Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Television: Mr. Bean

You either get it or you don’t. That does not mean it makes any sense. Some people simply find slapstick, physical, British comedy funny and some don’t. If you are unsure whether you are this sort of person just ask yourself: do you laugh, involuntarily, when people get hurt… even when you know it is not funny?

To be honest, Mr. Bean is not just slapstick. He is not witty, verbal comedy though either. The humor in Mr. Bean is strictly visual, so much so that there is very little if any dialogue in the series. Some people love this show and can laugh so hard they cry every time they see it. Other people usually hate it.

It is not hard to understand this reaction. The character Mr. Bean is anything but likable. He is not mean exactly, you would have to have spite or malice to be mean, but he is somewhat of a sociopath. He is played by Rowan Atkinson as a child in an adult’s body. By child, Mr. Atkinson must mean a terrible two-year-old. Mr. Bean is the only being in his world and everyone else is treated as impersonal objects.

The series hints at other explanations for Mr. Bean’s strange temperament. In the opening titles, he is dropped from the sky in a beam of light. There is certainly something “alien” about Mr. Bean. Sometimes characters in fiction are used to demonstrate childlike innocence played against evil aspects of the world. (Edward Sissorhands or Forrest Gump spring to mind.) Mr. Bean is more of a picture of the fallen nature of man that is lamentably present in all children the world over.

But he sure is funny.

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