Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Partisans and TV

The Guardian semi-seriously reviews an American book claiming American TV is too left-wing and then asks the same question of British TV. Not being a devotee of British TV, I couldn’t rightly say whether they’re correct in their diagnosis, but I think the question of American TV is a bit more interesting to consider.

It’s hard to take the question too seriously as partisans are always too likely to consider the entire world to be accosting his team specifically despite all logic and with perfect malice—if it’s not the textbooks that are too right wing, it’s the movies that are communistic. These claims should only occasionally be taken seriously. It’s especially hard to take these claims seriously in the case of art—which TV sometimes aspires to and more rarely achieves—because art is complex and complex things tend not to have neat messages.

I think of The Wire first. David Simon, the creator of The Wire, is famously left-wing; it’s pretty obvious if you read further into his background. That’s fine. Furthermore, The Wire is highly didactic and political. You’d therefore expect it to be a pretty left-wing TV show, except I’m not sure how much it is. It’s a great and complex TV show and has a lot of stuff going on that undercuts any political message.

(For one, the left-wing stereotype is that left wingers are confident about the ability of government to get things done and resolve the world for the better. It’s hard for a viewer of the show to leave with much inspiration about that life—the message about governmental effectiveness at the end of it is so much fatalism: things suck, the system makes it suck, the system actively resists any attempts to end the suckage and through bad incentives will typically end, therefore things will always suck in all probability. This is not the typical liberal message, put it that way.)

This will not do for the partisans, but it’s true.

No comments:

Post a Comment