The Living Embodiment of “Pluggers”


 

pluggersSpeaking of Jay Leno, Time has posted James Poniewozik’s excellent cover story on NBC’s experiment/gamble/cost-cutting measure. (It includes quotes from Fred Silverman, who says that if the show succeeds, t will be the most significant thing to happen in broadcast television in the last decade.” And attention must be paid to anything Fred Silverman says, now that he’s no longer the most ineffective Silverman in NBC history.) But the thing that’s really striking, and that doesn’t bode well for the watchability of the show, is that Leno appears to be taking his regular-Joe, death-of-common schtick to an even higher level than I had previously thought possible. His opening quote is a classic of the genre:

Jay Leno drove to work today in an 84-year-old car. It sits in his parking space in the NBC lot, on this sweltering summer morning in Burbank, a 1925 Model T Roadster. “That’s part of my social experiment, being green,” he tells me. “It’s my theory that if you drive the same car for 80 years, you’re more environmentally friendly than buying a new car every five or six years, even if it’s a hybrid. I mean, that is the original green car. It has nothing on it. There’s no water pump, no oil pump. There’s no — it just has what you need to get from point A to point B.”

Everybody’s used to Leno saying, half-jokingly and half-not, that his incredible wealth and gigantic car collection actually proves what a regular guy he is. But what Leno is doing in that quote, apart from making an expensive hobby sound like a Common Man activity, is taking some Elitist Liberal idea (in this case, going green) and saying that common-sense types know that the real way to achieve the same goal is to never change your habits. He is, in other words, sounding exactly like the comic strip “Pluggers.”

And yes, I’m over-analyzing one joke, but Leno has been sounding like this for a long time, and I think it provides a hint of what we can expect from him. Because, again, Leno is a very smart guy who’s very conscious of his own image and how he presents himself. And the way he has chosen to present himself is, in a strange way, similar to the way Jon Stewart presents himself. Stewart’s schtick is that of the Last Sane Man, the representative of the viewer who wants pundits and politicians to cut out the BS and talk sensibly. Leno’s image is the same; it’s just that the viewers he’s trying to represent have a different worldview. The Leno viewer sees his or herself as somewhere in the middle, much like the “Independents” who keep changing their opinions in polls every week. They don’t like elitists but they also don’t like stupidity (which is the point of the “Jaywalking” segment). Stewart congratulates his audience for knowing more than cable news pundits; Leno congratulates his audience for knowing more than their dumb neighbours. They’re not all that different in some ways.


 
Filed under:

The Living Embodiment of “Pluggers”

  1. Ah, but does he have a 1928 Porter?

    • That's my mother dear…

  2. Jay Leno is a Top Gear fan so I'm wondering who's referencing who. Jeremy Clarkson said something along the same lines regarding going green and buying new cars and hybrid.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKTOyiKLARk

  3. much like the “Independents” who keep changing their opinions in polls every week

    Careful, your seething rage at the stupid proles who won't just shut up and follow Glorious Leader is showing.

    • Careful, your seething rage at the stupid proles who won't just shut up and follow Glorious Leader is showing.

      "Independents" have been changing their opinions randomly for a lot longer than Obama has even been alive, y'know. Unless you think history and polling began in 2008.

      Also, given that the conservative cults of personality around George W. Bush, Sarah Palin et al far outstrip the supposed Obama cult, you appear to be projecting.

    • Careful, your seething rage at the stupid proles who won't just shut up and follow Glorious Leader is showing.

      "Independents" have been changing their opinions randomly for a lot longer than Obama has even been alive, y'know. Unless you think history and polling began in 2008.

      Also, given that the conservative cults of personality around George W. Bush, Sarah Palin et al outstrip the supposed Obama cult, you appear to be projecting a little.

    • Careful, your seething rage at the stupid proles who won't just shut up and follow Glorious Leader is showing.

      "Independents" have been changing their opinions randomly for a lot longer than Obama has even been alive, y'know. Unless you think history and polling began in 2008.

  4. And how does your thesis hold up if Leno is indeed correct about driving an 80 year old car vs buying a new one every few years?