In Defense of the Burnouts

By John Corry

Photo from Playbuzz

December 12th, 2017, 03:21 pm, ET.


I recently finished watching Freaks and Geeks, and to put it lightly, it may have brought me back. To where? It doesn't matter... But I think I figured something out in the meantime...

The show 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 beginning, Lindsey’s just undergone some later-described personal situation, and starts hanging out with the ‘lesser’, more ‘street-smart’ we’ll call them for now, people at the school (played by James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segal, and Busy Philipps). They smoke pot and listen to Rush and play instruments because it’s fun, not because it’s going to put them on the path to a successful career. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything worse that instilling into a child that music of all things is more about ‘making a career’ than it is about having fun, but I guess that’s just me. If you’re doing it right–and if you’re diligent and you work hard because you care about what you’re doing (not what the reward might be)eventually, they become synonymous–

In other words: they’re burnouts *Clearly .

A ‘burnout’ is a fairly obviously observed Absolute classification of human being signifying a certain (high) degree of lack of care in regards to that particular human being’s own well-being, as it associates itself with itself, meaning (OBVIOUSLY): all they care about is fucking around. I mean why would anyone smoke weed for any reason other than to fuck around?!?! Throughout Freaks and Geeks, Lindsey is constantly being blamed and gotten into trouble by, or because of, the ‘freaks’, or the ‘burnouts’. Yet she always comes back, and in some cases for reasons having much less to do with peer pressure than they do with understanding, or even, dare I say, any degree of personal relatableness. She remains intelligent, caring, and understanding until the very end, despite actually finding a part of her which connects to these HORRIBLE people. In fact, she might have even learned something, and not just through observation, or indirectly.

The reason for is simple: burnouts aren’t nearly as TERRIBLE or inherently ‘burnt out’ as they’ve been written off to be. 

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 for themselves, and the reason for that is 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 (;D)–that it’s impossible to know everything, and that learning takes time. They know this without words, without people telling them that 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 someone else told you to, for whatever reason. It's called being a human being.

The best way to go about this is by always being in the moment because that’s the only way to learn things subconsciously. Plus you need to apply them to your moment-to-moment life if you've actually learned them, and there are so many moments throughout the day (if you’re not getting caught up in them) that, if you’re learning in 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'. Forcing things never works. This can be overwhelming if you’re thinking about it too much, or even in the terms I’ve just used, which is why ‘burnouts’ tend to group themselves together, and to go through a time period (usually in high school), where they get pissed off at everyone for not understanding this, including, especially, 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’. 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’s not even going to listen to the offended pig squealer subconsciously 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, which is made even more damaging due to her inherent ability to understand the world instinctively as intellectual, hence her, more conscious, ‘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 socially and referred to in the beginning of this article; what she ends up with in this current circumstance is an actual ‘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, why do you think they smoke weed? Why do they listen to Rush (aside from Rush being, like technically extremely interesting music (and a similar thing could be said about a ton of other bands associated with turning people into ‘burnouts’ (like metal?)?))? Why they do things just for the sake of doing them after there’s nothing to learn anymore? 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 when they get the label ‘burnout’, and all people 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. ‘It just can’t be real…’

I saw an article recently about where Freaks and Geeks 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–so I'm not talking shit here by any means–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 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.

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