Saturday, March 08, 2008
Once upon a time, the New York City of 1960s advertising executives seemed impossibly cool to "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner. "I looked at these guys, at this world, these men who were overpaid and drank too much and smoked too much and were glib and cynical and bit the hand that fed them all the time and showed up late and had no respect for authority, and I thought, 'These are my heroes,' " he says. OK, funny line.
No, Mike Duffy, you idiot, it isn't a funny line; he really means it. AMC's new original series "Mad Men" is, like HBO's "The Sopranos" before it, a glamorization and promotion of psychopaths and sociopaths. Weiner's list of anti-social behaviors, his use of the word "glib" (as in glib, flippant liars), and his explicit identification of them leading a "double life" (later in the Duffy article) make it clear about whom he is talking.
There is now a strong push to "position" psychopaths as not only fascinating and admirable, but even as heroes, as Weiner explicated above. Weiner worked as a producer on Sopranos, which was apparently a test case to see if the public would accept this "op". The HBO series presented the main character as a liar and murderer who was also a family man dealing with all the normal stuff of modern American life. So far, they are portraying the psychopath accurately, which could have been a service to humanity - to show everyone what these people are really like. (Not all psychopaths kill, but the mask of sanity aspect is always there.)
But then they added "the twist": he secretly feels bad about killing and torturing people. This is not reality. Psychopaths are - as the movie The Terminator perfectly encapsulated in metaphor - like "machines in human clothing." They do not feel bad about harming others in pursuit of their goals. To show him in counseling sessions with his psychiatrist is an attempt to get us to feel sympathy for the psychopath. That's Evil.
Then came Mad Men; now the psychopaths and sociopaths are making money from killing indirectly - the series begins with the creation of a new ad campaign to get people to smoke more cigarettes, while the ad agency staff comments show that they know the product is causing cancer and other problems. They show no concern at all for their fellow humans - all that matters is finding what works. In their personal lives, as in their work lives, they lie, use other people like objects, and smirk the whole time. We are supposed to find these worthless and evil pieces of crap "interesting"; the show is getting tons of positive reviews.
Then Moonlight joined the "op"; vampire as hero. Well, if we strip away all the entertainment industry BS about coffins, crosses, and garlic, and return to reality, what do we find? The word vampire is from eastern Europe a few centuries ago; the people of that time and place didn't have the benefit of modern biology or psychiatry, but they could accurately describe what they were experiencing. The ancient account of vampires, before Bram Stoker's "Dracula" confused and misdirected everyone, are frightening descriptions of human beings who psychologically and physically torture innocent people for fun and terrorism, with a glib attitude. (Some of them even drank the blood of their victims.) Sounds like psychopaths to me.
While this was going on, Dexter was on cable but it is now on broadcast TV also. The "hero" of this show is a serial killer who only kills serial killers - oooooh! How inventive. The pilot episode made me sick. It is very clear that Dexter does not feel human emotion, but observes others' behavior and tries to mimic it so as to fit in. The show portrays him as gifted in his work (as a blood-spatter expert for the police) who catches the bad guys the incompetent police can't. As if we need them. They even make sure to have his sister (the biological daughter of the people who adopted him) unable to advance in her career without him doing some of her work for her. This is the exact opposite of the truth. It is the psychopaths who cannot pass the test of real life.
Note to all people who are capable of feeling shame and compassion: Psychopaths and sociopaths are not fascinating, are not necessary, and are not heroes.