In Defense of Cheese

I am a colossal cheeseball.

As such, I dislike the modern trend in entertainment over the last couple decades of tv that is increasingly dark, gritty, depressing, and dystopian. It seems it’s all they’re churning out these days. And I often feel like I’m the only person who isn’t onboard with it. Battlestar Galactica (2004) is a good example of what I’m talking about. I watched that for the first time just about a year ago and DAMN. What a far cry from the original. The original was inspiring and exciting—the 2004 Battlestar was reasonably good science fiction but dark and depressing as Hell. Featured in its litany of bleak storylines we witness the murder of several recurring characters, suicide, alcoholism, torture… And that’s just the in-fighting among the last vestiges of the human race—not the Cylons they are supposed to be fighting against.

It’s one thing to have bad things happen to our protagonists occasionally or have a long-standing conflict to drive the storyline, but when the plot of your beloved series is just a long string of crises after crises after misdeed after death after betrayal, etc., I start to wonder if your writers didn’t get enough hugs as kids. Several shows seem to be dark, gritty, and violent simply for the sake of it: the shock value. And that’s just cheap writing, if you ask me. It’s as though a generation of writers came to the conclusion that being gritty makes you deep or something. It doesn’t.

I just don’t get how people find this entertaining. How does watching tragedy befall people repeatedly or watching characters do terrible things to each other help you relax and unwind? The entire time I was suffering through the watching of reboot Battlestar, it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning. It was as if a little black raincloud followed me wherever I went—I spent the better part of a month in a gloomy funk. Maybe that’s just part of being a Pisces, but I believe that as much as you are what you eat, the entertainment you consume feeds your SOUL.

Fine. I may be overly dramatic, but at the very least, you must grant that what you watch on television can color your worldview.

Even more problematic than not being “entertaining” enough—because really exceptional entertainment does much more than entertain—it serves no productive purpose to society. The really exceptional storytellers out there not only captivate, but motivate and inspire. They encourage us to think and act in ways that promote good works and become the best version of ourselves. At the very least, they make us laugh and cheer us up when real life is less than rosy. Call it cheesy if you like—but all those happy endings, songs and dances, etc. do serve a redeeming purpose.

The occasional dark drama is fine now and then if you find a good one, but I think it’s a disservice to everyone to inundate our viewscreens with dark, dystopian content on every channel. I’m convinced this stuff just isn’t good for you 24/7.

What we all need more of right now are shows like Ted Lasso and The Orville. Entertainment filled with hope, optimism for the future, and faith in humanity. Maybe even the occasional musical. I’ve found that there are few things in life that can’t be improved by making them into a musical.

Case in point:

See, I fixed it

Arguably, the dystopias may teach you some valuable life lessons. Their portrayals alert you to the evils of the world and help manage expectations of the difficulties facing us. They teach you to trust no one, and promote self-preservation, but this is purely self-serving and does nothing to further our culture. They encourage us to accept and expect the worst in life and from others, and isn’t that demotivating? If you are convinced that life is full of rotting garbage, are you going to give it your best effort? Of course not. You are going to crawl into your dark, emo cave and sulk like a little bitch. If you become too accustomed to seeing the world through the demoralizing, defeatist lens of modern-day dramas then you would always assume the worst, and wouldn’t be motivated to make an effort. Without perseverance or effort from people who believe they can do and accomplish great things, progress stalls, society stalls, the world gets no better, and few live up to their full potential. Negativity and cynicism are self-fulfilling. Thankfully, so is hope and optimism. Where would Captain Kirk and his crew be if Kirk actually believed in the no-win scenario? He’d be dead, Jim.

This is not to say that I actually believe life is all sunshine and rainbows, and all the world a big, bouncy musical. Let’s face it kids: life (at times) sucks. It can be unbearably, relentlessly, shitty. So much so that you don’t stand a chance of surviving or thriving if the gods you worship include George R.R. Martin. No—during these times, you will definitely need heroes who know how to make the most of a bad situation to guide your way.

Also true: while life certainly can suck, it can be pretty awesome too. The cheesy stuff and a little humor help build up your emotional reserves so that when life gives you lemons, you have the creativity and panache to turn it into a lemon-drop martini and sip on it coolly as you lay out your enemies.

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