Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Futurama is one of the most linguistically pleasing shows I have ever seen. Despite the fact that it is my favorite television show, I truly believe that the writers of the show are exceptionally clever with language. Often times the characters say seemingly ridiculous things, which are actually quite full of wisdom. An example comes to mind from an episode from the third season called “Future Stock.” Even though I’m sure everyone has seen this episode just as many times as I have, let me give a little background for those who haven’t:
During the episode, Planet Express (the delivery company that the main characters work for) is going bankrupt. During a stockholder’s meeting, a recently defrosted cryogenically frozen man from the 1980’s, named in the episode as That Guy, manages to take over as Planet Express’s new CEO. At the end of the episode, he has fooled enough people out of their stock to gain majority control of the company, and plans to sell it to the biggest delivery company competitor, Mom’s Friendly Delivery Company. At the last minute, however, he dies of a terminal disease known as “boneitis” and Fry (the very same Philip J. who is the main character in every episode) gains voting control of his shares, gaining the ability to stop the sale. Now, here is where the moment of power in the episode arrives! As he is about to reverse the sale, Mom, the CEO of Mom’s Friendly Delivery Company, yells to Fry “Don’t be a fool, you idiot!” And Fry delivers the bomb in return: “I’ll be whatever I wanna do!” The rest of the episode goes on as expected – Fry cancels the sale, Planet Express returns to its financial troubles, and everyone implies that they will be returning to work on Monday. Everything is back to normal.
Now maybe this recap is a little confusing for those of you who haven’t seen the episode (a small percentage, I know, but I want to cover all my bases), but Fry’s words resonated with me in a way beyond their comically rendered syntax. In fact, the idea is a crucial part of the identity of any artist. “I’ll be whatever I wanna do.” My parents are never-endingly concerned with what a student of literature and poetry might do with his degree, no matter how often I tell them that I will be fine. When I worked in a 4th grade classroom as a student tutor, one of the students asked me how he could be a poet. I told him that to be a poet, you must simply write poetry. Do and you will become. Most importantly, do what you wanna do. This may be bad logic, but I’m going to say it: You must continue doing and unfalteringly doing or you certainly risk an unbecoming. And I posit that an unbecoming of this sort is worse than anyone thinking you are a fool or an idiot.

Annie Dillard says, “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time.” It is the persistence in doing that pays off, that makes an artist an artist. Fry commands it of himself, he does what he wants and therefore he is his own man. In a later episode (although in a flashback) he says to a stray dog, “People think you are just a dumb mutt who smells bad, can’t find a girlfriend, and has a crummy job! But you’re keepin’ it real and you call no man mister!” I will leave out any personal connection I have to this statement, but they certainly apply to Fry, more so than the dog. Fry goes on being persistent in his existence, which, luckily for him, is pretty much all he does – but more than anything else he owns, he protects his existence with everything he has. He spends it all, every time. No fear. Annie Dillard goes on to say, “After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: “Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.”

-Eric Adamson