Has Chuck Changed You?

Have You Taken Up Nintendo “Duck Hunt” Yet?

This may come off as a frivolous notion – that a mere, mass-entertainment bit of “fluff” can produce something that carries some weight, enough perhaps to change people and I’m making too much of it. Or maybe this just means I’m a ridiculous (and extremely lightweight) individual not particularly worthy of much consideration (and yes, you can say so if that’s what you think. It’s okay, and would not be the first time). But I’m putting it out here anyway. There are ways in which this show, Chuck, has changed my life.

Ridiculous. Right?


Here’s some history. About a year ago I posted something on the NBC boards that reflected a bit of my reality. It said that I had created for myself a new habit; something inspired by Chuck; to make it a point to greet people I passed (or, at least, acknowledge their existence). Usually that just meant saying “Hi!” or nodding or just looking them in the eye and smiling, so it really wasn’t as weird and dorky as it sounds at first. These are things most of you probably do habitually. As it turns out, after living in this cold city known as DC for 30 years, I didn’t. I had gotten out of the habit. It’s sad, I know.

But watch the characters on the show. If there’s one thing they do, whether they’re an a date or on a mission, they acknowledge people exist. Even in the Buy More, people are not non-entities.

When I started to do that, people reacted, and the reaction was akin to amazing. I was instantly making new acquaintances (more than I could count, actually) and more than a few new friends. You could reasonably expect that to happen. But more surprising was that I was looking at people differently.  Jack Officemate became a “nice guy” who’d help me out in a pinch (that is, I noticed in him a bit of Chuck) and Jane Cashier became someone who just might know how to pick a lock, throw a side-kick or have some real powerful connections (that is, I wondered if she had a bit of Sarah in her). You just never know.  And if you have the slightest suspicion that somebody might have a bit of a secret talent, well then, you treat them just a little differently.  Better, I think.   It’s harmless to entertain the idea that the person you passed in the hall may be a world-class – something.  But you know, that just might be the case.

Of course, if the cashier at the Cinn-a-Bon happened to be blonde, then I started looking for secret entrances to an underground facility. But I digress.

This idea, that nearly everybody has a little something special about them (and that it’s a secret well kept from YOU!), or at least deserves the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, can be a powerful one. And sheepishly I admit that I got it from watching Chuck (well, that and from letting my imagination roam a bit). But it’s not a stretch that people have things about them you don’t know, and some of those are real talents and strengths. It’s Morgan, trying to sus out Chuck’s weirdness, with the help of Jeff and Lester, to help Ellie. It’s us discovering (yet again, for the first time) that Morgan is indeed a great friend and powerful ally, and coming to the realization that your neighbor might be a Morgan. It’s knowing, for certain, that your spouse really won’t betray you. Ever. And it’s knowing that you will stop and consider deeply what consequences your actions may have for those around you.

Now these are not world-class-exceptional traits. Are they? You find these things in many people.  That doesn’t mean they are small things, though. They are not, and the way you interact with people is never unimportant. One trivial little television show makes me think in those terms, all because Chuck does not think that Sarah is a trivial person. And Sarah never thought Chuck was trivial, either, once she met him.

Of course, you could always treat people right and still get handed the short end of the stick. Things don’t always work out the way you’d like; the daily jostling of work-a-day life means that sharp elbows are thrown occasionally. Too often we’re the ones throwing elbows like we’re in the final 4 of the NCAA tournament. We may not live in a perfect universe; we live in the best of all possible universes, and we hurt people sometimes inadvertently. It’s the intentional fouls that loom larger in my awareness now, especially my own. I’m more conscious of them than I was, and I blame Chuck, the character and the show, for that awareness. Both have become acutely aware that their actions have consequences, especially for the people around them. That’s been the prime focus of season 3, after all – the “intentional fouls”.

It’s not all dark introspection, either. There’s the other side of this coin. It’s a great experience, isn’t it, when you’re called upon to do something a bit beyond what you’ve done before, and there comes that sudden rush of awareness that yes indeed, you CAN do this. You felt it the first time you rode a bike, or the first time you drove a car. Here is a brand new problem that demands certain skills you haven’t demonstrated before, yet a lot of your experiences got you ready for that task. Now all you have to do is – do it. When you toss away pre-conceived notions of your limitations then new challenges become somewhat less frightening. (Oh! Here’s a news bulletin from Middle Age. That feeling doesn’t fade as you get older.)

If you also have somebody showing confidence in you, a mother when you ride a bike, a father when you drive the car (a wife when you take on a new job…), well then you even start to look forward to the challenges or even seek them out, sometimes. So I understood, in a sense, what happened in Prague, and why it had nothing to do with Sarah. For two seasons the story has been about Chuck getting off the couch to live a little and get that “rush of awareness” – that he’s up to it. It had everything to do with Sarah’s confidence in him. If there’s a lesson in there about the need to face life’s challenges in the same way, even when success is far from assured, it happened to come at the right time for me. The lesson is a simple one – get off the couch, for Pete’s sake. Win or lose, there’s a life out there, just like Ellie said.

If you’ve been counting, that’s at least three ways I feel like I’ve been changed by this show. Or, at least, these are ways in which I’m seeing the world through a new lens. That’s not everyone’s experience; most people won’t have that kind of need to internalize the narratives that caught my attention – that’s just me. And certainly there are better vehicles to internalize – ask your minister, rabbi or priest about that. But you could do a lot worse.

– joe

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About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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17 Responses to Has Chuck Changed You?

  1. The shrink says:

    You found the secret mr bucko. It has never been about what the tptb wanted to say it is what the watcher takes out. In their own clumsy way they created a show that means something and has an impAct on an aspect on they was we think and act. Like a modern day aesopes fables (butchered that spelling). Only a truely wise man can find meaning out of the normal and ordinary. Joe you are genius. My moment was the best friend episode when chuck looked at Sarah and said yes you do . That changed the way I dealt with people. What is your moment?

    • amyabn says:

      Shrink, welcome! I don’t think I’ve noticed your handle here and I missed your posts from the NBC boards. Now to the question: There are probably many moments I could pick from, but the personal baggage handler line from the premiere has actually had me thinking a lot lately.
      The premise is that Chuck accepts Sarah as she is, flaws and all. Who doesn’t want that? I’ve done a lot of soul searching as to finding that perfect guy for me, and the realization that we all come with some form of baggage and that we should be accepted as is has been sort of my revelation of late. Perhaps not earth shattering, but a moment that has had my imagination of late.

      • The shrink says:

        I disagree… It was very powerful he is willing to take her as she is and carry her if need be. I wish I had a first date like that. I miss those scences. 3 has not been like the old days. I am happy you got back from “your misson” unscaved.
        Go MSU!!

      • The shrink says:

        I guess you can’t edit here. I cut myself off. Remember there is no such thing as a perfect person but there is a perfect person for you . Find somebody that strengthen your weakness and weakens your strengths . Chuck and Sarah are a perfect example of this. Kept searching your chuck is out there looking for you

      • Lucian says:

        I’m hoping they can recapture some of that magic. For me, Chuck’s “it’s not your fault” speech in DeLorean was powerful (reminiscent of “Field of Dreams” in terms of the personal impact). The “I know who you are” line in Cougars also left an impression. Good stuff.

      • amyabn says:

        Don’t forget the articulate schnook comment. Lucky for her! So may great moments that make this show memorable and fantastic. I could go on for days (good thing I’m on leave!).

      • Lucian says:

        Remember the guy who could be surrounded by Colt’s posse and talk his way out of the situation? Kind of sad that, given all of his new abilities, he seems to have lost his quick wit and is too nervous to do anything when some fairly mild goons show up.

    • joe says:

      Well Hi, Shrink! Good to see you here. And thanks!

      Excellent question! Like Amy said, there are many. One that sticks in my mind is the whole dinner scene in the Mexican restaurant during First Date. Sarah is so nonchalant as she gets Chuck to describe “a girl like her”. Yet when she says “You’re not so bad yourself.” Chuck responds “Please. I’m fantastic.” Between that and the way they are focused on each other, they both exude a kind of confidence that I never had as a 20-something.

      Talk about changing people. It wasn’t too much after I saw that episode that I took my wife out to dinner. I turned it into a date, and did my very best to treat her that same way, and to have as much confidence as Chuck did. Funny. Heh! It’s much easier as a 50-something.

      It was a very good evening, to say the least. 😉

      • The shrink says:

        Sounds like you found your “Sarah” a long time ago. Did she “save you later”? I do miss the old chuck and sarah. You are a blessed man. Hopefully mrs. Bucko can not handle a bowstaff like sarah. If so you best be good. Haha

      • Paul says:

        Joe, I take much of Chuck’s comment’s like his “please, I’m fantastic” as self-dpreciating humor. I think he does this because he DOESN’T have confidence, and is in many ways fishing for confirmation that he is fantastic. I dont’ think Chuck knows how to accept compliments.

      • joe says:

        I understand your take on that line, Paul. I always see the underlying self-deprecating humor too.

        But even that comes across with a very confident kind of charm. Doesn’t it? To use the vernacular, Chuck succeeds in being very Alpha in a Beta way, while appearing to be Alpha.

        How Zac the actor continually pulls that off, I’ll never know.

        And to Shrink, you’ll like this. My wife goes by a nick-name routinely, but her given name is Sara (no h). And yes, she’s blonde. She doesn’t pick lock, though. 😉

  2. Ernie Davis says:

    Joe, I’ve always found this an interesting idea in a general sense. I explored some of it in one of my older posts, but I think of our arts as a socially evolved adaptation. Since our bodies don’t evolve very quickly and aren’t particularly strong, fast, or durable compared to other animals we developed as a highly adaptable cooperative species. As such social rules and customs became the way we rapidly adapted and expanded territory. The way these rules have been transmitted is through our stories, religion, customs, all the rest that we seem to think we are past nowadays. I think it is practically programmed into us that we want to tell stories of admirable heroes, and that we want to emulate those admirable qualities.

    Now that we are such a technological society I find it interesting that nerd as hero and nerd get’s the girl stories are somehow now popular as opposed to the mighty warrior. Apparently at some level we know we need more nerds!

    • Faith says:

      In my classes we make the distinction of cultural animal as people. We aren’t just social, we’re cultural in that only humans are able abstractly think, predict (to the far future) and plan for change. And that while the capacity for these is innate (our brain is larger than any species) the rules, values and cultural adherance really fall under our need to be accepted. But to not get way way off topic lol I think we make/create/act those that which we wish to understand. Because to understand is to find acceptance.

      Ok so I got off an a tangent again lol. Joe I would say how Chuck has changed me has most to do with a self-discovery than anything. Because of Chuck I’ve learned a little about myself. Among those things is that I enjoy the Chuck community.

  3. BeCoolBoy says:

    Chuck to Sarah in Marlin, the last episode of Season 1: “You’re Sarah, you can do anything.”

    Sarah to Chuck in Ring, the last episode of Season 2: “How many times do you have to be the hero before you realize that you are that guy.”

    It seems to me that wonderful character interaction–these two people didn’t just love either other, they adored each other, too–was why WE loved and adored the show and let it affect OUR lives. And for the better, as Joe so persuasively pointed out.

    But in Season 3, we’ve been told Chuck and Sarah no longer adore each other. We’e been told they hurt each other. We’ve been told Chuck and Sarah no longer rush to each other when the other is in pain.

    Maybe that’s REAL life. But what was so terrible if there were two people in our lives–even if they were imaginary–who loved and adored each other?

    Is there no room in the world for adoration anymore?

    • kg says:

      Well said BeCool. That’s exactly how I feel, or felt, about this show.

      I believe that’s the exact essence of Joe’s post and you were the one who precisely articulated that spirit.

  4. kg says:

    Each example above is one of excellence, demonstrating Chuck’s ability in the moment to convey thoughtfullness and tender feelings for people he cares about.

    For me, the moment was less about words and more about some action, finally.

    In Seduction, it had nothing to do with the intersect and intelligence. Chuck was in love with Sarah, admitted to Roan she was worth dying for and although he was frightened and freaked out, when the moment came he had the stones to leap off the roof of the Buy More and save Sarah’s life.

  5. Jeffster says:

    I think season 3 has impacted all CHUCK fans in some way. The first two seasons for me were about the growth of the characters and the ever-so-slowly developing relationship between Chuck and Sarah. Wanting each episode to be the one that brought them together, we got little snippets of who everyone else on the show is, and what they have to offer to Chuck’s world. The show itself has changed, and for most people, probably for the worse. I will admit that there are episodes in season three that made no sense why they went the direction they did, but as of late the show is getting that old feeling back. Watching season 3 has been like seeing a pot of water boil over and make a mess, but knowing you can’t turn off the stove despite the overflow because what is inside the pot is not done cooking. Sarah telling Shaw her real name was mind-blowing for me for some reason, and I ached to see more of what Chuck and Sarah would go through to either mend or end their relationship. In between the flashes of brilliance the show always produces, I began to see the wheels fall off as the shows proverbial vehicle hummed along. Now as we head to 3.13, I can’t help but wonder if the shows tone and direction had to be this way, and it will once again be the CHUCK that we have all waited for. I think any good show has some link or connection (or in some cases is so-far from your own life) and that is why you watch it. CHUCK is a great show with lots of messages, hidden or otherwise, that as a viewer and a fan, you cannot get away from.

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