". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

*Scandal* *Revenge* *The Good Wife* *Blue Collar* *Treme*

Television pilot episodes are not particularly reliable indicators as to whether one will like a series. Often much of the first season isn't reliable, as some shows take time to find their legs. One of those shows was Buffy -- I tried watching the first season more than once, got impatient with the highs school horror paradigm, and gave it up.  But when trapped for weeks at home by a back kersplah , maybe half or two thirds through, Buffy hit all all the places that took up its bitter-sweet permanent residence in mine and so many watchers' imaginations.

If I'd relied on the pilot for Scandal by which to judge the show, I'd probably not continued to watch. It was frenetic and stuffed with the self-congratulation of us --meaning Olivia Pope's crew, not Our / My Nation -- as "White Hats, Good Guys, Gladiators in Suits, Knights, OMIGHOD ISN'T OLIVIA POPE AWESOME AWESOMER, AWESOMEST."  Fortunately with season one streaming from netflix, one could proceed immediately to the first episode after the pilot. As the show progresses, the annoying aspects considerably tone down while the fascinating aspects are better showcased. The fascination is partly the characters we are looking at, each of which has hers and his own secrets, and the tension as to how the seasonal arc will resolve.

If you are an African American woman, Scandal speaks to you on several other levels, in ways you can enjoy and approve of, without squicking. Per Eza Klein in the WaPo, speaking of a Black President:

"The thing is this: As a black person, there's a sort of Cinderella effect. We were not supposed to be here -- not in this time. We were supposed to inaugurate Starfleet before we inaugurated a black president. And yet here we are. And it has been so much worse in the past."

Which is one of the reasons that ABC's Scandal is so pleasing. It's a political series in which the White House, as first 'container' of our crazy U.S. politics, is as much a character as a location, and in which black characters are as much residents as they are in the 'larger' D.C.  And, if you happen also to be a black woman, it's even more so.

Another bunch of points in Scandal's favor is its soundtrack, which features frequently hits from an earlier day of the Billboard urban charts: soul, r&b, funk, doo-wop.  The show doesn't over do it -- you won't find this music in every scene or maybe even every episode.  But it's really a nice change to hear this on a television series.

Scandal's almost the antithesis, you might say, of Revenge, another superpowered (as opposed to the become-tedious supernaturally superflously superpowered)  female protagonist show, also on ABC, as being Snow White. The single character of color serves the Witch Queen Victoria is because she's a Brit with that posh education and accent; this elevates her enough that dating Daniel's Harvard frat brother is not frowned upon (though dating Daniel the Prince would be -- but then the Witch Queen frowns on the protagonist dating her son). Ashley's white by default.  It's her relative poverty in this location of multi-billionaires that's the signature of her inequality with Queen Victoria.  Or so it seems to this viewer.  However, this is a case in which proving "Mine is the right answer!" is not in play -- in fact, cannot be in play!  :).

Like Revenge, Scandal's characters have superpowers, but thankfully, not supernatural powers -- just mighty skills and capacity for reading others*.  As well as being gorgeous and possessing the perfect wardrobes and housing.

In both these shows the locations are as much 'characters' as the characters. Revenge is a form of gothic -- the mansions -- you come in and can't leave. In Scandal, it's the White House that plays this role.

I'm looking forward to the new seasons of both Scandal and Revenge, along with those of The Good Wife (in every episode I receive an extra delight jolt, thinking that the actor playing Alicia Florrick, Julianna Margulies also narrated and played Morgaine in the Mists of Avalon miniseries) and White Collar. All four are slick, stylish and contemporary; their locations play integral roles. Three of these shows depend on the actors emoting prolonged, perhaps too long even, paragraphs. White Collar, however, depends more on the rapid fire screwball comedy repartee delivery --  they include at least one entirely authentic screwball episode per season.

Then there's Treme -- a whole other level of television excellence, though this is the quintessential series which cannot be removed from its location, from what its characters do and are, and how they speak.


*I'm  tired out by supernatural superpowers. So I'm particularly glad there is some mature fare out there. You may argue Revenge isn't mature, but it includes mature, if evil, characters, numerous sly literary references, while modeled, for those who know, on Jacobean Vengeance Tragedies.

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