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.
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.