Season 1, Episode 10: “Pier Pressure”—January 11, 2004
The word “influence” has multiple meanings, two of which are focused on in Arrested Development‘s “Pier Pressure”—one being “the ability to wield power” and the other being “the influence of drugs.” These are the most common meanings of the word, but “influence” actually comes from a fourteenth-century term that means “streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon character or destiny of men.”
This amount of power seems fitting when discussing a family as wealthy as the Bluths. The extreme amount of influence wielded by the Bluths on each other and on others is nearly limitless and extraordinarily harmful. This is made explicit when it’s revealed that George Sr. has committed treason or that Arrested Development pretty much predicted the housing crisis. The economic collapse was the result of careless, selfish businesspeople (like George Sr.) caring about nothing but the bottom line—at the expense of product quality and customer care. It was the result of entitled billionaires who believed in magic and could stay on yachts when they wanted to avoid responsibility (Gob). It was the result of children being raised by horrible parents and misunderstanding lessons not experienced but abstractly taught (Lindsay, who confuses “leave a note” with “don’t consume dairy”).
At the center of this collapse is J. Walter Weatherman, a former Bluth construction worker who lost his arm on the job and now does favors for George Sr. (Out of court settlement? Maybe Weatherman has dirt on the Bluths?). Buster, under the influence of his mother-surrogate girlfriend, tries to get some weed to medicate her vertigo attacks and nausea. Not getting her weed is not an option: Michael tries explaining that Buster hasn’t made a commitment and that he can walk away from the relationship. Buster then says, “Well, I did call it our nausea.” Reluctant to go to Gob, Buster asks George Michael where he can get weed. George Michael, appalled at the family trivializing Buster and Lucille Two’s relationship, goes to Gob and leaves a note on the door of the yacht. Gob then tells Michael that his son is looking for weed.
Michael, having been influenced by the Reagan “Just say no” years, flips out. Never mind the fact that Michael was getting blackout, confessional drunk with Lindsay in the middle of the day two episodes ago. Marijuana is illegal and will ruin your life—just like getting an A- on a test or a “crocodile” in spelling. You’re supposed to “just say no,” otherwise you risk becoming some brain-dead hippie. Never mind the fact that weed is non-addictive or the fact that drugs, including marijuana, helped influence the creation of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (1966) and the Beatles’ Revolver (1966). Reefer ruins lives.
The lesson teacher, Weatherman, has become one of AD fans’ favorite memes. The heavy-handed, fatherly tone with which he dispenses his lessons is reminiscent of after-school TV shows and “Very Special Episodes” that became a sitcom staple in the 1980s. Like Weatherman’s lessons, these shows appeal to the basest form of pop psychology and don’t allow for actual human growth. If they did, Gob wouldn’t be such a selfish asshole, Lindsay wouldn’t be so shallow and dumb, and Michael wouldn’t be such a terrible father.
Of course, they might not have these issues at all without the severely damaging influence of their parents. It’s not an accident that Portia de Rossi—perhaps the skinniest actress in Hollywood—was cast in a role where her mother refuses to give her a brooch because “it’s an elephant. I didn’t want to invite the comparison.” Also, the brooch is from “the week we had the au pair.” Lindsay wanted it because “I’m the one who cleared my throat and pointed to the laundry room.” No wonder Lindsay’s so materialistic, Gob is such a philanderer, and everyone is so screwed up. Notice how when George Michael can’t find the answer to a math question, he verbally chastises himself—Michael does the same thing talking to George Sr.
The harm one generation inflicts on the next is difficult to measure as it’s happening. AD seems concerned about showing this harm after the fact, though: Michael willingly adopts his father’s revolting parenting strategies simply because he thinks his son is looking for pot. Considering how nervous and high-strung George Michael is, he probably could use some weed. Michael, Gob, and George Sr., however, are committed to a ridiculously outdated morality laid down by old sitcoms and prejudices. Never mind the housing crisis—the previous generation’s lasting influence on Millennials. The amount of harm inflicted can be difficult to measure while it’s happening, but maybe we all would be better off if Reagan, Bush II, and everyone in between had just smoked a joint every once in a while.