In an age where marijuana use is slowly becoming legal, some may consider Netflix’s Disjointed to signal the severe ramifications of the trend. That is, if you buy the premise that everyone associated with weed is a complete moron, and that morons aren’t already everywhere. For the most part, the show tries to be different from other sitcoms by embracing conventions to explore topics relating to cannabis usage. As a show that employs flat stereotype jokes through mostly detached characters, however, Disjointed doesn’t find the right strain to captivate viewers.
The show is set at Ruth’s Alternative Care, a specialty marijuana dispensary owned by hippie Ruth (Kathy Bates), and operated by a more or less uptight staff. This includes a security officer suffering from PTSD, Carter (Tone Bell); Ruth’s ambitious son with an MBA, Travis (Aaron Clifton Moten); and a smattering of predictable employees. After the viewer becomes punch drunk on racial jokes that make everyone look impossibly stupid, the premise of the show emerges. Travis wants to expand the business, which includes the making of awkward promotional Youtube videos, while Ruth wants everyone to chill out. Occasional run-ins with Ruth’s neighbor, a Tae Kwon Do instructor named Tae Kwon Doug, over Ruth’s unwholesome presence in the “retail plaza” provide a sign that the world outside the dispensary still exists. And a pair of weed hounds, Dank and Dabby, have their own idiot Youtube channel that conflates weed use with social justice, which serves as a recurring headache for Ruth and viewers alike.
One stylistic aspect of the show is the obvious attention it draws to sitcom conventions. There’s an overstated laugh track following all of the characters’ jokes, which usually draws attention to the fact that the viewer isn’t laughing along. In fact, most of the amusement comes from characters telling each other to shut up, a sentiment with which the viewer heartily agrees. Furthermore, there are faux advertisements shown through the lens of cannabis users. This simulates the commercials found in network TV, unfortunately without giving the viewer a chance to fast forward through them. In one sequence of ads, two couch-potato weed users are watching a nature documentary and mindlessly noshing on Lay’s potato chips. As the characters become more intoxicated, they attack the bag of potato chips, fighting each other as they stuff their faces. The transformation the people undergo borders on absurdity, and seems to have a questionable presence on the show.
Perhaps the most glaring irritation on the show is Jenny (Elizabeth Ho), a Chinese American character that seriously introduced herself as the “token Asian” of the group. Not only does this flaunt superficial attempts at political correctness that network TV often employs, but it shamelessly conforms to them as well. Jenny’s parents think she’s still in medical school, when in fact she dropped out to work at a weed boutique. She pretends to dissect a cadaver over the phone, and she tells her parents she hopes they’ll be proud of her “as if she were a male child.” It’s painful to watch, because the purpose of using this blatant stereotype isn’t convincing to the viewer. But Jenny is not the only victim of egregious stereotype. In her youth, Ruth, was a weed activist working to thwart “the man,” and has since become a hippie bent on resisting her son’s business plans. The frazzled soccer mom that appeared in the store one day became a full-blown weed user before the episode was over, grumbling about Caillou and her minivan.
One may consider this an exercise in reverse psychology, where viewers are so averse to the characters’ overbearing conformation to stereotype that they push back against those beliefs. Perhaps this is supposed to be more effective than showing characters that challenge stereotypes, which viewers may deem implausible and idealistic. Virtually every joke on the show, however, is tied to negative racial, religious, or cultural stereotypes. Viewers become burnt out on the obvious, one-dimensional jokes, and that spells disaster for a sitcom.
Another prominent aspect of Disjointed is its title, which is a pun on marijuana joints, and a warning that the show is all over the map. With content including discordant family relationships, stereotypes galore, and the trials of running a business, the show covers several topics to an incomplete extent. The characters seem distant and underdeveloped, and the plotlines are full of clichés. While some of this is understandable as the show finds its footing, the surreal vision the show tried to create didn’t come together. Instead of a hazy, trippy aesthetic, viewers got a crop of episodes that are not only on drugs, but also relentlessly moronic. While the show has the potential to explore cannabis use as a medical treatment or a marketable product, the final result is highly disjointed.
Featured Image by Netflix