In Defense of the Burnouts
12/12/17, 3:21 pm EST
By John Corry, photo from Playbuzz
I recently finished Freaks and Geeks, on Netflix. It's brought me to some important conclusions.
One: it does suck that the show was canceled so early (it had one 18-episode season), and:
Two: you can see how the ‘cast’ were totally destined for interesting careers.
This article is about the latter.
But before that: a little backstory on the show.
Freaks and Geeks follows Lindsey Weir, played by Linda Cardellini, and her younger brother Sam, played by John Francis Daley, as teenagers in high school in the early 80s. At the show’s start, Lindsey’s just undergone some later-detailed personal situation. She starts hanging out with the ‘lesser’, more ‘street-smart’ we’ll call them for now, people at the school, played by James Franco, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segal. They smoke pot and listen to Rush and play instruments because they find those activities fun, not because they’re going to put them on the paths to successful careers.
In other words: they’re burnouts (HORRIBLE!).
A ‘burnout’ is a fairly obviously observed Absolute classification of ‘human’ signifying a certain (high) degree of lack of care regarding its own well-being, meaning (obviously): all they care about is fucking around.
Throughout the show, Lindsey is constantly blamed and gotten into trouble by, or because of, the ‘burnouts’. Yet, she always comes back, in some cases for reasons having less to do with peer pressure than with understanding, or even, dare I say, any degree of personal relatableness. She remains intelligent, caring, and understanding until the end, despite actually finding a part of her which connects to these terrible people.
In fact, she might have even learned something.
The reason is simple: burnouts aren’t as terrible or ‘burnt out’ as they’re written off to be.
Let me continue…
The cliché, classic subconscious critique of ‘the stoner’ we’ve been seeing in movies and TV shows since the 50s hasn’t changed. Like in Freaks and Geeks, most of us tend to think of people who don’t care about their own futures as worthless. ‘If they don’t even care about themselves, what good could I ever do them?’ and that’s not a factually wrong statement: you probably can’t do anything for them, at least not by directly saying, or doing anything other than extremely coyly hinting at, something to them.
That’s because Burnouts don’t care about what they can’t figure out themselves, because Burnouts inherently, subconsciously, even, want to figure out as much as they can–they do want to learn as much as they can–but they also know inherently-subconsciously that it’s impossible to know everything, and that learning takes time. They know this without words, without people telling them the fact that, or why, it’s important, or that they’re not worth anything to society if they’re not producing something tangible; they know subconsciously that ‘producing something tangible’ comes after learning, and that you’re going to produce something of a better quality–and more of them–if you’re doing it simply for its own sake, not because somebody else told you to, or for whatever other reason ($$$).
It's called being a human (in-time (which is where we are (human consciousness))).
The best way to go about this is by being as consistently in the moment as possible (from a subjective point of view), simply put because that’s the only way to learn things subconsciously. There are so many moments throughout the day (if you’re not getting caught up in them) that, if you’re learning, even if in a lesser capacity than under more 'focused' circumstances, within every one of them, you’re getting a lot more than you would if you were being forced to recognized those moments as something somehow 'more'.
Forced morality never works: it goes backward.
This can quickly get overwhelming if thought about it too much, or even in the terms I’ve just used, which is why Burnouts tend to group themselves together despite being so much more 'individual', and to go through a time period (usually in high school), where they get pissed off at everyone for not understanding this on a fundamental level, including, especially, most likely, if they're fo' real, themselves.
In other words: Burnouts are the original free thinkers.
I’ll repeat that: burnouts are the original free thinkers of the universe.
They don’t care about your rules, or your ideas of success, because they realize that rules are learned in-time, and that success is the realization and actualization of ones own idea of success.
If you want to be successful, you have to actually find out some things about who you are as an Individual first, and you can’t do that if all you’re thinking about all the time is ‘how to be successful’ through somebody else's terms. Hence why there are so many mindless drones running American institutions instilling relativism as an absolute under the ‘brilliant guise’ of the idea that there is no such thing as an absolute–
That’s contradictive, dude–
The Burnout is not even going to listen to the Offended Pig Squealer begging for pennies at the cost of her dignity (if it’s even there?) because the Burnout knows instinctively that she’ll learn what she needs to learn when she needs to learn it. Keep in mind that ‘instinctively’ was the most important part of that idea there. Sometimes, you do need to trust your instincts, just as, sometimes, you need to trust your instinct to question your instincts.
If the Burnout is constantly being told that her instincts are wrong, that her inclination for free thought ill-got, her instinctual understanding of reality (which we all share, it’s only different in the specifics) gradually becomes shattered (because it is not being effectively reinforced by those around her), which is made even more damaging due to her inherent ability to understand the world instinctively as intellectual (understanding of the conscious/subconscious), hence her, more ‘conscious’ (more so conscious/subconscious here, as the direct reason for the decision is subconscious (as just detailed)), ‘not caring for herself’, for lack of a better word. (I don’t want to confuse this with the more ‘burnout associated’ ‘not caring for herself’ as it is understood morally and more metaphysically and referred to in the beginning of this article; what the Burnout ends up with in this current situation is an actual (physical) ‘not caring for herself’ begot as a retaliation for those who don’t understand her, and how she, as an Individual, goes about ‘caring for herself’, telling her, without bothering to know really know her, how she should be going about it.)
Hence the question: Why do they smoke weed? Why do they listen to Rush (aside from Rush being, like awesome (and, by the way, could a similar thing be said about any other bands associated with turning people into ‘burnouts’ (like metal bands?)?))? Why do things just for the sake of doing them after any learning has been made impossible? Is that possible? Is that a 'retaliation'?
Is there someone 'forcing' them to indulge? And if it’s only themselves (which it admittedly probably is), might that be where they’d need help the most?
Instead, that’s the precise moment they get the label ‘burnout’: once that subconscious desire for more knowledge from whichever source it may come turns into a cynical indulgence after so many years of fighting for a perception as equally grounded in free-will as it is cognizant of the inevitable possibility of this universe being one Absolutely void of it, ending that fight inevitably in favor of the latter, as is so strongly ascertained simply by the mere concept of Society, hence the need for cynical indulgence. All people ever expect of them is exactly that: to burn out: because nothing burns out like a candle which burned too hot for too long and was refused any further fuel.
I saw an article recently about where Freaks and Geeks co-showrunner (along with Judd Apatow) Paul Feig thought the characters in the show would go in a potential season 2 that never had any chance of becoming a thing. Lindsey would ‘probably end up at some point in her twenties in Greenwich Village as a performance artist and after that, she’d probably become a lawyer–a human rights lawyer,’ Daniel would ‘eventually end up in jail’, Nick would join the army, and Ken would just wander around looking for pot. I’m paraphrasing here, and this information is coming from the creator just commenting on what could have happened had the show continued (from what I understood)–so I don’t mean to be talking shit here; he obviously has the last say, I'm just trying to bring this all together–but I have another theory:
Daniel grows up to be real-life James Franco.
Nick grows up to be real-life Jason Segal.
Lindsey grows up to be real-life Linda Cardellini.
Ken grows up to be real-life Seth Rogen, etc.
All because Judd Apatow and Paul Feig told a few pothead teenagers (those actors) to try writing shit down, and then helped them out as much as they could throughout the rest of their careers, regardless of how much pot they smoked.
Look at that.