In Praise of Silliness

I’m not going to lie –I’ve needed some silliness this week. I mean, I always need some silliness, but this has been a particularly rough week. Thankfully, my need for some serious therapeutic intervention coincided with the broadcast of the new limited-run series Galavant. The antics of a washed-up narcissistic knight seeking to rescue his lost love (who has no interest in being “rescued”) from the bumbling King Richard, complete with snarky musical interludes has possibly saved my sanity. I may or may not be writing this blog post while listening to the soundtrack.

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Amanda gets silliness. It’s serious business.

There are a handful of TV shows which make me feel as though the creators reached into my brain and produced something perfectly crafted to my sensibilities. Seriously, don’t mention Pushing Daisies or Farscape around me unless you have an hour or so for me to sing their praises. I think I might have to add Galavant to the list: medieval comedy musical? Yes, please! What do these three series have in common (beyond their ability to be almost saccharinely sweet and cynical at the same time)? A total embrace of silliness.

Now, admittedly I have come across some Galavant nay-sayers online–why would anyone want to waste their time on such ridiculous drivel? In this glorious golden age of scripted television, we should all be watching series of substance–like the upcoming season of House of Cards. (For the record, I have not, nor will I ever watch House of Cards, or Breaking Bad, or anything else so nihilistic about the human condition). Is there any worth to seemingly frivolous entertainment, aside from offering a temporary relief during otherwise emotionally draining moments in life? I think there is. And I think its something that has been sadly lacking in popular culture for far too long.

It seems that some point during the early 2000s, we as a society fell in love with anti-heroes and ironic detachment.  We became obsessed with Walter Whites and Tony Sopranos. In comedies, we laughed at the antics of the Bluth family in Arrested Development and Ricky Gervais’s David Brent (later Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott) in The Office. Even in superheroes, we embraced the gritty ambiguity of Christian Bale’s Batman. Everything was … very cynical and dark. And we collectively lapped it up. Now as objectively good as each of these pop culture specimens might be (although I stand by my refusal to jump on the Walter White bandwagon), there’s something that doesn’t quite sit right with me when everything we consume and the media produced is always aimed at deconstructing tropes and highlighting what is worst about people. It rips down, but it never builds up.

This is why I love Galavant, and why it gives me hope that we might be moving out of the decade of ironic detachment. Certainly, Galavant is itself a send-up of everything from hero stories, to fairy tales, to musical conventions. Through its six episodes that have so far aired, it continually rolls its eyes at its own genre. While at the same time, totally embracing the conventions that it mocks. Early in the series, Galavant encourages his squire, Syd, to be himself, collect his dolls (“Figurines”, as Syd insists) … that is what Galavant loves most about him. We shouldn’t be afraid to be silly — that is what real “authenticity” is, after all. And isn’t “authenticity” the vague idea that hipsters with their ironic detachment are ultimately trying to achieve.

Yes, Galavant winks at the audience, but it is a self-deprecating sensibility that says “we know this is ridiculous, and we are going for it anyway.” It is hard not to get caught up in the fun, and it is delightfully refreshing.  It’s hard to beat the two leads finally confessing their love for one another in a triumphant ballad that itemizes all the characteristics they find most infuriating in one another.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that there is an inescapable honesty and openness to silliness. Silliness doesn’t try to be “cool.” It doesn’t try to hide behind a veneer or respectability. It is itself. And maybe musicals are the silliest of genres because expressing emotion is song is the most open, honest, and genuine thing anyone can do. And shouldn’t we all be striving for that?

(PS: For all the ABC executives who are most certainly reading this — Please don’t cancel this show. I need it.)

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