Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Where the wild things are

I was writing a couple of weeks ago about the Peter Ackroyd book Albion, about common threads of English writing. I'm still reading it actually, it continues to be very good. The common thread he identifies is hard to define, but something to do with seductive danger coming into the home farm, as talking animals and ghosts and mutations of the body, about dissolution of the normal into something no longer normal. I was then thinking about the recent American TV shows that I have loved so much this decade. I asked myself - do they confirm to that model? If so, does that mean it is a universal model of good art?

I think there is another model underlying these American TV shows (they were The Wire, Mad Men, Firefly, Deadwood and Breaking Bad). That model is that you must go out - out away from the home farm - you will lose touch with the unthinking behaviours of your home - and then you will find a true ground of authenticity. In the darker versions, you are then cut off for ever from what you were. I guess, being glib, this is a model of the frontier of the mind or soul.

So - having sort of framed this idea - I was wondering can I project it backwards from the noughties onto a tradition within American TV, and art more generally? At first I was thinking - well, the X Files and Star Trek, for example, have a very different feel from Deadwood. But then I thought: 'The Truth is Out There' - that sums up the model I was thinking of, in five words: out there, you find the ground of being. 'Where no man has gone before'? Northern Exposure? Fits the model exactly. Wizard of Oz, yes - though unusually she manages to come home. Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn...

There are other threads in US TV, even the very best TV, which do not fit this model. Cop shows in general do not fit it, apart from The Wire, perhaps the Shield. The West Wing I think does not - but correct me if I am wrong. Twin Peaks - is that an exception? There are great American literary writers who do not write to this model. And of course, as in Britain, there is a powerful philistinism which resists the model. In England - you shall not let the wild thing into the home. In America - you shall not loosen even one rule of conformity. Because, what is out there.

PS it is complicated because of the strong mutual sharing of ideas and people around the world. Ravenous for example fits the English model not the American - but it was directed by an English woman, shot in Hungary, stars an Australian and a Scottish man.
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