Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I've come to understand that AMC is re-imagining The Prisoner as a week long mini-series. Though surprised when I saw the full page ad, the timing isn't all that surprising.
The Prisoner, a trippy television series from the U.K. in 1967, is one of the more relevant pieces of pop culture for post-millennium America. I believe that the resurgence of "socialism" as a hot button topic provided the final push needed to get a Prisoner remake a reality. I may not watch AMC's version, but only cause I'm digging the original too much.
The premise of the show is what happens when the Crown's top agent all of the sudden resigns. Considering the secrets stored inside his head, it would be quite easy for him to become a risk to national security. He's abducted and deposited into what could be seen as an international retirement community for the intelligence services.
I think that the themes present in this show will hit home with Americans with any political leanings in either direction.
Patrick McGoohan's protagonist refuses to play the game set out for him by the system. Each episodes' opening features the main character shouting, "I am not a number, I am a free man." The first episode finds him explaining his position to his supposed new superior, "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own." This rallying call for individualism appeals to our country's right wing. No. 2, the seeming (yet quite temporary) operations manager of the Village, often assures, "We're quite democratic, you know." The individual having to bend to the will of the majority, a majority that they don't understand, is an uncomfortable thought. This is what people are screaming about at town hall meetings now.
The philosophies of the Village are only half the problem. It's the forces backing up those concepts that lead to quiet chills. The opening sequence shows a man kidnapped from his home over political matters and then taken to a an unknown place where he is interrogated and threatened; today we call this an extraordinary rendition. One of the sets frequently employed on the show is that of the control room: a circular room of maps, monitors, and a seemingly motorized seesaw with cameras on either end. No. 2 and his associates often observe the protagonist from this location. That's the Patriot Act. The left wing is tired of shadow governments acting without the people's consent.
Benjamin Franklin is paraphrased as saying, "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." Both sides of the argument have been using this rhetoric, usually to try and shut down the other party. It gets me thinking about the American mindset. It seems the defining principle of being an American comes down to this:
We always think the other guy's out to get us.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Last week I watched Paranormal Activity. Yes, the movie everybody's been talking about. Am I really making my first real blog post in over a year about a flavor of the week sensation that will eventually die down and render this entry dated and passe'? Yes, yes I am.
I guess this is sort of a spoiler post. Though the movie doesn't really hinge on too many plot points, I'd hate to ruin someone's evening by having them hear about it here first. The film's premise is that Micah and Katie have been experiencing strange phenomena, now they're going to videotape it in order to get to the bottom of it. What you're watching is the footage, found and edited by a third party, of the goings on in their house. The psuedo-spoiler is coming up, so you many want to stop reading... now:
It's a demon.
It's announced within the first twenty minutes of the movie, so it may not be a huge spoiler. It appears that Katie has been followed by a malevolent entity since she was eight years old. As things get worse, the question hanging in the air (for the audience and for the players) is, "How long do you stay in a relationship with supernatural baggage?"
I'm going to go ahead and toss another spoiler out there, cause if you've read this far you clearly don't care. Things don't end well for the happy couple. Things really do not end well. But they could have.
I can't find my notes from class to back this up, but I remember my studies in anthropology, mythology, and folklore concerning demon possession. One is at risk for demonic possession when existing in a liminal state. Liminality is the state of being in-between, not having a set identity or social status.
The New Testament holds the story of Legion, one of the more well known stories of demon possession. The setting for the encounter between Christ and the possessed man is a graveyard. A graveyard is a liminal place, a crossing between the land of the living and the land of the dead.
In The Amityville Horror, George Lutz moves his new bride and her children to a spacious house with a dark history. George is the new addition to the family unit, he doesn't yet have a place, and is targeted for possession by the residence's resident wraith. His lacking a definite, fixed position in the group makes him an easy mark.
Now, Paranormal Activity's two primary characters are Katie and Micah, a young, unmarried, though committed couple. When asked about their relationship, Micah says that they're "engaged to be engaged." Thus assigning them to the grey area between boyfriend & girlfriend and fiancees. This puts them in a liminal state.
I believe that had these two kids taken time to figure out their relationship, everyone would've walked away fine. Now, it may seem that applying what I learned in Humanities courses at a State University to a motion picture scenario doesn't guarantee success any more so than the next guy's suggestion. But I can totally prove I'm right on this one.
Even if my liminality argument falls through, taking their relationship to the next level or calling it quits would have thwarted the demon's attempts. Let's say Micah proposes and Katie says, "yes." The Psychic tells them that beings such as ghosts and demons feed off of negative energy. The positive energy introduced by the engagement would give the demon less juice with which to work. On the other hand, after a long and serious talk, they might have decided to just be friends. Yes, this would produce negative energy; however, it would remove another source of the demon's power. The Psychic warns against trying to communicate with the demon, for it may view this as an invitation for further interaction. Micah does not heed this warning. If they split up, Katie wouldn't have to deal with Micah taunting, teasing, and actively seeking out the wickedness surrounding them. The demon would not have a door to step through without Micah's shenanigans.
So, what can we take from this movie? Yes, having a loosely defined partnership not weighed down by societal labels is fun, but it will get you killed.