Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jimmy Who?

I see on twitter that Jimmy Carter will go on Piers Morgan tonight to whine about how Barack Obama isn't nice enough to him.

This naturally got me thinking about what sitcom character most resembles Carter...no, resembles isn't exactly it. Captures the idea of Jimmy Carter? Helps explain Carter? It's somewhere in there.

My first thought, perhaps because I've been watching quite a bit of 30 Rock, was Jenna Maroney, who nicely captures Carter's constant emphasis on himself. Jenna, too, was ambitious beyond her talents (although she is talented, right?), and could be quite vicious on behalf of herself. They're both Southern, too.

On the other hand...how about Diane Chambers? Diane may not have been quite as all-about-me as Jenna, but she's fairly close, and I like that her ambitions usually end in disaster, which fits better. Diane is smart, too, and Carter is certainly smart. Diane, too, gets the sanctimonious side of Carter, including that Diane is sometimes right. Self-centered, sanctimonious....that's also George Costanza, no? I don't quite see him as Carter; neither the nebbishness nor the sarcasm really fit.

I really like Carter as a show-biz narcissist who thinks of his narcassism as virtuous. That rules out, say, Larry Sanders, who knows (at least one one level) that he's a horrible person. Or Tracy Jordon, who knows (again, on at least one level) that he's preposterous. Which is why Jenna really appeals to me. She seems to honestly believe that it's all about her, and it should be all about her. Not that Jimmy Carter has that level of bluntness -- he doesn't at all. But it's what he should be self-aware about.

But maybe someone has a better idea? If not, Jenna is my frontrunner for now.

23 comments:

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    1. I don't see it. A huge part of Colbert is that he's actually very popular with his audience, no? Carter surely doesn't fit that.

      (And I'd also say that part of Colbert is that everyone is in on the joke; I can't translate that out to Carter)

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    1. Thought of him...I've actually only watched a handful of episodes, but I think all the things that work against George work against Larry David. Plus he's actually Jewish (I mean as opposed to George, who is supposedly not Jewish), and it's just really hard for me to get around that. Although that definitely could be my problem.

      Ah, I have it: Carter is good enough at what he does that people who don't observe him closely don't see the self-obsession; they only see the do-gooderism. Larry David doesn't work like that at all, right?

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    2. I thought of Larry David too. Yeah there are some problems but what I really like is how Larry David often fails to accomplish an important task because he get obsessed with obscure matters of social protocol and edict. Here' a great clip that could have come from Carter offending some Congressional bigwigs over nothing during a crucial meeting:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IakCUYUGAZI

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    3. I know there's some controversy over this, but I think Costanza is supposed to be at least half-Jewish. I mean, his dad sits up in bed eating kasha. In what world is that not Jewish?

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  3. Gob Bluth from Arrested development. Totally oblivious to how incompetent everyone else thiks/knows he is, And, after making a mistake, liable to think he can solve everything by saying "I've made a huge mistake ..."

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  4. I know he's not on a sitcom, but I think Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager fits your bill quite nicely, and really is a sitcom character who somehow wandered into a Star Trek show.

    Here's my case: I was trying to think of the core traits of Carter. Narcissism is definitely a good one, also seeming friendly with anger seething beneath the surface, both of which are Neelix traits for sure. But to me, the core of Carter is his arrogant belief that his revolutionary view of national politics was so perfect that he didn't have to listen to anyone else. The arrogance of Carter. This too, is a prominent trait in Neelix. He continually believes himself to be an expert in many things--cooking, survivalism, guerrilla tactics--and time and again, he's proven wrong. He gets people killed. He's utterly worthless in a crunch. Everybody complains about his cooking. Of course, if he actually spent time learning he could improve at all these things, but that would involve humility which is out of the question.

    The other trait worth noting here is that he never goes away. The audience of Voyager roundly rejected the character. But he never went away. He was in nearly every episode, even though there was no real story logic to it, and certainly no fan demand. He just kept inserting himself into stories, attending meetings he had no right to be in, and often making himself look like a fool. You almost got the sense that he felt like if he stopped pushing, people would forget him. Sounding familiar?

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    1. That's...interesting. I think I have only two problems with it. One is that I don't think we're *supposed* to read Neelix that way, although I'm not really sure how that works out for this kind of exercise.

      The other is that if I really wanted to assess it properly, I'd have to go back and watch Voyager again, and I really don't want to do that.

      (I think I gave up with a couple seasons to go, and watched occasional episodes after that. Have never had much interest in trying to finish, and haven't ever got through an entire episode when I happen to flip to it. Also, my eldest absolutely loves DS9, but we stopped there instead of moving on to Voyager, and I'm pretty happy with that choice).

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    2. As a Star Trek fan, I can honestly say you've made the right decision.

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  5. Miss Hathaway from "The Beverly Hillbillies."

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  6. "I really like Carter as a show-biz narcissist who thinks of his narcassism as virtuous. That rules out, say, Larry Sanders, who knows (at least one one level) that he's a horrible person."

    Ted Baxter?

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    1. But Carter is smart, and really not a clown; that knocks out Ted Baxter and Job.

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  7. Except I don't really find any of these things to be true of Carter, so why should I listen?

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    1. Fair enough; we disagree. I'm trying to think of a good reading recommendation that gets his personality, but I'm not thinking of one right now...his presidenting skills (or lack of) are covered nicely by Nelson W. Polsby in a couple of places, including his _Congress and the Presidency_.

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  8. Holy cow, it's the liberal night of the long knives!

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  9. Stewie from Family Guy. Brilliant and in some repects capable, but unable to escape his clueless parents and therefore ultimately impotent. Totally blind to his weaknesses. Always scheming a plan more daring than the last... But I pick Boss Hogg as a runner up.

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    1. If I was to use Family Guy, I'd go with Brian over Stewie. Stewie's too much of a maniacal villain. Brian is a likable guy, also well educated (not to mention liberal), but once you get to know him he reveals how pretentious and self-absorbed he is.

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  10. Jimmy Carter would have been one hell of a boss for either George Costanza or Elaine Benes.

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  11. Everyone else loves Ned Flanders!

    Ted Kennedy [peeved]: Not me.

    Everyone who counts loves Ned Flanders!

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  12. Alan Alda (playing Arnold Vinnick) maybe?

    I met Carter once, in Accra in Ghana (small country, not many ex-pats, if someone's around you're highly likely to run into them). In person, he's a pretty impressive guy; mind you, I was about 14 at the time.

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  13. I mentioned a while ago that Hillary biographer (Carl) Bernstein attributed Clinton hatred of Carter to the Cuban refugee airlift that they blamed for WJC's 1980 election loss. That's gotta be pretty tough for Jimmy; given the length of the Clinton shadow on the contemporary American left, WJC is a most unfortunate enemy for Carter.

    Assuming (Carl) Bernstein is correct about the cause of WJC's hatred, no doubt in his quiet moments Carter regrets not putting those refugees in Mississippi or Oklahoma. If he had done so, if a young Saddam Hussein hadn't made his name organizing OPEC, if the double happiness of the peace dividend and ridiculous tech bubble had accrued to Carter and not Clinton, would we still be so annoyed?

    So a good analogy might be Kenny on South Park. A hapless, unlucky guy who is endlessly irritated by his bad luck, which only serves to fuel the schadenfreude at his expense.

    By the way - Carter's crime is irritating righteousness, but if memory serves we are not talking about Westboro Baptist/"God Hates Fags" type of horrendousness. What irritates about Carter is that he reminds us that we are all a bunch of damn sinners.

    Which, you know, we are.

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