The Decline of Snark and the Return of Sweetness
Here’s what I think is wrong: It violates the new “sweetness” trend. Sometime in the last 5 years, perhaps more, we have seen the emergence of a new trend that says what we want from the world and public personalities, for some purposes, is a certain sweetness. Once disdained as sentimental, maudlin, mawkish, and when exhibited in public, embarrassing, sweetness is back. Sweetness is big. Sweetness, against all odds, and quite against character, is having a celebrity moment.
Sweetness has a couple of faces. It expresses an openness to the world, a wish to be useful, an innocence, a goodness, a guilelessness, a disinclination to insist on your own interests. If there is a poster girl, it is Jess (Zooey Deschanel), the female lead in New Girl, the new show from Fox. New Girl turns out to be a veritable shrine to sweetness, as four roommates rescue one another from the stream of misadventures with madcap enthusiasm and a touching generosity.
Why sweetness? Well, we are coming out of an era of some darkness. We seemed almost to celebrate skepticism and snark. We dwelt upon the grimmest aspects of the human experience. TV and movie making were increasingly ghoulish, with new standards of viscera and depravity. Shows like CSI and NCIS dwell lovingly on the crime victim. Bright lights and strategically placed towels protect our sexual sensitivities, but everything else on the autopsy table is enthusiastically examined. Once the standard bearer of heartlessness, The Silence of the Lambs (1991) now looks a little quaint. Since its release, we have seen a succession of werewolves, vampires, serial killers, and human monsters of every kind. If you are 40 or under, you’ve grown up on a steady diet of heartlessness.