A look back at an endangered Americana in JOE PERA TALKS WITH YOU

Recently, critic David Ehrlich wrote an essay on the principles of Nicecore – a nascent wave of films defined by the success of Paddington 2, in which the innate cuteness of the characters and their relationships with each other acted as a sort of balm for the current cultural climate defined by animosity, hatred and division. The examples given tie it directly to Trump’s age and position these films as a response to that, intentional or not. Audiences, Ehrlich argues, respond so strongly to these films because kindness is essential to human nature – and because kindness is so lacking in our world at large, we seek it in the cinema haven. The cinema has long been a refuge from the outside world, but the first waves of Nicecore are found throughout the history of this other refuge, television. From the time of Mr. Rogers until Parks and recreation and Brooklyn nine-nine, television has served as a moral compass built from the essential goodness of its subjects since the medium’s inception.

Joe Pera speaks with you, at first glance, probably seems to be the crest of this particular wave. This modest adult swim show, built around experimental comedian Joe Pera, is modeled after earlier shorts that featured the character – an almost absurdly sweet and lovable small-town choir teacher with seemingly small-scale rural interests to be a gentle old man living in the body of a much younger man. It’s a remarkable, long-term performance from Pera himself, who rarely, if ever, breaks the character in public. Much like Pera’s earlier work, including Pancake breakfast review and Joe Pera talks to you about sleeping, Joe Pera speaks with you is deliberately low-stakes, as Pera walks us through scenarios like choosing the best food for breakfast or having the confidence to dance at a wedding reception. Throughout, the character of Pera introduces us to her little world, populated by like-minded individuals in an idealized small American town. In small, ten-minute pieces, the show has a remarkable calming capacity, between the chanting and hesitant cadence of Pera and the hypnotic score that accompanies Pera’s narration.

Much of the response to the show has been to this effect – it’s a welcome distraction from the outside world, one that reminds us of the essential goodness of people, and so on. This is admittedly undoubtedly present in the work, and can be seen as such throughout, but it denies an essential element of the spectacle itself, namely that the spectacle is Nicecore. because of her awareness of the pervading darkness all around her. What makes Joe Pera’s character so captivating is his fragility – watching us feel an intensity of almost fatherly feeling towards protect his innocence, his kindness, lest the world around him destroy him entirely. Pera is not stupid – although he may be willfully ignorant of the evils of the world, he is not immune to them. The very first episode of this new series introduces us to Pera once again as he begins to describe his favorite local rocks and minerals when a rowdy family invades his home on the backs of local teenagers playing a prank on him by putting up a To sign. sell on his lawn. The idyllic tranquility of the small town of Pera is actively disturbed by this appearance of the outside world, and Joe’s pathological need for politeness almost forces him to close the sale reluctantly.

Later, the introduction of a love interest in Pera in the form of a fellow teacher at his school – an obsessive survivalist convinced, perhaps rightly, of an upcoming apocalypse – gradually continues this disruption of the world. Pera’s worldview, until the weight threatens to collapse on him entirely. It’s a fascinating tightrope for the show, especially because throughout, Pera’s kindness to others continues to be a liferaft for the characters around her and for us, to the point where it can. be actively surprising. The episode set at a wedding features the bride and groom greeting Pera at the reception, where he casually talks to them about their undeniable perfection for each other, a moment of genuine and unusual sweetness, enough to crush totally its hosts.

The core at the center of this clash between Pera’s kindness and the pervading darkness that surrounds him lies at the heart of Pera himself and what he values. Joe Pera speaks with you aired on Adult Swim, and is immediately at odds with the thorny and aggressive perspectives and approaches of Rick and morty Where The Eric André show or, damn it, most of the things they do. The total absence of experimentalism in Joe Pera speaks with you is, in its own way, on this channel, perhaps the bravest start of all. Joe Pera speaks with you is a short, sweet success due to the awareness of the falsehood at its center. At this point, given the world around us, the idea of ​​a show celebrating the people of a small, mostly white, rural American working-class town, given the hand these people played to put the country back into its own right. current position is irresponsible at best. , dangerous at worst. And so, Joe Pera speaks with you do not do that. In a strange way, he’s a cousin of Twin Peaks: the return and the other works of David Lynch – it presents the ideal small American town as a lie, undeniably intoxicating, but one that can never really be reached.

There is a sad quality to Joe Pera speaks with you – as if the series came back with envy on this American fantasy before saying goodbye entirely. This is especially the case in the best episode of the season, “Joe Pera Takes You in the Fall Car”. In it, Joe is told of a superstition that by carving a Jack-O-Lantern, you are giving it a piece of your soul, and the only way to grow it back is to give the pumpkin a good start. Joe’s fall workout thus becomes a sort of extended funeral march for the pumpkin – and for Joe’s soul piece – turning into a calmly devastating streak in which he says a silent, hauntingly goodbye to him. Looking at it in the context of what was to follow, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of a larger farewell – this idea that we can’t go back to something that never really was, but also that to try is to deny us the potential for something better in the future. It’s something the episode presents us in a heartwarming coda as small as everything else in the series, in which Joe takes us through another little ritual of his own, ending with the line ‘and just like that, I can feel my soul start to grow back ‘. Joe Pera speaks with you is soothing, heartwarming work, but never naive. And because of that, it just becomes a little bit magical.

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