CODA was a TV movie of the week, not a cinematic event, but it won the Academy Award because surely no-one would object to such an earnest, old fashioned, sweet-natured picture. Not when it was competing against the craftily subversive The Power of the Dog.
With the world reeling from the combined effects of COVID, the rise of the far right, and the war in Ukraine, it’s understandable that more of us seek safe haven in the comfort of shows like Friends on repeat or unobjectionable feel-good fare like Ted Lasso or breakout ABC comedy Abbott Elementary.
But could it be that the life-affirming nature of these stories (the word-of-mouth hit Everything Everywhere All at Once is another candidate) shields them from criticism?
Writing for The Guardian, culture commentator Charles Bramesco has dubbed this trend “nicecore.”
“The major entries of the movement collected under ‘nicecore’ have legions of supporters willing to dive in front of any ill word directed at their fave, and to do this in aggrieved, aggressive terms unbefitting the good vibes they so vocally defend.”
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Bramesco, who is gently poking at the social media army that appears deaf to any negative reviews of these shows, singles out Abbott Elementary for attack.
“The show’s writing leaves its viewer waiting for a comedic beat that never comes, or just doesn’t scan…. There are plenty of instances where the almighty imperative to get the laugh is back-burnered in favor of the goopily earnest or morally instructive — and that’s the key to its popularity.”
He takes aim at the “worrisome tendency” to celebrate nice things simply for being nice. That’s a bad thing, he says, because it leaves no room for nuance or space for a different opinion.
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“The attachment to and fierce protection of niceness is a sign of weakness, of needing to be coddled as literally and directly as possible.
“The importance of letting people like things cuts both ways,” he signs off, “The right to dislike things every bit as sacred.”