Neither Seen Nor Heard: ‘Arrested Development’ Rewind: ‘Public Relations’

Somehow, a cliché developed about teachers: they “mold young minds.” This is usually used in a positive context. I have quite a few teacher friends, and all of them want to make a difference in their students’ lives. Certainly, nobody gets into teaching because they like getting paid nothing to spend long hours with screaming, germ-ridden people with almost no brain function. And it’s difficult to see why anyone would get into the teaching maliciously—if you want to damage children’s psyches, just use the internet. The goal of schooling is to give children the proper tools needed to live—“molding their minds.” It’s not an uncommon or destructive sentiment, but there can be side effects.

“Public Relations” begins with Michael attempting to enroll George Michael in the Milford School, a renowned prep school noted for its policy that “Children should be neither seen nor heard”—a policy that suited Buster so well that he was enrolled for two semesters past graduation. If school is for molding young minds, Milford seems bent on running them through an assembly line where they can be ground, squished, and stamped into identical models. I’m woefully ill-equipped to participate in the public schools vs. private schools debate. But prep schools like Milford are the perpetuators of a status-based caste system dependent on conformity. As I’ve mentioned before, following the lead of the older generations is probably the worst thing you could do in the Arrested Development universe. The school that Michael is trying to force George Michael into won’t help him function in society—it’ll exacerbate his already crippling timidity and, worse, turn him into a real Bluth.

If school is where we learn how to function in society, newspapers are how we learn what’s going on in society. The paper (or as it’s called now, “the Internet”) is where most of us go to keep abreast of current events (be it politics, business, arts, or sports) and frequently shapes how we comprehend these events (the opinion sections, sports analysis, the lifestyle section, or the comics). And that’s the crux of journalism—most everyone has agreed that reporters are the keepers of societal truth. Even with opinion articles, you can disagree with reporters, but most of the time you can at least assume they’ve put forth a well-reasoned argument. This is where Jessie the publicist comes in.

Jessie, Michael’s gym-crush, who offers to race him to the top of a hill while on a stationery bike, is willing to work for the family. She lays down a simple guideline for everyone: be nice and get jobs. This asks way too much of the Bluths, and she knows it, but she does have specific plans. Tobias is to get his analrapist license back, Gob is to do charity magic shows, Lindsay has a job ordering vodka at bars (no, seriously), and Buster is to be neither seen nor heard. Michael’s job? Having sex with Jessie.

The pair goes on a date, which Michael only learns is a date when Jessie tells the photographer to document that it’s a date. Jessie’s character is all about controlling the narrative. It’s a date because she says it’s a date, because the caption under the photo is going to say it’s a date, and if Michael doesn’t conform to the narrative, then he’ll have to find a new publicist. This is exactly what Jessie says to him when he balks at sleeping with her out of respect for George Michael.

The next day, she plants a story in the paper entitled “The Cold, Hard, Bluths” and tells George Michael that he’s ruining his father’s chance at happiness. This is where we get an intrusion from the narrator, who says “Jessie had gone too far, and she had best watch her mouth.” Jessie attempts to control the Bluths’ story, and the narrator can’t have this (nor can Ron Howard tolerate a disparaging comment at Opie). The Bluths revert back to themselves: Tobias hires Carl Weathers to be his acting coach; Lucille and Lindsay start a drunken, public fight with Jessie; and Michael sleeps alone. Not much has changed.

There are some positives, though. At the beginning of the episode, Milford Jr. explains how he’s trying to distance himself from his father’s legacy (“we have talking sessions throughout the day”)—an idea Michael understands. At the end of the episode, Michael and George Michael have a real, honest conversation, in which Michael actually listens to his son. If it’s not the first such conversation that we’ve seen all series, we can still count how many times that’s happened on one hand. George Michael doesn’t have to attend the Milford School, meaning he’s not buying into a repressive tradition. Change is afoot. Can we speak at school? Yes, we can.

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