All I'm Askin'
I got a little sidetracked today. I meant to wake up and write a long, fascinating piece about how great Chuck was last night and the evolving heroism of the main character etc. etc., and then I was going to read five hundred pages of David Copperfield. I got sidetracked. By fonts. What I’m saying is, in lieu of a long Chuck blog post, you get a short, absurdly serious close reading of one particular moment from last night’s episode.
Chuck opened last night with Morgan walking into the Buy More, uncomfortable in his position as Assistant Manager and at war with his underlings. He pulls out an oven mitt to avoid being shocked by the electrified doorknob and he turns down the coffee he knows is laced with laxative, but he sits down on a chair covered with super glue. And he does it all to the tune of that classic self-righteous anthem, “Respect.”
Here’s the thing. “Respect” is universally known as an Aretha Franklin song, irrevocably tied up in feminist politics and African American civil rights, belted by ladies everywhere in reference to their jobs, their relationships, and their whole outlook on life. It’s less well known, but the original of that song was actually done by Otis Redding, written and recorded in 1965, two years before Aretha got a hold of it. It’s a great song, but Otis’s cries for “respect” sound distinctly less like an appeal for fair treatment in the eyes of the law and much more like a beleaguered man demanding that his wife stop hen-pecking. He’s not really asking for “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” he’s asking for “a little respect, when I come home.”
For the opening scene last night, Morgan walks into the Buy More to the tune of “Respect,” but he kicks it Otis style. It’s a great choice. Aretha’s version would have sounded absurd – it would have been complete auditory overkill for the situation, while also making Morgan look more foolish than necessary. The sound of Aretha’s voice coupled with the visual of Morgan Grime’s adorable oblivious face would have punctured the fiction the moment he stepped through the door. Even better, our cultural associations with Aretha’s cover now reflect back on the Otis version, which gives his “Respect” all the frustrated meaning without any of the clichéd “sock it to me”s.
The whole episode was great. That opening scene was awesome.