May 14th, 2008

breaking bad

Nothing is real

When I first saw the UK trailers for Life on Mars I thought it would be somewhat like that US show in the trailer I posted yesterday: the point of the show would be the contrast between media clichés of policing in the 2000's and the 1970s. At best I thought it might explore the different social frameworks in which policing existed in those two decades. There was a famous comedy sketch in the 1990s about Morse and the Sweeney, for instance. And all this is fine with me, I think it's very interesting, so I was pretty keen to see it.

But when I watched the show I felt it had a much deeper freight of meaning. I think there is an analogy between the position of fictional characters, and our own lives, to do with the illusory nature of existence and yet its huge significance. I know everyone doesn't agree with me, and I have never quite managed to convey what I am talking about, but I felt that Life on Mars had extra levels of depth below its surface. Not just what is real in the show, but what is real outside the show. I'm not talking about some idiotic 'nothing is real', 'everything is Maya', 'there is no such thing as suffering', 'nothing matters' cod-mystical point of view. Instead I mean some sort of ungraspable hint in the direction of real meaning, which only something as unreal as a TV show (or a poem or whatever) can convey. And in TV shows and films I think this meaning is delivered by a team of people, writers and actors and directors, working together, which may mean the idea is never properly contained in one mind.

Or perhaps TV shows like this function as a Rorschach test in which people see what they want to see: 'Hey, you're the one with all the mucky pictures'.