Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Bluth Family Guide to Being a Renaissance Man

My wife and I just finished watching the second season of Arrested Development, a hilarious television series that was sadly cut short after its third season. The premise for the series is that the head of the family, George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor), is arrested for building houses for Saddam Hussein in Iraq. His son, Michael (Jason Bateman) is left to save the family business and reign in the licentious spending habits of his dysfunctional siblings and alcoholic mother.

The show is full of awkward situations and even more unnerving characters. Amid all of the tension and out-right bizarreness, there is a certain charm that emanates from each of the characters' self destructive tendencies that don't allow you to loathe their existence. Instead, you can't wait to see how they will untangle themselves from the next family debacle.

So, despite the obvious character flaws, here are a few things that I learned from the Bluth family (and friends) about being a Renaissance Man:

"I just blue myself."

Tobias Fünke

Tobias (David Cross) may be living on a completely different plane of reality as he waits around in his cutoff jean-shorts for the Blue Man Group to call, but you have to admire his gumption. Once Tobias puts his mind to something, it is near impossible to deter him from his goal. Even Carl Weathers cannot stop the mental might of this former therapist and experimental prescription drug peddler turned aspiring actor.

Tobias embodies the virtue of passion. As bizarre and off-kilter as it may be, this level of passion is crucial for any Renaissance man.

"You call yourself an
environmentalist, why don't you
go club a few beavers?"
Lindsay Bluth Fünke

Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) is always finding new and innovative ways to avoid work. Her creative knack for evading labor is sometimes so inspiring that I look for ways to loaf as she does. Lindsay's lack of initiative seems to be ingrained into her soul, which upon occasion pushes her to great lengths to avoid work. She sometimes spends entire episodes conniving and persuading others to do menial tasks.

This creativity in approaching problems is the takeaway from this member of the Bluth family. Even though her aim is less than admirable, I admire her innovation.

"Those are balls.
You're looking at balls here."
Barry Zuckerkorn

Barry (Henry Winkler) is the Bluth family attorney, though he is generally not fit to represent even himself while ordering a chocolate banana. He is probably the most gullible character on the show, a quality that does not lend itself well to his criminal defense practice. Barry is generally ten steps behind in every litigious situation he finds himself in, yet always seems to wander out of the way of any serious repercussions.

The value that Barry models is that of honesty. Barry, though he may not realize it, is almost always wearing the truth on his sleeve.

"Everyone's laughing, riding,
and cornholing except Buster."
Lucille Bluth

Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) is the matron of the Bluth estate, and as such, she has endeavored to remain the strong, beautiful, composed member of the family throughout scandal and hardship. She does so with a stiff martini and a shrewd tongue. Lucille always has her wits about her and is generally suspicious of what her children are plotting. This keen eye for deception and treachery has kept her both protected from pain and isolated from her family. It has caused much strife among her offspring, and even led to the dismemberment of one of her sons.

Despite the negative outcomes that have arisen from Lucille's skepticism, her watchful eye is something to model. Just as Barry Zuckerkorn's trusting nature has redeeming qualities, so too does Lucille's scorn. By pausing a moment before allowing others past your guard, you are able to assess and control the situation. This is a valuable skill for a Renaissance Man.

"Oh, I'm not comfortable near the
ocean since the seal attack"
Buster Bluth

Buster (Tony Hale), much like Barry, is a simple man. The youngest of the Bluth siblings at 30, Buster lives with his mother in a state of awkward symbiosis. She wants to feel needed, he needs someone to ensure he does not accidentally maim himself with his own prosthetic. For as non-confrontational as Buster is, I commend his ability to speak his mind and stand up to those who are abusing his naiveté . Once he realizes that he is being taken advantage of, Buster does not hesitate to put a stop to the injustice, whether that be in the form of spitefully enlisting in the army or shtupping his mothers best friend and neighbor, who is also named Lucille (Liza Minnelli).

"I've never admitted to a mistake.
What would I have made a mistake about?"
Gob Bluth

Gob (Will Arnett) bluth is a professional magician. Because of this, unique position, Gob (pronounced Job, as in the biblical figure) adds an overly-dramatic flair to everything he does. He wows board members by making pennies rain from the sky. He entertains visitors to his fathers wake by attempting to bury himself alive in a fake casket. He shoots lighter fluid all over innocent bystanders as he tries to throw balls of fire into the air. Gob does all of this while speaking in a raspy and dramatic timbre that makes you think something amazing and mysterious is about to take place.

Presentation is crucial for a Renaissance Man, especially when he or she is working on building excitement for their creations and studies.

"Mom, Dad, The important thing is that
you guys don't lose focus on yourselves."
Maeby Fünke

Maeybe Fünke (Alia Shawkat) is the surprisingly normal daughter of Lindsay and Tobias. As a teenage member of the Bluth family, she has not yet been fully corrupted by her elders, though their nefarious ways are beginning to rub off. The thing to notice with Maeby is that any time her parents tell her to do something, she generally does almost the complete opposite. It isn't rebellion as much as it is the common sense to look past what authority mandates for self-preservation. This "ask forgiveness, not permission" attitude has landed her a spot as a movie executive as well as taught her a lot about manipulating her parents, who are generally more concerned with themselves than they are their dependant.

Viewing authority with skepticism has always been a strengths of the Renaissance Man. Choosing when to disobey is important, and doing so with clear intent and understanding of the repurcussions is wise.

"They're not even eating these. They just
like saying "bananas" and "nuts."
 George Michael Bluth

George Michael (Michael Cera) is the grandson of the imprisoned Bluth patriarch. He is a timid, unassuming, and all around awkward soul, probably taking after his uncle Buster. George Michael works at the family frozen banana stand as a right of passage that involves embarrassment, extreme heat, and bananas. When he is not working at the family stand, his father is generally trying to remain involved in his life. This leads to awkward situations when Michael, George's father, forgets that his son is no longer eight and wants to go to LegoLand, or has his son sit on his lap while driving. Or when his dad helps him run for student office, but accidentally sabotages the race.

Amid all of the blunders that George Michael faces, he always maintains a smile and presses on. That is the message to be learned from this pubescent man-child. That no matter what slaps you in the face, you have to press on and greet each day anew. It has to get better eventually, right?

"I don't know who will take care of them.
The state or the police. Maybe
the Magician's Alliance will
pick up some slack."

Michael Bluth

Michael (Jason Bateman) is the one member of the Bluth family who is trying to hold everything together. While everyone else is fending for themselves and attempting to siphon off any cash they can to feed their materialistic addictions, Michael is attempting to mitigate damage to the family construction company, find his escaped-convict father, and ensure that he does not also go to prison for building houses for Saddam Hussein. Among all of this, he is also raising his son, whos mother died before the sit-com began, rekindle his love life, and keep his family from tearing it all apart. Did I mention that they are all living in a model home on a barren lot that George Sr. built before his incarceration? At various points, Michael has threatened to leave the entire monkey-house family and start a new life with his son, but his conscience has always gotten the better of him. And that is what makes Michael so admirable. He cares about his family, despite the egos and selfishness that gets in the way.

A Renaissance man needs compassion in order to understand the world, live in the world, and to respect the world.

"Hanukkah can be spelled
so many ways...Oh GOD!"
George Bluth Sr.

George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) built homes for Saddam Hussein in Russia. George Sr. went to prison, where he converted to Judiasm. George Sr. escaped from prison on a company staircar (for use with jets) and faked his own death in Mexico, only to return to California, where he then hid out in his family's model home. For all the underhanded, slimy things that George Bluth has done, the one redeeming quality that shines through is his love for his family. It may not always shine above his own self-serving needs, but he does love his family. His love for his wife is what brought him back from Mexico, and his respect for his sons (though he would never admit it) is what allowed him to leave control to them in the first place. There are brief moments of love that peak past George Sr.'s cold eyes, and those moments are touching. Then he generally goes on the lam.

A Renaissance man without love has no passion. One needs love to drive them to create, explore, and innovate.

So that is my renaissance analysis of the rag-tag family from Arrested Development. The non-sequitor peculiarities that they brought to the small screen for a brief period of time in the early years of the twenty first century will always be held in high regard by their small group of loyal fans. For the rest of you, go check it out on Netflix.


A couple of sites to learn more about Arrested Development: - Arrested Development site

THe iNCoNVieNieNT BLuTH fan site - Arrested Development site

1 comment:

  1. um... i think gob is an "illusionist" there, chris... :-)