservative America is not down with your kinky sex or your desire to eat tasty food, instead of that factory-stamped crap they dish out at Subway. 

This episode was also further evidence for my theory that Britta, and not Abed as some think, is the moral center of the show. They make ruthless fun of her all the time in the group, and she certainly has all the irritating flaws of the overearnest lefty, but Britta tends to be right more often than not, if you’re watching carefully. (That’s why people hate her!) As Alyssa Rosenberg notes:

Britta gets a bad rap for being a buzz-kill, but I appreciate the show acknowledging that it may only be within the disastrous dynamics of the study group that she’s a bore, and there’s a place where her passion is a better fit, and where there’s someone who shares her values and is available for gratifyingly kinky sex.

Once again, the show posits that Britta is just fine for being cheerfully liberated about sex, and that it’s the people around her that pass judgment that are the problem. If anything, this was one of the most remarkably sex-positive plots I’ve ever seen on a TV show. Sex isn’t just shown as being okay, but as a subversive force against the dulling of our country through corporatization. This isn’t an accident, either, since the characters make overt references to “1984″, and the way that sexuality is a symbol of subversion simply by virtue of being messy and human and wonderful for all of that. 

After this week, episodes of The Orange Couch will be coming out on Mondays. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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