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John Holbo - Editor
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Diablo Cody Meets Steven Spielberg

Posted by Marc Bousquet on 01/15/09 at 04:45 PM

...and the result is Judd Apatow.

cross-posted from howtheuniversityworks.com

Seems I attract the Czars of Obsession, even when I’m not pasting Che posters to the Temple of the Free Market (People, However, Chained to Their Desks). 

My fairly light-hearted post on early learning, for instance, sparked a little rage: “It’s All Fun and Games, Pal, until Someone’s Child Injects Themselves with Autism!” and “How Dare you JOKE about Penises!”

So I hesitate to admit that last night I stumbled upon The United States of Tara, the latest venture by Diablo Cody (Juno), and found it hilarious and moving. Produced by Steven Spielberg for Showtime, the show takes a Kansas woman’s struggles with dissociative identity disorder (DID) as the premise of a half-hour comic drama.

While there are many broad (and implausible) strokes about living with mental illness here, the show charms by emphasizing authentic emotions in a family and high-school web of relationships reminiscent of Judd Apatow’s brilliant-but-cancelled high-school-in-1980 comedy-drama Freaks and Geeks (1999). 

If you never saw the Apatow series—I hadn’t until my colleague Michelle Burnham lent me all 18 episodes last summer—how can you tell if you’ll like US Tara? Well, join the half-million others who’ve already screened the pilot on YouTube.  (Pointing to the series’ likely success but also an interesting evolution of streaming media’s role in convergence culture.)

In addition to the writing, the series is cannily done from set dressing and wardrobe to cast—featuring Toni Collette as Tara and John Corbett (Aidan from Sex and the City) as her sweet, earnest husband.  Tara’s daughter is having “sweaty, skanky teen sex” with a goth pretender who pushes her around; her son likes jazz and baking.

One of Tara’s “alters” pees in the men’s room, picks a fight with the daughter’s abusive boyfriend, and taunts her son.  Another alter is a fifteen-year-old girl who smokes dope and acts out her sexuality, playing companion and friendly competitor to Tara’s daughter, shopping for “porno” makeup and “hot clothes that make us look insecure”:

Daughter: You’re my favorite of all the alters! (embraces Tara)
Tara: (pulls away) Eww, drugs, not hugs!

In the pilot at least, the alters sometimes come on like super-heros from a very responsive Justice League. “Someone pushing your daughter around? Here comes Bully Country Dude!”

You don’t have to be a mental health professional or living with mental illness yourself to find the DID representations a bit, well, Spielbergian.  But if you can get over that, it’s worth your time. 


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