Thursday, February 09, 2006

Os anos incriveis, or, my beef with Kevin Arnold

So, I was thinking. I watch at least 10 minutes of the Wonder Years (os Anos Incriveis) every morning as I get ready to leave the house for the gym, and I have been coming to a slow realization that Kevin Arnold (memorably played by fellow Stanford alum Fred Savage) was really kind of a prick. I always used to watch the Wonder Years as a kid when it was on TV and LOVED it. I suppose I was too young and too easily swayed by Fred's big, brown puppy-dog eyes to notice what a terrible person Kevin Arnold actually was.

I mean, think about it. It seems like in every episode, Kevin is either betraying someone, speaking condescendingly to someone, sneaking around, lying, cheating, bitching, moaning (remember when he joined the wrestling team and couldn't hold his own?? Oh, the whining!!), getting exasperated (poor, poor Paul Pfeiffer), or spreading vicious lies about Winnie and ruining her reputation, AGAIN. (Winnie, get a clue!!) To try to find evidence for my revelation that Kevin Arnold is, in fact, a terrible person, I went on the internet and found an episode guide to the Wonder Years. It TOTALLY backed me up.

So in the beginning of the Wonder Years, Season 1, when Kevin and Paul and the gang were just starting junior high, things were okay. Fred Savage was cute as a button, it was still the 60s, things were peachy, etc. But as the seasons progressed, Kevin became more and more of an a-hole. Here are some episode recaps from subsequent seasons, taken off the episode guide:
  • Kevin learns a lesson about talking behind someones back and how "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned".
  • When Kevin is partnered with class weirdo, Margaret Farquhar, he tries to keep away from her - especially when she tries to become his friend.
  • Kevin decides cheating is the only way to get ahead in math class.
  • To make up for being rude and insenstive to Winnie, Kevin makes her a Valentine's card, but it is accidently placed in Becky Slater's locker. When Becky finds the card, she thinks Kevin wants her back - setting the two up for a showdown.
  • Kevin has to cancel a date with Winnie to finish a homework assignment with Madeline, who has already kissed him once. To make matters worse, when he flees Madeline's, he drops a bracelet that Winnie had engraved for him.
  • Kevin is on a first-name basis with McKinley's High's basketball hero, Bobby Riddle. When the team makes it to the regional finals, Kevin's dad decides to attend the game and embarrasses Kevin by talking strategy with Paul and Chuck. Later, though, Kevin apologizes to his dad for how he treated him.
  • Kevin, Ricky and Chuck get thrown out of the movie theatre where "Carnal Knowledge" is playing, while Paul is at home losing his virginity. Paul confides in Kevin, but his secret gets out the next day.
  • When Winnie comes over for a study session while his parents were away, Kevin wants to relationship to go further. Winnie sees through his plan. She does stay, but they just fall asleep together. The next day, though, he tells his friends a different story.
  • When Kevin and friends are asked to write down the ways they feel inferior, they have trouble thinking of something. They don't have any problems picking on the new girl with the big nose.

And those one-sentence recaps don't even mention the litany of exasperated sighs and whiny complaints ("come on, Paul") from Kevin that punctuate every episode. He's awful!

But you know what? I actually think that the fact that the Wonder Years has a "flawed hero" at its center kind of makes it a more sophisticated show. Yeah, Kevin can be annoying, immature, whiny as all get-out. He can turn his back on long-suffering best friend Paul on a dime. He can disgrace doe-eyed Winnie (whose brother died in VietNam) in front of the entire school. He can make out with his brother Wayne's girlfriend all over school even though she was pretty much all Wayne had going for him at the time. But, you know, that's what makes the show interesting. It would be boring if Kevin were perfect, like Corky from Life Goes On.


  1. Oh and side note. On the last episode ever of the Wonder Years, Kevin calls Winnie a "tramp" and says he hates her. Then like 5 minutes later they make out in a barn.

  2. TODAY on the Wonder Years, it was the episode where Kevin gets his license (or actually, fails to get it because he can't parallel park, then lies about it, of course), and guess who made a cameo as a girl Kevin asked on a date? Alicia Silverstone. Who knew?! Other people who I have seen on the show -- David Schwimmer (Karen's boyfriend/husband), Giovanni Ribisi (Kevin's friend), aaaaand I guess that's it.