High Maintenance

Between HBO, AMC, and Netflix, I’ve apparently been missing out on a whole world of web series. But thankfully, I’ve finally been turned onto one good enough to recommend. High Maintenance is a short web series based loosely around a pot dealer in New York, and it brings a refreshing, masterful touch to a “genre” that suffers from, for lack of a better word, stupidity.

After getting up to date with their 15 short episodes (between 5 and 15 minutes each, with more episodes to come), I browsed a few reviews of the series online. While most reviews were absolutely glowing, I noticed a striking similarity with respect to the authors’ (and presumably society’s) preconceived notions; almost all the reviewers had low expectations.

Pop culture has fed us a consistent diet of stoner stereotypes; from the indelibly bad stoner-face of Jim Breuer in Half Baked, to the inept goof-off James Franco played in Pineapple Express, the popular opinion of pot enthusiasts is that they’re inevitably lazy and incompetent.

Being inundated with these stereotypes seems to have paralyzed people into an Anslinger-era position on the evils of cannabis. Take this ridiculous opinion piece from The Windsor Star, for example. Devoid of facts (or any relevant information, for that matter), this article is full of nonsense and media-fed stereotypes. The article’s author reinforces the outdated and false picture of pot smokers with a confidence only ignorance can provide.

I’m so bored of clichés, as we all should be. I don’t want to watch a show about black people “acting black,” or gay people “acting gay.” There is more fodder for storytelling in treating black people, white people, gay people, pot smokers, etc. as real people who have more going on than what gets dreamt up by lazy writers.

Which is what makes High Maintenance so great. It’s hilarious, moving, awkward, and irreverent because it focuses on the various individuals that cross paths with this pot dealer (who is himself so likeable I’m thinking of calling him up). Each episode is a little slice of life, brimming with authenticity and originality. Creators Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld step outside the expected tropes and in each episode round out a great narrative.

Watch High Maintenance on Vimeo.

2 thoughts on “High Maintenance

  1. I agree with a lot of the points made in this article. Too often do media outlets (movies, tv shows, the news, etc.) use stereotypes when talking about or representing a certain group of people. It works in some mediums such as comedies, but when stereotypes are taken seriously it is pretty pathetic and cliche as you mentioned. I think a really good example of a show that does the opposite of this is Breaking Bad. It shows the life of a meth cook, usually represented as somebody poor and sketchy, but instead they represent him as a chemistry teacher and father. It comes as no surprise that Breaking Bad was such a successful show as it dared to break the stereotype and it made the viewers empathize and root for the character who is usually considered the “bad guy”. The news is much worse for using these stereotypes as they aren’t talking about a work of fiction and may actually influence the way people feel about certain groups of people. Like you said, I feel like the media is getting lazy. It’s time they started developing more complex characters and not trying to classify individuals under one category, based on one of many traits that makes them a unique individual.

    • Another problem with those stereotypes is that once they’re out there, they stick, and it can be hard to undo the damage. I remember a news story from a couple years ago where a guy ate this woman’s face, and it was alleged he had snorted “bath salts,” which is some street drug I’m not familiar with. Then, every time someone mentioned bath salts, there’s be a joke about eating faces. Except it came out later that the guy didn’t have any illicit substances (except trace amounts of THC) in his bloodstream. His girlfriend told the police he was possessed. But to this day, people still reference face-eating when “bath salts” get mentioned. And I honestly thing the effects of Reefer Madness are still being felt today.

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