Thursday, July 10, 2008

II: The Greatest Song That Ever Lived

As these pieces were written sequentially, the show's most greivous use of this song was not mentioned in the original draft. Watching the series finale, one is left to wonder if there will ever be a new universal dramatic shibboleth in the vein of the Buckley cover. We can only hope it will be "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," from Weezer's Red album.



"Jeff is the son of cult songwriter Tim Buckley
Jeff's Song "the last goobye was udesd in the movie vanilla sky
Jeff was born on noember 17, 1966 in Orange County, California."

- Music Guide Subtitles, Episode 2 of Season 1, The OC

These are the optional subtitles that appear while Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" plays in the moments prior to the fiery climax of the second episode of the series - when Marissa Cooper walks into the model home in which Ryan Atwood is living, throws herself at him, only to have herself turned down in what is either the most emotionally mature decision by a sixteen year old juvenile delinquent or what would be the stupidest decision of any man's life. These are also perhaps the stupidest facts to include while this song is playing.

For starters, the song is not a Buckley original, but a cover of a Leonard Cohen song: a fact that has been common knowledge as the track has been used ad naseum by TV producers since they seemingly discovered the track. Perhaps this history also bears mention, in that the the OC is blazing a trail cut by dozens of pioneers before them, most of which also dropped the dramatic ball with their use of the song. There are also the more charitable facts to include: Buckley described his Orange County roots in a Raygun interview as "rootless trailer trash," a characterization which would make Marissa's introductory line, "this song reminds me of you," a bit more sensical. Of course, it would also risk problematizing the concept of the OC as universally perfect and hazard the very premise of the show.

Perhaps the show isn't premised in such an inviolable perfection of the county, but it does (at least at this stage) rely on defining issues of class along distinctly geographic lines. While the OC doesn't deny that there are problems with class in America, it says that these problems are ones of The Riverside County. Perhaps even more importantly, they are ones that come when the Riverside, and the LA, meet the OC, as happens when Seth goes to the LBC in the third episode, only to have his mom's Range Rover tore up. As long as Ryan were to have stayed in Chino, things may not have been great for him, but he could have maintained his path without much interference, aberration of the carjacking aside.

The other tidbit about Buckley the producers neglect to mention in their three point summary is perhaps the most tragic, and the most widely known -- which makes its absence all the more conspicuous. Jeff Buckley died in Memphis, drowning in the Wolf River Tributary of the Mississippi River. Fully clothed, wearing his boots, and singing Zep's "Whole Lotta Love," the thirty year old swam out and disappeared from sight. Maybe this is to what Marissa's enigmatic line was referring, but such subtext is way too good for this show.

Or consider this explanation: Marissa attempts suicide in a swirl of emotions brought on by her parents divorce, her ill-fated romance with Luke, and her then un-requited love for Ryan, by whom she is reminded of this song. Fall Out Boy named the song "Hum Hallelujah" after the Jeff Buckley cover since it was playing in Pete Wentz's car when he attempted suicide. Pete Wentz parlayed the commercial success of Fall Out Boy into the creation of a personal brand that has evangelized the aesthetics of the contemporary wave of emo-punk -- or mall-emo; emo; pop-punk; deriviative, uninventive and misogynistic crap; whatever you choose to call it. The OC turned its position as a cultural arbiter into a venue for the first bridgings of "indie" and "mainstream" culture from the perspective of the mainstream. That is to say, while underground scenes have cried cooptation for decades, and have broken to varying degrees (hip-hop, new-wave), it was the advent of the OC that started the groundswell of mainstream journalistic consensus that indie was " in" beyond the post-Nirvana search for suitable college radio acts. Now, indie was in because it was indie.

Perhaps, Marissa Cooper is foreshadowing her eventual role in the cultural landscape. Perhaps Marissa Cooper is Pete Wentz.

5 comments:

Devid said...

The OC is one of the Best TV show.The sound is Great.This show is my all time Favorite.season 4 of the show is the Best season.I have downloaded all the Episodes of the Show as i was Looking to watch the Oc episodes.I really enjoyed the show.

diskothiq said...

not to pick nits, but chino is in san bernardino county... ;-)

Brendan K said...

For the record, Darryl wrote this piece, and he hasn't lived in California for almost 4 years or so.

Saw you on Colbert, Peter. Way to go!

dpiercex7 said...

Great show, great cast, fantastic storyline and amazing music. Love to Download The OC TV Show online. Its fantastic show.

dwyane said...

Good post. Thanks for sharing. Actually I am crazy about TV Shows.