June 20th, 2007

new year

(no subject)

I was having a little safely-non-spoilered discussion with the_magician about the fantasy FBI show Criminal Minds which is now in summer re-runs here, so I am catching things I missed. More likely forgot, my brain being what it is lately. Bones is also repeating and has conveniently shifted to Friday nights, and I suppose my credulity at the babe coroner was worn down by sheer repetition, since I like the babe forensic scientist although in Crossing Jordan the babeness caused the chief failure in my suspension of disbelief. NCIS is still my favorite, with the original Vegas CSI close behind, although I can't tolerate the other iterations of CSI. I'd really like to just watch CSI Miami now cause they're doing really interesting visual stuff with the pumped-up colors and weird abstract camera work, but every time David Caruso enters the set with his creepy flat delivery I want to reach for the vodka bottle. It occurs to me that in each of the shows that I particularly like it is the characters and the ensemble story-arc that appeals to me. I find I can easily just say no to the Law & Order channel, having absorbed everything thoroughly the first two times through and finding the politics of it annoying (much more liberally positioned than CSI Miami, but that's not saying much is it). When did television seasons start repeating themselves in the middle.

I've been reading Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel, so it quite naturally occurred to me how all this relates to the tropes of the nineteenth-century potboiler. These cop shows are clearly the bastard children of gothic romance novels, sprung from an unholy marriage with heartless Rationalism and raised secretly in underground laboratories by the embittered maiden aunts left at the altar of technology, with the constant purpose of outraging bourgeois mores. The teevee shows get it both ways: they get to show eeyew sorts of nasty stuff and shocking crimes, and then take a proper outraged attitude and punish the evildoers (or not, times being what they are).

Exactly the same as Mrs Radcliffe's works, and The Monk, in the 1790's. It is not enough that his protagonist commit rape; he must commit it upon his mother or sister; and if he himself is a cleric, pledged to celibacy, his victim a nun, dedicated to God, all the better! Similarly, if he commits murder, it must be his father who is his victim; and the crime must take place in darkness, among the decaying bodies of his ancestors, on hallowed ground. It is as if such romancers were pursuing some ideal of absolute atrocity which they cannot quite flog their reluctant imaginations into conceiving. For the abominable, to be truly effective, must remain literally unspeakable... the gothic is an avant-garde genre, perhaps the first... one of whose functions was to shock the bourgeoisie into an awareness of what a chamber of horrors its own smugly regarded world really was. (p 134-5)

Everything is in summer re-runs, so I got a giant pile of videos and DVDs from the library. Last night We attempted to watch an Almodovar movie, but the subtitles wouldn't work. Instead we watched Wonder Boys, closely based on the Michael Chabon novel, about a feckless English professor of creative writing, which featured Michael Douglas, and Tobey McGuire as brilliant student, and many writing jokes. It's a subgenre, the novel about academia and the business of writing, which tends to insularity (writers writing about what they know about writing), but this one opens the window just a crack for fresh air.