Thursday, September 02, 2004

Freaks and Geeks - 1x12 "Chokin' and Tokin'"

So I've been watching the Freaks and Geeks DVD and largely, it has lived up to its hype, and rather than try to sum up the 14 episodes that I've watched so far, I'll just start in medias res with this episode.

Bill's character started off as an extraordinarily passive figure, reacting catatonically to others around him rather than being a causative force. Slowly, though, this initial torpidity melts away, and Bill blossoms into a sly tv junkie. (Unsurprisingly, he's become one of my favorite characters for this reason.)

It's in this episode that he reaches a transcendent level -- in fact, he (almost?) approaches enlightenment, paralleling the Buddha. Bill embodies a casual regard for death; he wakes from his coma in good spirits and soon is joking about smelling bacon. Sam and Neal relate to Bill the usefulness that his flirtation with death afforded to their romantic prospects, and rather than be upset, Bill is glad for them. In his willing acceptance, Bill commodifies his own death, allowing it to be used as currency for wooing pretty girls.

In this way straddling the line between life and death, he is "enlightened," in a manner of speaking, by Alan the bully's apology, which deals with the vicious cycle of childhood exclusion (recalling, in a way, life and death). In the end, Bill offers the chance for Alan to break out of the victim/bully cycle and on to a path of redemption.

(Another Buddhist parallel comes from Gordon Crisp, who offers the tolerance of the Laughing or Fat Buddha.)

(Nb. Of course, some may argue that Bill exhibits Christ-like attributes in this episode; I won't argue against it, since the episode itself doesn't make explicit references to any religious figure; in other words, it's all a matter of interpretation.)

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