“Been meaning to mention this,” Driscoll begins, and gazing at each other like two country singers at a benefit, she and Eric start to sing the old Jeffersons sitcom theme, “Movin on out” (Pynchon 387).
In this moment in Bleeding Edge, Eric and Driscoll tell Maxine that they’re finally moving out of the room that they had been sharing in her house in order to live in Williamsburg. Pynchon references the sitcom The Jeffersons, produced by Norman Lear, which revolves around “a nouveau riche, African-American family who move into a luxury apartment building develop close, if occasionally fractious, relationships with other tenants.” (IMDb). Like George and Louise Jefferson, Eric and Driscoll are moving to a new place together, although they are leaving Manhattan instead of moving there, upset that 9/11 made it “worse than before” (Pynchon 387).
When consulting the Bleeding Edge Wiki, I found that there was no information on this reference. Because of this, I first consulted Wikipedia and IMDb to get a brief overview. One of the first things that I uncovered was that Pynchon, whether intentionally or not, makes a mistake on the theme song title; the actual theme song is called “Movin on up” (The song can be listened to here). The theme song is very upbeat and soulful, mirroring Eric and Driscoll’s excitement, at the time, when singing the theme song, “gazing at each other like two country singers at a benefit” (Pynchon 387). Since Eric and Driscoll were not moving to Manhattan but Williamsburg, I looked briefly into Williamsburg. It is a neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn with a large local art community and hipster culture. Also, rent price drastically increased since the 1990’s (Wikipedia). Another interesting find was that CBS cancelled The Jeffersons before a proper series finale (IMDb).
Digging deeper, I began to look into criticisms about the producer, Norman Lear, and sitcoms in general. I found an interesting article by Orlana Darkins where she questions if sitcoms are “becoming extinct.” She states that in “the good ole’ days the family would gather around the television set” to watch sitcoms, which “provided us an escape from our own reality” (Darkins). This “exctintion” was affirmed by Naomi Schaefer Riley, who argues that the vulgarity of newer sitcoms eliminates “family hour,” citing “Lear’s efforts to be cutting edge” by “pushing back against the network scolds” about controversial themes and issues (Riley).
With this additional research and understanding of Pynchon’s Jeffersons reference, new interpretations of this passage were possible. It seemed like Eric and Driscoll were happy with each other, initially united by the 9/11 crisis, and later deciding to move together, expressing this to Maxine in unison with song, yet later on we learn that Driscoll is unhappy, dealing with “immediate shit like too many roommates around here, hot-water issues, shampoo and conditioner theft” (Pynchon 433). Maybe Pynchon intentionally changed the “up” to “out” in “Movin on Up,” suggesting that they would be moving “out” later, separated when Eric and Reg are headed “anywhere” (Pynchon 437). The Jeffersons never had a proper finale, and so it is fitting that Eric and Driscoll do not have a finale together.
The dramatic change from 9/11, which originally brought together Eric and Driscoll, ultimately causes their separation as well. Similarly, Maxine’s family was reunited after 9/11, with the reemergence of Horst, but in the end, separated, as Maxine watches her children “go on down the hall” without her (Pynchon 477). Likewise, changes in the sitcom, which in the past united families, have rendered a type of family time extinct. Yet, in separation, Eric could chase a dream with Reg, Maxine can watch Ziggy and Otis mature, and families can spend other time together with less time in front of the TV. Ultimately, the way in which change is framed determines its lasting impression.
Darkins, Orlana. “Are Sitcoms Becoming Extinct?” New Pittsburgh Courier, City Edition ed.: 10. Jun 06 2004. ProQuest. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
“The Jeffersons.” IMDb. IMDb.com. Web. 24 Feb. 2015. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072519.
Riley, Naomi. “‘Family Hour’ Extinct as Sitcoms Get More Vulgar.” New York Post. Web. 24 Feb. 2015. http://nypost.com/2014/10/25/family-hour-extinct-as-sitcoms-get-more-vulgar.
“Williamsburg, Brooklyn.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 24 Feb. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williamsburg,_Brooklyn.