A couple years ago I wrote this article, pretty much vilifying the transcendent LeBron James, perhaps the most well-rounded player since Larry Bird, the Basketball Jesus.
Now there’s this commercial:
I hate how good this commmercial is. It makes me like LeBron James, which is in conflict with my long-held disdain for the best player in the world. This commercial makes me feel like a hypocrite. Maybe that’s why people fight change so much. It starts by admitting that your status quo is wrong.
In America, we forgive any sort of perceived flaws as long as the individual is great, and there’s probably no greater example than in the narratives we love. Don Draper, Walter White, and Tony Soprano just prove that we’ll be intrigued and drawn towards success. LeBron James is none of the evil or broken we see in our favorite TV characters. He’s just a guy who left his hometown for a better job opportunity, but that “flee the Cleve” gesture pissed us off. That was then. Today, the historical narrative is already so different than what was being crafted by us short-sighted pundits of the internet. LeBron is the best there is at what he does. For that, he’s won our praise.
Tonight he kicks off his season against Derrick Rose and the Bulls. I’m still rooting against the Heat. But the “Basketball Judas” label just isn’t fair anymore. The ends have justified the means. He’s been baptized in the redemptive waters of success. I’ll still always wish that he’d stayed in Cleveland, but that’s hindsight. He may have not become the transcendent superhero we see in that commercial if he had.
Dusty ” 30 Pieces in Debt” Riedesel
Sometimes you love something too much to see it’s true value. Happens all the time. It’s why parents pay for a kid to go to college despite his obvious upper-tier potential to land somewhere between construction crew supervisor and account executive for a software distributor. It’s why lovers hang onto a broken relationship. It’s also why Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter have contracts the size of SHIELD helicarriers despite their waning skills. And it’s why I’m 100% sold on Agents of SHIELD even though I’ve just finished a show like Breaking Bad and can objectively recognize the artistic differences. I’ve loved Marvel Comics in every format (cartoon, videos, movies, video games, comic books, novels, etc) since I’ve had memories. I’m too invested.
So the news of a possible Samuel L. Jackson cameo in the post-credits of tonight’s episode are thrilling to me. It showed that the creators are cognizant of the best-case scenario for Agents, a complete merging between the long-narrative abilities of TV and the “Shoot to Thrill” flash of blockbuster cinema. And if there’s one thing that Breaking Bad might have in common with Agents, it’s that they’re both tied to Chekhov’s gun principles, which is really just a fancy metaphor to instruct creative accountability. In the case of Walter White, it was a very literal gun in the trunk of a car. In the case of Agents, it’s yet to be seen. But the fact that this show—that doesn’t let you forget its full name is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—is overtly tied to Agent Coulson and possibly Nick Fury means that this show’s narrative has a creative accountability nearly as obsessive as the mind of BrBa’s showrunner Vince Gilligan.
Marvel/Disney invests too heavily in the movie franchises to care about Agents being anything other than a support system. This happens all the time in the comic book industry. Comics shape a gigantic threat that it’s major heroes like Iron Man and Thor band together to thwart, and all the authors of more minor characters like the Young Avengers and or Nova are forced to write some stories that show how the gigantic threat rippled. It creates cross-sales for the company. So when Disney purchased Marvel and launched Agents, it was really just bringing a proven tactic from a shrinking industry into an industry that’s more stable and already fit for this model of storytelling.
I didn’t mean for the precap to take this direction. It was originally going to be something like, “Samuel L Jackson is one bad mother—SHUT YO MOUTH!!! SPOILER ALERT!” Then maybe 200 words of nerdy jokes. But once I started typing, I realized this news should be exciting. Agents has direction, studio backing, creative accountability and successful promotional track record (even if tweaked for industry). The Nick Fury cameo proves all that, even if I admittedly love it too much to be rational.
Then again, we could just be getting mediocre TV with a promise of movie star cameos that might not be happening after all. Time will tell. It’s still just an origin story.