Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Be Seeing You

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.

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