11/07/2011

On Trial

Talking about the culture wars with my American friend Paul yesterday. When I told him about that double episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (1.7 & 1.8: "Nevada Day") wherein Los Angeles' culture industry intelligentsia is put on trial in a culturally midwestern Nevada hicktown, he reminded me of a similar constellation in the ultimate episode of "Seinfeld". Here the New Yorkers Jerry, George, and Kramer, in a masochistic détournement of the nostalgic "best of" episode format, are made to defend themselves in front of a Massachussets court for all the terrible things they have done in the course of the preceding nine seasons. Unlike Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60", which resolves the conflict of Weltanschauungen through rational dispute and - however precarious - mutual respect, Larry David's less optimistic "Seinfeld" ends with the whole cast's criminal conviction and subsequent imprisonment in a county jail. The final joke, it seems, is on them. Even though Massachusetts is hardly Kansas (and neither is Nevada), the same logic operates in both instances: By looking at themselves from the other side of the front line, Sorkin and David are measuring the growing distance between the two Americas, albeit with very different results. If only this process of self-reflexion would not be so thoroughly asymmetrical. Or can anyone think of a reverse example?