Jumped the shark?

中国日报网 2013-04-12 10:52



Jumped the shark?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “We now know the iPhone and Apple jumped the shark.”

My comments:

Whoever makes that remark is of the opinion that the iPhone along with Apple the company as a whole has gone over the hill.

We are able to make the inference because of the phrase “jumped the shark”.

Unlike most idioms, this American expression is one you can take at face value – You can read the words and take their meaning literally.

Yes, and at any rate someone really did jump the shark originally. This, from Wikipedia:

The phrase jump the shark comes from a scene in the fifth season premiere episode of the American TV series Happy Days titled “Hollywood: Part 3”, written by Fred Fox, Jr., which aired on September 20, 1977. In the episode, the central characters visit Los Angeles, where a water-skiing Fonzie (Henry Winkler) answers a challenge to his bravery by wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, and jumping over a confined shark. The stunt was created as a way to showcase Winkler’s real life water ski skills.

For a show that in its early seasons depicted universally relatable adolescent and family experiences against a backdrop of 1950s nostalgia, this incident marked an audacious, cartoonish turn towards attention-seeking gimmickry. Initially a supporting character, the faddish lionization of an increasingly superhuman Fonzie became the focus of Happy Days. The series continued for seven years after Fonzie’s shark-jumping stunt, with a number of changes in cast and situations. However, it is commonly believed that the show began a creative decline in this era, as writers ran out of ideas, and Happy Days became a caricature of itself. As a nod to the episode, Henry Winkler’s character again jumped a shark in the 2003 show Arrested Development.

Got it?

The phrase caught on when (further more from Wikipedia):

In 1997, Hein published his list of approximately 200 television shows and his opinions of the moments each “jumped the shark.” The site soon became an Internet phenomenon, and as the phrase quickly spread throughout pop culture, the site grew exponentially in users and renown.

So therefore, whenever you see someone as jumping the shark, you understand they’re talking about some sensational attention grabbing trick or stunt people make in order to maintain their prominent status prior. That trick or stunt invariably fails, however, and in duce course the said person (or iPhone and Apple in our example above) begins to decline in performance and popularity.

The person uppermost in my mind right now who fits the phrase perfectly is basketball star Kobe Bryant. Bryant, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA, is 34 and approaching the end of his career. Normally someone in their twilight years tend to mellow and take it easy. Not Kobe.

This guy lately has, among other things, publicly criticized teammates for their ineptitude and lack of resolve, challenged them to, bizarrely, play through injury and, in their last game against the Portland Trail Blazers, played full 48 minutes.

Bryant, long known a selfish ball hog and the epitome of the NBA hero ball, i.e. you give me the ball and stand around and watch my heroics, doesn’t need to do this. He’s proven superstar. He’s won five championships. He’s the league’s fourth all-time scorer. One time he scored 81 points in a single game.

He doesn’t need to do what he’s been doing latterly to prove anything. Especially he doesn’t have to say (whether truly or not) that he’s playing through injuries and then play all 48 minutes of a game.

Here’s the rub: Kobe Bryant has jumped the shark and perhaps he knows it. But this egoistic human being cannot accept this. He has to do something unusual to prove that he is not past his prime, that he’s not going down hill, that he is not in irreversible decline.

He cannot accept the fact that it’s not his league now. Other younger, and (this is most painful for Kobe to take, I’m sure) better stars such as LeBron James (Miami Heat) and Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) have taken the league over.

He’s so insecure of his (already remarkable) legacy that he’s doing publicity stunts nowadays and hurting more than helping the team’s chances (As of now, the team of four superstars, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol being the insignificant others, is still struggling to even make the playoffs, let alone win it all as they were expected to before the season began).

Sadly, Kobe’s antics and theatrics only help to reinforce the impression that the Kobester is in firm decline.

Definitely, Kobe is jumping the shark these days, again and again.

Alright, here are examples of jumping the shark in the press:

1. The death knell for any long-running series usually comes when a woman (almost always nervous and fretful) utters (after many “comic” misunderstandings) two fateful words to her husband: I’m pregnant.

And holy Pebbles and Bamm Bamm, “Shrek the Third” boasts a veritable newborn ward, what with the spawn of Donkey and Dragon flying all over the place and Fiona finding herself in a family way. Manufacturers of plush toys must have popped the bubbly when they heard the news.

The babies aren’t the undoing of the “Shrek” franchise, but they are a sign that the filmmakers have run out of ideas. The new entry doesn’t have much of a story and, even worse, isn’t all that funny, unless you find poorly staged deathbed scenes in a family movie to be a barrel of laughs.

Having Frog King Harold (John Cleese) croak could be funny, but it’s a symptom of this movie’s poorly calibrated comic tone that the would-be edgy set piece falls flat. A subsequent somber funeral scene set to Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” is another bad idea because it asks us to mourn a character we never knew or really liked. Leave the circle-of-life stuff to the other guys.

Now that the king is gone, Shrek (Mike Myers) stands to inherit the throne. But he just wants to get back to his smelly swamp, so he, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) go looking for the other heir, Fiona’s geeky cousin Arthur (Justin Timberlake), or “Artie” as he’s known to his tormenting classmates.

While they’re away, the vain Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) seizes control of Far Far Away. Fiona (Cameron Diaz) recruits a gaggle of girl-power princesses to save the day.

The movie has its share of strong ideas. Charming rounding up a gang of fairy-tale characters (Capt. Hook, the Evil Queen, the Big Bad Wolf) to go after their long-denied happily-ever-after is a fine notion, but only superficially explored. Incorporating Arthur, Lancelot and Merlin into the “Shrek” universe likewise never lives up to potential, settling for tired jokes rather than actual character development.

Director Chris Miller, who co-wrote the movie with three other credited writers, mostly plays it safe, which means plenty of references to pop culture (though the cleverness is down a notch), incorporating another mopey third-act ballad (this time it’s Damien Rice) to signal sadness and an overriding lesson of self-acceptance.

Invention has given way to formula — and babies. “Shrek” has jumped the shark.

- ‘Shrek’s’ previous cleverness takes a pregnant pause, DailyNews.com, May 16, 2007.

2. Phil Schiller, a senior Apple executive has deleted his Instagram account, claiming the photo-sharing service has ‘jumped the shark’ by releasing an Android app.

Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief, made the comment on Twitter after he was asked by a follower why he had stopped using the service, according to 9to5mac.

Instagram launched on the Android platform last month after the picture-sharing app gained more than 30 million users on Apple’s iPhone. It was subsequently bought by Facebook in a $1bn (£62m) deal.

Schiller, who is heavily involved in iPhone marketing, later clarified his comments to another user by email, claiming he deleted his account because the Instagram community had grown too large.

He wrote: “One of the things I really liked about Instagram was that it was a small community of early adopters sharing their photographs. Now that it has grow [sic] much larger the signal to noise ratio is different.

“That isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s just not what I originally had fun with.”

He is one of a number of Instagram users to stop using the service in recent weeks, although most appear to be associated with Facebook’s takeover, rather than Instagram’s launch on Android.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey also deleted his account following reports that Twitter wanted to buy Instagram before Facebook.

Instagram has been downloaded on Android more than 5 million times since it was released, and now has more than 40 million users in total.

- Apple: Instagram ‘jumped the shark’ with Android launch, Telegraph.co.uk, April 23, 2012.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.



Against all odds

If you play your cards right

Tried and true

Time to connect the dots

These results do not square with expert predictions

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)


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