Amazon Prime’s dramatization of a Pulitzer Prize book about slavery is powerful but difficult to watch.
Stuff. We love it.
Well, perhaps not all of us love stuff. If you make dinner rolls from self-ground wheat and bake them in a river-rock oven heated with dried cow patties, you clearly do not love stuff as much as the rest of us, and I sincerely apologize for my overgeneralization. (But you really should return whatever computerized device you’re reading this on to its rightful owner immediately.)
As for the rest of us, we love our smartphones, our Hula-Hoops, our self-wringing mops, our bottles of fresh-squeezed water, our curiously strong mints. And where do we buy this stuff? Well, Amazon, sure. But before that, where did we buy it? At massive multipurpose stores. Walmart. Kmart. Some other marts that I just can’t remember anymore.
Or, perhaps, if we’re fictional stuff-lovers on an NBC sitcom, we might go to the Cloud 9 superstore.
Alas, our love of even fictional stuff takes a fictional toll on Cloud 9’s fictional employees. Jonah, now a seasoned vet of the store’s superflupendous aisles, is still helping us fulfill our petty daily wishes while still holding on to his sanity—easier said than done in the go-go world of this biggest of big-box stores.
But he does have Amy, a fellow Cloud 9 vet and now a manager, to help him. (Though maybe not for long since she’s just received a huge promotion to work at Cloud 9’s parent company, Zephyr.) She looks at the store with a more jaundiced eye than her coworker-slash-boyfriend. She’s no Cloud 9 acolyte—unlike, of course, Glenn, the store’s cheerful (if cult-minded) overly eager former manager; Dina, a no-nonsense worker; or Mateo, a gay man who also serves as Cloud 9’s resident apple polisher.
These sale-minded souls and others have become a strange, dysfunctional family of sorts. Albeit a family that always wears matching blue vests.
Superstore is NBC’s attempt to bring The Office into the world of Walmart. And like its sitcom workplace ancestors, its blue-vest language sometimes wanders into foul territory. A few rude jokes are told at shoppers’ expense. We see an occasional child deciding to defecate in the aisleway (on a kiddie potty). Sex is becoming more and more of the store’s consumerist landscape, and its humor can sometimes stray into topical or political territory, too, in both thoughtful and not-so-thoughtful ways. Still, there seems to be a real effort to shoehorn Superstore into a display bin that a family might enjoy browsing through together.
Granted, what our culture considers appropriate for the whole family has changed about as much as the price of milk. So anytime you walk into this Superstore you may walk out with something you neither wanted nor needed. Some episodes seem to mock Glenn’s proud-and-out-there faith. And while individual episodes may want to make a point or two, you’re not going to find many obvious morals mopping up the floors at night.
Yes, we love our stuff. And Superstore, like Cloud 9 itself, is full of it. Some of it is fun. An occasional item might even be worthwhile. But there’s a whole lotta stuff here that’s just … stuff. So it might be worthwhile to ask yourself whether you really need the extra clutter.
Cloud 9 employees learn how to handle new health and safety regulations as the coronavirus pandemic hits the U.S. Unable to transfer to Zephyr’s corporate offices until after the virus has passed, Amy continues to manage the store while also attending back-to-back Zoom calls with Zephyr.
The events of 2020 are summarized and kinda sorta mocked as we hear about murder hornets, Tiger King (and whether or not one of the show’s stars killed her husband) and Black Lives Matter protests. Some customers of Cloud 9 fight each other over supplies, and a woman refuses to wear a mask (and says the employees work for Satan when they try to enforce the rule). Employees are forced to hide items like toilet paper so that they won’t run out, and Zephyr sends anti-looter gear in case local protests turn into riots.
Amy begs Zephyr to send personal protective equipment for its employees while coming up with creative workarounds as they run out of supplies. She beheads stuffed bears to use the bandanas they wear as masks (although Mateo enjoys cutting the eyes off the bears before removing the bandanas); she cuts up inappropriate t-shirts to sew into masks; and she uses alcohol meant for drinking as a disinfectant when the store runs out.
We hear several jokes about sex, masturbation and genitals. A customer without a mask sneezes on Glenn. A woman says she dropped her mask in a toilet. People drink beer. Another woman says she used to get drunk at work and also asks if someone has ketamine. A man says he had a panic dream about being clubbed to death. Someone mentions an illegal music festival.
We hear a few uses each of “d–n” and “d–mit.” The f-word is bleeped out as well. God’s and Christ’s names are also misused.
Manager Amy brings her son into work when his daycare is closed down, but her daily duties become difficult when she receives parental criticism from some in the store. Anxious employee Dina tries to find ways to impress her new boyfriend without scaring him away. Cloud 9 workers prepare the store for St. Patrick’s Day.
A few female workers discuss the alleged sex life of their manager and her ex-boyfriend. A gay employee briefly talks about his boyfriend. Other conversations and jokes include mentioning female reproductive parts, condoms, meaningless sex and a man’s physical physique.
We hear jokes about a child defecating and having lice and someone vomiting glitter. God’s name is misused three times and other profanities include one utterance each of “b–tard” and “b–ch.” A woman tells her coworkers that their faces “look like butts.”
Supervisor Glenn can’t attend the annual Cloud 9 manager’s conference, so he sends Amy and Jonah in his stead. Mateo frets that Glenn might discover that Mateo’s actually an undocumented worker. Garrett (a worker in a wheelchair) and Dina (Glenn’s second in command) learn how to wrap a present.
Cloud 9 will only pay for a single hotel room, even when the company sends a pair of employees to the manager’s conference. Not a problem, Glenn says, given that Jonah and Amy are reportedly a “hot item.” When Jonah asks whether that meant that the religious Glenn and sexually-promiscuous Dina shared a hotel room when they previously went to a conference, Glenn says yes, but they made it work. “I just read a book in the bathtub, while she made love to the bellhop,” he says.
When Mateo worries that Sayid, a Syrian refugee employee, might confess that Mateo is in the country illegally, Mateo spreads rumors that Syrians are notorious liars, saying that it’s part of their culture. “I’ve never heard that, and I’ve slept with a ton of Syrian dudes,” Dina muses. And when Dina and Garrett successfully wrap a present, Dina tells Garrett, “All the times we made love, we never made anything this beautiful.”
When Amy says she’s looking forward to a hot bath in the hotel, Jonah suggests he might join her. (Amy asks him not to.) The two sneak into the conference under assumed names (after they’re initially barred from it) and capitalize on all the free giveaways for managers. An acquaintance tells them that the “conference” is really just a big party. “One of us is going to end up puking before the night is over, probably me,” the acquaintance says.
We hear joking references to sex traffickers, beheadings and the size of someone’s breasts. Jonah and Amy make good use of the conference’s open bar; they and others gulp beer, shots and other assorted alcoholic beverages. (“Why are we doing this?” Jonah wonders, before asking the bartender for two more shots.) We hear topically charged jokes regarding immigration, disability and the minimum wage. Glenn learns of Mateo’s undocumented status, but lies to keep him safe in the country.
Characters say “b–ch,” “d–n,” “d–k” and “d-bag,” and there’s one misuse of God’s name. We hear a crudity referring to the male anatomy.
Amy grows frustrated when Cloud 9 tries to push salsa at its customers using over-the-top, racially insensitive sales techniques. But in trying to make her point, she ends up offending even more customers. Jonah—trying to prove to co-worker Garrett that helping people is a good thing—escorts a feeble, elderly woman to the front of a line. When someone asks why she gets special treatment, she snaps, “Because white people help their own!” The two incidents land the whole sales team in racial sensitivity training.
Glenn chants a bizarre “eenie-meenie” routine that includes references to Jesus’ crucifixion and unbelievers going to hell. There’s talk about sexually insensitive comments made about a woman’s breasts.
An employee slips and falls on spilled salsa, necessitating a trip to the emergency room. Jonah is forced to give an allergy shot to someone, who later runs from the store in tears. Characters say “d–n” once and misuse God’s name a few times.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).
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