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Is television liberal?

A few days ago, I came across this post at a forum I go to. It seemed to ask whether there were any television series that were "conservative", but the implication was that none were, that the television business was hijacked by the evil liberals.

Now, my experience has always been the opposite. Whenever I grow attached to a series, it is generally despite the fact that it is clearly of a different political persuasion. I don't know why this is. Perhaps the idea of the hero fighting the system is a more appealing one than the hero working to make people feel better within the system. Perhaps the idea of the individual is easier to grasp, and the fear of the assimilating system is a more accessible one than the idea of the state working on behalf of the people to provide services for the people, the danger in this scenario being the people who only care about themselves and their own gain.

Take Firefly. I adore Firefly. This is not merely a carry-over from Buffy, as I was much more critical of that series; it is, simply put, something in it which appeals to me on a fundamental level. Now, for those of you unfortunate enough not to have seen this show, the concept can be summarised as the following:

There is an evil Alliance which seeks to consume all the planets with human life. This in order to "meddle", as River Tam observes in the beginning of the film Serenity: "People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. Don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads. And we haven't the right. We're meddlesome."

And then the teacher says,

River. We're not trying to tell people what to think. We're just trying to show them how.

And then she shoves the pencil into River's forehead. Making it clear that it is the state (the government-run school that she attends -- not a private school, certainly) that is torturing her and turning her into a weapon. The key lesson to be gleaned from Firefly is that the State is Evil.

And yet, I like it. Because it has interesting characters and moving plot-lines. Were I more of an intellectual (or political) connoisseur, it wouldn't have appealed to me, I suppose. Or perhaps I am just able to realise that when and if the state is evil, opposition is justified.

24 is another gem. I cannot remember where I read an analysis which pointed out that the series seemed designed to show how torture must be allowed in "exceptional" circumstances, but here is another. Now, I don't know whether this is a conservative policy or a republican one, but considering the recent debate over torture memoes of various descriptions, I feel my case is clear. Of course, I have never watched 24 apart from the first few episodes of the first series, so it doesn't really figure in this argument.

What does, though, is Spooks. And I really like Spooks. Again, the characters are brilliant. But the moral of the series would seem to be that all those methods we ordinary people might frown upon because of our petty ideals of human rights and suchlike, are naïve at best, dangerous at worst -- the only thing that will save us from a nuclear strike by Iran or some other danger from America is precisely the willingness of secret agents to break those rules. When it feels right. And anyone who says that it is wrong is an obstruction at best. A danger at worst. And yet, I really like that show.

House is perhaps a less obvious case. The main character does seem to exist for the sole purpose of offending the sensible, conservative populace. And yet, his raison d'être, if will, would seem to be to prove that procedures and rules are only for the week or dim. In his world, they are only obstructions to be disregarded in order to save the life of the patient. I can think of only one example where a regulation would have saved one of them.

The only one that I can think of that would seem to corroborate my stance, is Doctor Who, and that is only because the man by nature is a cool anarchist. He, too, disregards state power, but it is not as an evil to be defeated in itself. Only occasionally does this present itself as an issue. And even then, The Doctor escapes censure somewhat in that he is a Time Lord, and as such has particular powers of his own.


Kjellove,  24.04.09 02:49

Jesus Fucking Christ.

Tor,  24.04.09 22:41

Når jeg ser et hus, tar jeg ofte meg selv i å tenke på hva slags tak og bordkledning som er brukt. Og når jeg ser på tekniske innretninger tenker jeg ofte på fysikken bak.

Det slår meg at jeg aldri har tenkt noe særlig på hva slags holdninger som ligger bak slike serier. Muligens er det fordi du er litteraturstudent, eller kanskje fordi jeg er lite observant. Men i alle fall, når du sier det er det jo helt åpenbart at Firefly er en eneste lang reklame for mindre stat, mer frihet og større håndvåpen. Og ditt eget romskip.

En dag tror jeg jeg skal begynne å tenke over ting. Det blir sikkert fint.

Camilla,  25.04.09 12:28

Her er en lignende observasjon om en bok-serie.
Doctor Who
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"River, we're not trying to tell people what to think. We're just trying to show them how!"