Thursday, December 16, 2010

the following (including having dinner) takes place between 6:45 PM and 9:48 PM (JST)

I've recently been watching DVDs of some popular American TV dramas, such as 24, Heroes, and Lost. All of them already ended their final seasons. Watching serial dramas at once inevitably leads me to find the inconsistencies of the stories. Never mind.

Every episode of 24 starts with a bit of contradiction, as Jack Bauer tells "The following takes place between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM." He says it in present tense. But he is saying so retroactively. His position is the script writer's. He already knows what is going to happen in the next one hour. The audience is assured that Bauer is not going to die (if he dies, it would be Kafkaesque. The Kafka's narrators often die.) What if at the beginning of every episode each different main characters alternately appears and says "Previously.... The following..."? Perhaps it would undermine Bauer's authenticity and integrity. He has to do dirty jobs. The drama's point is how to maintain his integrity regardless of his deeds. That's why it is important for 24 that the person first gives account of oneself has to be Bauer. Since the beginning of the first season, he has always been part of the problems. He is simultaneously a fire starter and extinguisher. The world could be more peaceful if he weren't around.

Heroes democratizes the role of introducing the episodes. Each of the main characters alternately appears and says "Previously on...." The point is that everyone can tell one's side of the story. And also it tries to be "fair," exposing some stereotypes, such as Japanese cliche (geek, high-tech, conformity), Indian(high-tech, spiritual), and American (cheerleader and quarterback). I wonder if it is MSNBC's conscious choice as the "liberal" media. I even suspect if why Heroes ended was because 24 ended. (It is interesting that Noah Bennet appears like an imitation of Jack Bauer.)

Heroes stereotypes Japanese. But I don't think this angers many Japanese. Even those who were uncomfortable with Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation would not dislike it. (Lost in Translation was okay for me. My problem with the film was that that lovely story can happen wherever, Cairo, Shanghai, Bangkok....) These days Japanese films consciously follow the cliche:"They like geisha, samurai, high-tech, geek, and so on. Let's do it." Only Mashi Oka who plays Hiro, the time traveler, can speak "natural" Japanese, and it is too obvious that no part was filmed in Japan, but I can imagine many Japanese like it. Hiro embodies all the Japanese cliche, including his clumsiness at love affairs and the almost a-sexual appearance, but there is something very un-Japanese about him. He is too audacious. He wants to be special too much.

And that's what the American self-help ethos may be. The ethos creates an instability, insecurity, and anxiety inside of an individual, telling "Be special" and "Be yourself" at the same time. It attacks mediocrity. Officer Matt Parkman is appalled when he found himself eating doughnuts.

At such a moment, I'm almost sympathetic for Parkman. Don't laugh at him for eating doughnuts. It is a precious time for a cop to eat them.

Syler and Peter Petrelli have deeper problem: they can absorb the others' abilities, but none of them is their inherent. They are two sides of the same coin. The moral is: "Let's admit you're not really special, but your aspiration will make you special in the end. The proper way of becoming special is not killing (Syler), but empathizing(Peter)."

Lost: I've just seen the fist half of the first season. It is also about reinvention of self. What if you can restart yourself in a deserted island? The plot is somehow a melange of William Golding's Lord of the Flies and Stanislaw Lem's Solaris (your innermost desires would materialize in this island). The point of the drama may be how to postpone a catastrophe like what happens in the end of Lord of the Flies.

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