Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jump, jump

I've read two articles in the last 24 hours that have used the phrase "jump the shark." If you don't know the term you haven't been reading enough wanky, self referential cultural theory of late. From the ever reliable Wikipedia, it:

denotes the point in a TV show or movie series' history where the plot veers off into absurd story lines or out-of-the-ordinary characterizations. This usually corresponds to the point where a show with falling ratings apparently becomes more desperate to draw in viewers. In the process of undergoing these changes, the TV or movie series loses its original appeal. Shows that have "jumped the shark" are typically deemed to have passed their peak.

The term is a direct reference to Happy Days when the Fonz literally jumps a shark in what was deemed one of the stupidest plot lines in television history (it probably was until the creation of Knightrider). The thing is that the term "jump the shark" can be related to other areas of life. For example, I would contend that world politics jumped the shark when the US elected Ronald Reagan as President, elevating a knucklehead celebrity into the most powerful office in the world at the height of the Cold War (subsequent seasons featuring Bush and Howard showed just how bad that show had gotten). Warfare jumped the shark with the use of nuclear weapons (a shameless grab for ratings), sports jumped the shark when Bangladesh beat Australia in cricket (that still makes me laugh) and... jumped the shark with the invention of the keytar.

Which brings me to the question of when humanity jumped the shark? Some may argue the industrial revolution, Hitler or the Phantom Menace. However, I would contend that humanity jumped the shark when John Lennon was shot. Here was this undoubtedly fallible guy who'd made some great music and done something constructive with his celebrity and someone decided it'd be a good idea to shoot him. At that point, humanity got desperate and our ratings have been sliding ever since...

The only question left for me is when I jumped the shark? I am trying to pinpoint the exact moment I became a shadow of my former self and became just a shallow parody... Maybe it was when I admitted to myself I liked that Kelly Clarkson song? Or when I ran head on into a steel pole? Or when I started a blog? (HA!) Surely I've done stupider things than that. I'll keep you informed on my musings and if I come up with a definitive answer, I'll let you know...


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