Wednesday, February 25, 2009

High concept, low fidelity

I'm all for high-concept TV shows, and don't have any particular commitment to realism or verisimilitude so long as the acting is reasonably good. I continue to watch Big Love even though the characters seem to have about as much religious sensibility as the atheists in my house and I stay tuned to the increasingly absurd plot twists and emotional dynamics of Californification and Weeds because ML Parker and DDuchovny are so fun to watch, and so I tuned into The United States of Tara--about as high concept as you can get--the other night with a similar mix of high/low expectations. One can certainly see the appeal to the screenwriters: whenever the plot slows down, you simply introduce a new character. And it's a playground for a good actor, who gets to chew up the scenery in any number of broad types.

But for all the high-drama and/or low-comedy implicit in the multiple personality scenario, the shows turns on the most conventional plot dilemma imaginable: marital fidelity. Really? John Corbett (who seems doomed to play saintly/wimpy/understanding guys devoted to crazy women) is married to a certifiably insane wife, and the biggest problem they confront is whether he will fuck around with his own wife when she has entered one of her colorful alternative personalities. Really? This is the problem? Even a high-concept TV problem? What is going on? Is Hollywood, contrary to popular opinion, actually a bastion of committed monogamy, eager to retrain the wandering eyes of men across America? Or are we trying to escape from our disintegrating world by immersing ourselves in trivial domestic issues? Or more likely, is it just the strangehold of genre-convention continuing to define plots no matter how irrelevant they may have become? Perhaps the plot of the next Bond movie should revolve around whether he cheats on his latest girlfriend?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The so-called Law of the Wall Street Jungle cited

in three NYT's articles the day our new President chastised the major banks for taking 20 billion in bonuses struck me as an almost perfect expression of the long-running American delusion of rugged individualism. Here's one. They all cited "We eat what we kill" as the working credo and passionate self-justification for the bank's need to feast on the blood of taxpayer money.

I have less of a problem with the unapologetic ask-for-no-quarter-and-take-none capitalist warrior's ethos than the fact that these bankers seem totally blind to the privilege that allowed them to hunt the big game in the first place, and of course, totally incapable of living up to the consequences of the fact that their hunt has gone bad..

We eat what we kill?
Are you kidding me? As if they were wandering the dense and wild jungle with nothing but a club and incisors sharpened on bone rather than being surrounded and supported by the largest and most powerful financial infrastructures since the beginning of time? The claim--advanced by a few--that they all shouldn't suffer just because of those few bad apples in the mortgage department doesn't really hold up either, especially if you are a great white hunter. If someone in my compay sinks the ship with bad deals, guess what, I go down with it, no matter how successful I was last year. If they don''t want to be saddled with the burdensome losses of a multi-national corporations, well then, why don't they take a walk on the wild side.

Investment bankers are about as self-reliant as the chronically ill.