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An ultra-cynical exposé of suburban life
on February 2, 2009
Like Little Children, American Beauty, and Edward Scissorhands, Weeds portrays a planned community as a forgotten circle of Dante's Inferno. Suburban life really isn't the gated paradise the brochures from the housing committee promise; rather, it's a cesspool of petty people with too much money and nothing to do with their lives. We've see these kinds of shows and movies before. What's unique about Weeds is that there really aren't any sympathetic characters. Even the children in the show come off as selfish demons (who seem far too wise and ironic for their respective ages). The cast is superb. The things they do and say make you alternately cringe, laugh, and open your mouth wide to say, "He did not just do that!" And it's worth mentioning that the end credits to each episode generally feature a very funny and sometimes dirty folk or pop song that serves as an audio metaphor for the entire episode. I enjoy the show's attempt to tell a quirky and increasingly unrealistic tale that must be a tremendous challenge for the writers.
On the other hand, the show doesn't evolve much further than a writer's delight: So much of the dialogue is simply a stream of creative, new curse words and phrases. These start off as shocking and funny, but the veneer wears thin when you realize that it's just a device to divide your attention from the fact that very little is happening in the show, because all of the characters are made of the same selfish mold. It reminds me of how Family Guy uses the same device in nearly episode: Something happens and Peter will be reminded of the time when he [fill in the blank], and the show proceeds to randomize the plot with a barely relevant flashback. Again, funny for a while, but it gets old fast.
I should say that I'm not at all put off by Weed's liberal politics, with which I tend to sympathize, and which is probably the most consistent (biased?) part of the show. Yet something essential is missing from the discussions on race, immigration, drug trafficking, teen pregnancy, single motherhood, suburban life, religion, draft dodging, and so on. In the end, I have a sinking feeling that the show itself is selfish. The show, like the characters in it, wants to gate itself off from the views of dissenters like conservatives and the religious. But that's the way extremism works: Just as fundamentalism breeds no irony and imposes a black/white morality onto humanity, material secularism obfuscates personal responsibility and self-discipline. In short, the show preaches to the choir who thinks the world would be better if everyone was a little higher, and the show only rarely entertains the possibility that maybe that's not really true either.