Sunday, December 1, 2013

Our Society is Crumbling: Blame Vin Diesel and Andy Samberg

Matthew Yglesias, the day after Paul Walker died, explains the the popularity of the Fast and the Furious franchise in terms of increasing income inequality in America:
In a world where the system increasingly seems to be rigged, it's natural to turn to the Dominic Torettos of the world as heroes. Yet Dom, for all his hard work, ingenuity, and undeniable skill doesn't really do anything useful or productive. He's a nice guy who's loyal to his friends and family. He lives by a code. And his outlook is increasingly appealing in an increasingly unequal America. But it's ultimately destructive of the social institutions needed to generate prosperity.
In the Fast and the Furious movies, characters make choices that value personal relationships over  legal institutions; these decisions make perfect sense, according to Yglesias, to an audience that sees the societal game rigged so that the rich (presumably, not them) get richer while the poor stay where they are (or worse).

I've been thinking about the eroding of a particular traditional institution, the family, since watching the Thanksgiving episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. On the show, NYPD detective Jake Peralta eschews Turkey Day because he never had a happy one: when he was a child, his father left him and his mother, and she always had to work on the holiday. The lesson learned at the end of the episode was that Jake's real family was his work colleagues, and that, because of his love for them, he could now enjoy Thanksgiving as an adult.

So, just as the Fast and the Furious franchise thumbs its nose at law enforcement, so does Brooklyn Nine-Nine realign our notion of family. The interesting twist in the TV show is that Jake shows his love not only for the people, but also for the NYPD as a whole, reinforcing the role of one as it disses the other. A perfect message for the surveillance-state era?