Thursday, February 07, 2013

30 Rock Is Dead! Community Is Alive! Corporations Are People! People Are Sheep!

Last Thursday marked the end of 30 Rock, one of my favorite TV shows. Tonight Community, after a loooooong hiatus, is back on screen. NBC giveth, NBC taketh away. Last spring I wrote the following about an episode of Community that took on the notion of corporate personhood as only a TV show broadcast by a multinational corporation could. The original title, "Subway Is People!" is a throwback to the 1973 dystopian film Soylent Green, which a friend made me watch, for which I am eternally grateful.

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I've been on an anti-corporation kick lately, partly because I live in perpetual mortal terror, on behalf of the publishing industry in which I work, of the virtual/multinational behemoth known as Amazon.com; partly because of how clearly the political process of electing people to public office has been overshadowed by monied interests in the wake of the corporation-friendly Citizens United case decided by the Supreme Court in 2010; and partly because I'm reading Unequal Protection by Thom Hartmann, which challenges the notion of corporate personhood using as many words as most publicly traded companies have shareholders. All this to say, lately I'm a little obsessed.

Of course, my obsession is helped by the glut of news stories showcasing the shadow side of corporate personhood--strategic outsourcing that cripples communities, threats of relocation that extort crippling tax incentives from state and local governments, the way an entire country freaks out over every little dip on the Dow Jones, not to mention the millions of dollars funneling into presidential campaigns Republican and Democratic alike from monied interests. It's almost enough to cause someone like me, with no business savvy but a pretty strong streak of paranoia and an even stronger populist impulse, to run as fast as I can off the grid.

Don't worry, Amazon et al., Inc., I'm not going anywhere. I'm too indebted to my tech products, brand-name clothes, movie previews and broadcast television to venture too far. Also, I occasionally get a little pressure release from said broadcast television, which is self-aware enough (in a way only an artificial person such as a corporation can be self-aware; think Skynet in The Terminator) to poke fun at itself in a way that amuses and mollifies me and thus increases its profits. The National Broadcasting Corporation (Nnnn . . . Bbbbbb . . . Cccccc . . . ) has taken the lead in this effort, so far as I can tell: its show 30 Rock has been built largely on its wry mockery of the network and its ownership by first General Electric ("We bring good things to life!") and more recently Comcast (referred to on the show as "Kabletown"). I laugh and I laugh and I laugh, and I stay on my couch while NBC brazenly announces, through its online product Hulu.com, its "evil plot to destroy the world"--seriously, that's the tagline on their ads.

This week the other Must-See-TV show Community got into the act, mocking corporate personhood by introducing "Subway," a new student at Greendale Community College who meets the requirements of the school's bylaws for Subway ("Eat Fresh!") to open a store on campus. I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Here's the opening scene; I apologize for the thirty-second Lexus commercial you'll have to watch first. You can, by the way, watch the whole episode on hulu.com--where you can also watch the world descend into a new landless feudalism that can only end in a scenario not dissimilar to that of The Hunger Games (now in theaters).

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