Do we self sensor to the point of creating art that is not true to the conditions of reality? So often in America we use the term political correctness to describe the necessity of not offending a particular group. The question that I have is, what does this political correctness do to our art and to our understanding of one another. To speak the unspeakable allows for a dialogue. Yet instead of saying what is on our minds, we hold back for fear of being judged. True understanding does not come from saying the "right" thing, it comes from saying that which rings most true and being open to a conversation about it. That is the key, openness to conversation.
Michel Foucault would argue that it is the technologies of power which keep us in line. He takes the idea of the Panopticon from Jeremy Bentham. The Panopticon was a structure that allowed for inmates to be in open cells overlooked by a large tower. The inmates never knew if they were being watched or not. It formulated a system in which inmates self-regulated. This becomes a very different scenario when the systems of power shift. This brings us to the show in question, Misfits.
Over the course of the last week, I have been watching Misfits on Hulu Plus. Ok, I have been devouring the show to the point that I am almost finished with all three seasons. It is as a show about a group of young offenders that have been assigned to community service. During a freak storm, they are each endowed with a superpower. What is especially interesting about these super powers is that each of them reflects a personality trait of their owner. For instance, Simon, one the members of the group, can make himself invisible. His power has to do with the fact that many times people ignore him or do not even know that he is there.
The fact that Simon can watch others without them knowing he is there is a definite exertion of power. People around him have no idea that he is watching. The powers that these "Misfits" have allow them to move beyond some of the technologies of power which keep many of us in line.
Kohlberg developed a system for defining stages of moral development that illustrated a hierarchy of that development. These stages illustrate an individuals ability to determine "right" and "wrong". The first of these stages deals with the fear of punishment and goes all the way to sheer principle. People who do the right thing out of sheer principle would be those individual such as Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. These are the true heroes.
In Misfits, we have no clearly defined hero's except for the Man in the Mask. Having only finished Series 1 and 2, I am even skeptical about that. What we are given is a group of individuals who are outside of societal norms. Each of their superpowers relates to the ways in which they are outside of those norms. The show is constructed in such a thoughtful way that none of the characters ever comes off contrived.
The "reality" of the show is what gives it the power to hold its viewers and to spark conversation. If they had each been given powers and immediately become superhero's or villains, the show would suck. Instead the show presents its viewers with a raw dark comedy that gets at the "reality" of life. American television could learn a lot from the Brits. Its not always about being politically correct. Being politically correct is always expected. Sometimes, it is the short circuit of expectations that makes for good art and good television. Yes, it is ok to have the serene pretty picture, but sometimes you just need a good shag, an inappropriate joke, or down right horrible act to make you recalibrate your own moral compass.
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