The absurd premise

002388a5_mediumWe recently subscribed to Showtime, the pay channel, in order to watch Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States.” It’s been a worthwhile investment. These pay channels offer a side street for a little subversion, as there are no advertisers hovering about. Companies that don’t want certain content aired have to sue the network rather than achieving their end by withholding advertising dollars.*

So Stone’s work has an outlet. Even with 200 other cable channels with absurd names like “History” and “Learning,” none would touch such an offering. Censorship in the United States is pervasive. We are so sheltered from the real world that Stone’s work, which would be part of a classroom discussion in a free country, seems radical.

Such programming as Stone’s is an unintended side effect of the so-called “premium” channels. Originally HBO merely offered a way to show uncensored movies at home, but with so many hours to fill, it became a place where box office flops recovered some of their investment. Showtime had the same problem, and so became the T&A alternative, a niche now owned by Skinemax. Showtime still has its raunchy side (as does HBO). Dave Attell has a truly disgusting show called “Dave’s Old Porn” which features men with legs crossed making Mystery Science Theater-like snarky comments about ancient pornography, like Debbie Does Dallas. The lens-fogging effects still don’t distance it enough from true porn to make it watchable. Who thought this was a good idea?

HBO found a way out of the B-movie trap with The Sopranos, a well-written and acted show with characters that seemed both true to and larger than life at once. These premium channel series are now standard fare, some worthwhile, others not. The Wire was very well done, Californication is embarrassing.

Current Showtime offerings, Dexter and Homeland, are both creepy in their own way.

Dexter Morgan: Psychopath with a conscience

Dexter Morgan: Psychopath with a conscience

The expression “jumped the shark” cannot be used with Dexter, as it implies that there is even a fish tank. Dexter Morgan is a serial killer with a heart of gold, a psychopath who loves his family and who falls in love with beautiful women (and doesn’t kill them). He only murders people who are badder than him. He does so in a ritualistic fashion, drugging them, wrapping them up in plastic so that when they come to they are immobilized. He then lectures them about their crimes before plunging a knife through the heart. Dexter has a son who is obviously following off-screen prompts as he is held and cuddled by his father (who possesses only a little more acting skill). Perhaps this is intentional – perhaps they are thinking about a sequel. Maybe when the kid grows up he can wrap his father in plastic and lecture him about the show and then plunge the knife.

Carrie Mathison: CIA agent who really, really hates terrorists

Carrie Mathison: CIA agent who really, really hates terrorists

Then there is Homeland – a beautiful CIA agent is concerned that a returning veteran who was held captive by Al Qaeda has been turned, and might possibly be planning to commit terrorist acts at home. “Al Qaeda” is an American invention used as a cover for American terrorism both at home and abroad, so holding an American soldier captive would be akin to high school students taking a teacher hostage. As portrayed on TV, this supposed ragtag terrorist group has no larger ambition than mere random violence. They make Americans piddle in their pants. But the murder of innocent people is more an American habit than any fanatic Wahhabist sect. Homeland is set up to do exactly what we have done throughout our history – project our worst traits on others, and commit mass murder while blaming the victims.

That’s where Oliver Stone comes in. He puts the camera on us for a change.

Given a choice, I’ll take Dexter, the compassionate sociopath, anytime over Carrie Mathison, beautiful terror-hating CIA agent. He’s a little more believable.
*Does anyone else notice that Koch money is all over PBS these days? That guarantees that PBS won’t be investigating any of their activities, just as Archer Daniels Midland bought off NPR years ago after it had done some real investigative journalism. (Honest – they did one time! It happened in 1996, I think. The link to that program, like NPR, is dead.)

About Mark Tokarski

Mostly retired CPA living the life here in Colorado. Formerly Montana, 59 years, which is why so much of this blog is devoted to Montana issues.
This entry was posted in American terror, Censorship, Movies. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The absurd premise

  1. bcarkell says:

    Glad you mentioned Oliver Stone, turns out I’m able to watch a few of the episodes online. Thanks!

  2. rightsaidfred says:

    a side street for a little subversion

    In all of history, have the subversives ever risen and brought forth a better world?

    You, the idealist, are always angling for one better program, one more enlightened person to realize how things “really” are, one more change to the status quo, in the hope that more happiness is just around the corner. But the world is stubbornly similar from generation to generation. The most ironclad law in physics is the Conservation of Angular Momentum, and there is an isomorph in the social world, the Conservation of Social Momentum. Thus the more we get, the more we want, the more others want our stuff, and we are no happier at the end of it all.

    • Why can we not discuss more than one set of ideas in our schools?

    • rightsaidfred says:

      Must leave time for Hip Hop.

      I don’t know what you are complaining about since schools are pretty much invested in the hatred of traditional America, teaching that it was racist, homophobic, sexist, and too White. You want to see more hatred of past foreign policy and our military accomplishments. Be patient. That is all coming. But remember that the Bolshevik political fantasies you are anxious to implement are backstopped by police and military power, so you have to leave a little on the table.

  3. steve kelly says:

    One could certainly argue that Thomas Paine, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, et al. did indeed rise up and brought forth a better world. And that was just the beginning. “Happier” is a sorry substitute for liberty and justice in my opinion. The status quo is rife with slavery and theft. Lots of work to do.

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