Tuesday, July 25, 2017

TV: The meanings of OZARK

Where are the jobs?

As we've noted before, the economy impacts what we have for entertainment.

It's no surprise that the continued downward slide for US jobs has resulted in BREAKING BAD, BETTER CALL SAUL, ANIMAL KINGDOM and so many mores.  As we pointed out last month:

And in times like that, the stories audiences hold onto are often gangster stories.

It was during The Great Depression, for example, that America embraces James Cagney -- first in THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931).

The reasons for that are complex but the simplest explanation is that, as Americans see the system that's supposed to benefit them turn around and crush them, they root for those who find a way to overcome it.

NETFLIX's OZARK is the latest story centered on a life of crime (drugs and money laundering).

The biggest mistake in season one was the casting of Josh Randall.

a new illst

Randall was the best thing about NBC"s ED.

He's one of the best things about OZARK but, sadly, they gave him even less to do then when he was the sidekick on Ed.

He's killed off in the first episode and then pops back for a flashback episode supposedly ten years prior.

Supposedly?  Check the ages of Jason Bateman's kids -- it doesn't seem to add up.

The years have added up on Jason Bateman's face.

What he's lost in sheen, however, he makes up for with talent.

Bateman's created a fully developed character and effectively disappears into Marty.

Marty, with his partner played by Josh Randall, ends up working with a drug cartel.  Someone's skimming and everyone but Marty gets killed by Del (Esai Morales) and his flunkies.

Marty's quick thinking -- a scheme to money launder out of the Ozarks -- temporarily saves him, his wife (Laura Linney) and their kids when Del agrees to try the scheme.

In these times, when so many are living paycheck to paycheck, Marty's quick thinking is probably similar to their own as they juggle this bill and that.

Where are the jobs?

The good ones, the ones you can make a career of?

We're not talking the part-time jobs, the seasonal jobs, the barely paying jobs.

We're talking about the jobs that vanished.

And notice how so few seem to care.

Bill Clinton was seen as so brave, by some, in 1992 when he spoke of the economy as he ran for the presidency.

He seemed to be offering straight talk.

But he really wasn't.

Talking about how you will earn what you learn and you'll shift jobs repeatedly in a lifetime, he also promised to revitalize the economy but he was all words. Service jobs, service jobs, service jobs. The downwardly mobile Generation X.

As the economy was falling apart in the 80s, the adults had DYNASTY and DALLAS -- mansions, oil wells -- to fantasize about. By the time Gen X was becoming adults, the soap operas revolved around high schools (90210) or apartment complexes (MELROSE PLACE) -- the downgrading of expectations and dreams. Clinton talked about a changing economy while never addressing it.  Bully Boy Bush followed and did nothing.  Then came Barack Obama. He did something -- as Glen Ford (BLACK AGENDA REPORT) noted:

Two years ago this month, BET reporter Andre Showell posed a question to Barack Obama at a press conference to mark the president's first 100 days in office. Showell noted "double-digit unemployment" among Blacks and asked Obama, "What specific policies can you point to that will target these communities and what's the timetable for us to see tangible results?" 
It was one of the First Black President's greatest "I Have Nothing for the Blacks" moments. "My general approach is that if the economy is strong, that it will lift all boats," replied the man who had brought millions to the Washington Mall just three months earlier, transforming an inaugural formality into a must-be-there-if-you-are-breathing Great Black Hajj. Obama then offered smug assurances that "folks who are most vulnerable are most likely to be helped because they need the most help." Under his presidency, the exact opposite would occur. 
In the year that followed, Obama would pump $14 trillion into Wall Street’s accounts, the biggest transfer of wealth in human history, but the "rising tide" would swamp Black America. Black male unemployment, which stood at an official rate of 17.2 percent when Sowell posed his question, would exceed 20 percent as the crisis deepened, with never a hint of targeted policy consideration from the Obama administration. Today, at 16.8 percent, Black male unemployment is markedly higher than twice that of white men (7.7 percent) -- a significant widening of the great gap that has come to be thought of as "normal," beginning in the early Seventies. The "hidden" chasms of Black joblessness have grown even more under Obama's economic tutelage, as Blacks disproportionately crowd the subterranean corridors of the long-term and "discouraged" unemployed -- a despairing cohort whose ranks have swelled to record levels during this rich man/s "recovery." 

He oversaw "the biggest transfer of wealth in human history."

Guess what?

It wasn't to the workers.

Lift all boats, he insisted.

It certainly lifted his, right?

As Dan Alexander (FORBES) noted earlier this year Barack went from $85,000 a year in 2005 to leaving the White House worth $20 million.  Of course, he'll also get at least $200,000 in pension each year as a former US president.

Between that and all the corporate donors to his foundation as well as those big paying speeches he's giving to Wall Street, his boat has certainly been lifted.

But it wasn't a boat, it was a yacht -- David Geffen's yacht -- that Barack took a pleasure cruise on after exiting the White House.  


In 1984, Bruce Springsteen may have  sang, "Foreman says those jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back"

But in 2017, he was off on David Geffen's yacht partying with former President Barack Obama who oversaw the working class and the middle class losing wealth to the already enriched..

In other words, the big bellied, hair plugged Bruce could drop the blame on a foreman but couldn't challenge a president.
No, Brucie was back to being Twinkie boy (as NOW once mocked him).

A loser and, on OZARK, it's non stop-losers.

Pastor Mason Young (Michael Mosley) is about the only one willing to stand up.

He has no idea that his Sunday lake services are being used to distribute drugs.

When he finds out, he stands up to drug czars Jacob (Peter Mullan) and Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery).

Everyone else is a Go-Along-To-Get-Along-Bruce-Springsteen.

Who can blame them in this economic reality?

At the start of last year, Andrew Soergel (US NEWS & WORLD REPORT) noted

Gallup also is among a host of organizations and individuals to criticize some of the government's statistical methodologies in recent years. The national unemployment rate of 5 percent, for example, doesn't keep track of the more than 94 million Americans who are neither employed nor actively looking for work. And while at least some of those not counted in the labor force are either in school or retired, there's also a sizable portion that simply hasn't actively looked for a job in the last four weeks. People who give up looking for employment altogether aren't actually counted as unemployed, even though they may have been without a job longer and in greater need than anyone who's regularly sending resumes out.
"The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a big lie," Gallup said in a blog post last year. "And it's a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory."
In fact, a recent study published by Canadian real estate hub TheRedPin estimates that not even the average American worker can afford the American dream anymore. And a recent Pew Research Center report indicates the percentage of Americans considered to be middle-class has gradually fallen since 1971, while the share of U.S. citizens considered to be low-income rose from 25 percent to 30 percent over the same period.

"Since 1971, each decade has ended with a smaller share of adults living in middle-income households than at the beginning of the decade, and no single decade stands out as having triggered or hastened the decline in the middle," the Pew report said.

Where are the jobs?

On OZARK, Ruth Langmore (played by Julia Garner) can handle many petty crimes.  But when she plots to kill Marty and take over his money laundering operation, she ends up running the local strip joint.  Garner brings Ruth to life, you root for her one minute, you hate her another, she's not an easy character.

But she's driven in a way that many have to be to pay the bills today.

And when she turned to murder, we started to wonder if a strong defense attorney could find a way to indict the economic system for her limited options?

Saddle her with huge student loan debt that she can't get out from under and you'd find many people who could relate.

Will Donald Trump be able to pull the country out of this tail spin?

Probably not.

But someone's going to have to do something.

Back to Soergel:

The Social Security Administration most recently estimated that 50 percent of wage earners in 2014 brought home net compensation less than or equal to $28,851.21. Meanwhile, the poverty line for a family of four was about $24,000 that year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Millions of Americans sat just above that line, while nearly 72 percent of the country made less than $50,000 in 2014. And less than 8 percent of wage earners actually made six figures that year.

Someone's going to have to do something.

Crime stories can only alleviate and distract for so long.

When basic needs are not met by a government, rebellion brews and revolution threatens to break out.

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