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October 23rd, 2004

art therapy with the television

I guess it is television, but not my usual method of delivery of the drug: I'm talking about DVDs from the library---specifically, (tonight Season 2, Volume 1 of) Six Feet Under.

It's been a stressful week, somehow. Mainly lack of sleep, I think. Too much caffeine again. Those Red Sox, and my pesky second winds. I woulda just gone pretty much directly to bed after dinner with the peaceniks tonight, but this volume of this show is due back at the 'brar' tomorrow. (Those are elliptical apostrophes, not single quotation marks, by the way.)

So---my boss likes this show a lot, and other people people have talked it up. So, in my DVDs-of-TV pursuits (which are about to require my keeping a log of where I am with each of several series), I've given it a try, and it's already up there with my favorite programmes of all time. (And I've watched a lot of TV shows.)

Those of you who've seen it know how it's not just character driven: it's all about characters. And it's about the fucked up trying to heal, or keep on keepin on, or whatever---it's about the fucked up, and their fucked-up-edness, and sort of about death, and the great shadow of mortality, but less in terms of the dead bodies and the gore and more about how it haunts our characters, in whose lives (like ours, like it or not) it's omnipresent, yet stashed away most of the time.

And the main thing about the show: it's humane.

Its very aesthetic is humane.

It's humane in the way it presents us each death (each episode opens with one). It's funny about them, too, and funny as part of its being humane & real about them. It revolves around the crux of the mask of somberness, and other masks of repression/suppression, such as those we perpetuate regarding death.

And it's intimate with its characters, so we, as its audience, are intimate with them, too. We are in their most intimate, domestic-y situations---even the ones their other loved ones know little or nothing about. What a thing for an intimacy hound, you know? ANYway, when you combine the humanity of its lens with our experience of its characters, we can't help but experience the characters in a humane way, and can take solace in its even-handed but gentle depiction of their agonies and their foibles, their moments of levity and lightness, and their terrors and their demons. And bond with and identify with them, and want to root for them, and love that we are being told their truths, and want to cut them a break. And by extension maybe want to cut ourselves a break.


For many years, along with my disdain for the didactic, I had a kind of contempt for the application of art to life's problems. To use something for a practical purpose takes the shovel out of the art museum & makes us evaluate it again for how good a shovel it is, as a shovel, for shovelling. The art of it is out the window.

I still like to look at, say, the lines and curves and shapes and textures of a shovel, and think about them, and even talk about them, and touch them, and maybe go so far as to postulate about other kinds of shovels, or compare several, or paint a bunch of them some weird way and regard that. But if you've got a perfectly good shovel, and there's some shovelling that needs doing, you might as fuckin' well pick it up and use it if it works.

To shovelling!
 
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