A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Graduate Student as Comedic "Wing Man"

Why aren't there television shows about graduate students?

Let's think about this for a moment: Graduate students are very intelligent, and intelligence often produces a sharp and sardonic wit; we are often jaded and cynical... a graduate student would be the perfect wing man to constantly crack jokes about the state of politics, literature, art and life in general. Our conversations could be the perfect sit-com material.

But yet, the way in which we spend our time is not conducive to an entertaining plot. We sit and read. We sit and read some more. We might get up and make ourselves a snack, or move to Starbucks. But then we sit and read some more. At certain points during the semester, we spend ten, twelve, even fourteen hours at a time glued to our laptops, frantically writing twenty and thirty page papers: "Does this even make sense anymore? Dammit!"

The show certainly couldn't center around only graduate students, but like I said, we'd make good wing men. Cracking sardonic jokes from the sidelines, barely looking up from our novels/textbooks/laptops. The sidekick who's stuck at home, the friend that no one can get to go out. The running gag who never shuts up about their thesis project...

This could be a big hit. It would be like a more intellectual version of Seinfeld, with jokes about Marcel Proust. There was a Seinfeld episode about Tolstoy, now that I think about it. Elaine was trying to read War and Peace, I think.

There were also jokes about literary figure Marcel Proust in the movie Little Miss Sunshine: Steve Carell's character was a suicidal homosexual Proust scholar. Much was made about the fact that he was the "second" most important Proust scholar in the world and that his lover had dumped him for the first and most prominent Proust scholar in the world. That's a pretty depressing fictional equivalent. Of course, Carell's character turns out to be the most sane person in the entire family; I'm not sure if I find that comforting or not.

In this scenario, the television incarnation of my graduate school self is the equivalent of a character who tries to slit his wrists. Or, in the Seinfeld scenario, I'd probably be George.

Why aren't there any attractive, sane intellectuals portrayed on television and in the movies?

Because graduate school robs you of your sanity, and after nights of binge-eating while staying up late to finish your work, you have lost your looks as well. You feel like you barely have time to spend ten minutes on the exercise machine, yet you look at old photos, wistfully trying to remember how it felt to be able to fit into your favorite skirt. You can't concentrate any more, especially near the end of the semester. Your attention span drops and you have to play tricks on yourself to be able to finish your work. You feel like you're slowly wearing away like an alka-seltzer tablet in a glass of water...

I'm not sure if that would make a good TV character, wing man or not. Although high anxiety characters can sometimes be funny, as long as they're not too shrill or whiny...

1 comment:

GospelX said...

I can tell you why there are no shows about grad students - because the target demographic would be grad students, who generally don't have much time for TV. :P I could also dig into how humorless many of them are, but that depends on a combination of the individual and the field of study.

I usually turn to Wikipedia when I'm curious about things, and I've known Wikipedia to have lists of fictional characters with a common trait. For instance, there's a list of fictional cheerleaders on the site. There aren't any lists for fictional grad students, but when I simply searched for "grad student", you know what I got?

Riley Finn

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