Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Enjoying the Fiction of What You Don’t Believe In

image You know, I haven’t been able to watch 24 this season. I love spy fiction, and I’ve enjoyed 24 in the past, but this year, it just makes me tired.

Spies are the superheroes of thrillers, of action.

My problem, lately, has been a reluctance to feed the politics of spy thrillers. I enjoy everything about them, don’t get me wrong. I love watching an assassin drop into Pakistan and take out a terrorist from 200 yards. I usually enjoy a torture scene: it says fascinating things about the characters. And recruiting? Talk about a character development gold mine!

Spy thrillers are absolutely fascinating to me.

But when I watched the first episode of 24 this year, it made me tired. It felt like a manifesto for Bush’s international policies. Since about the last two years of Bush, I stopped reading most spy thrillers. This makes me sad, because I love them. Totally love them.

image I just fear the power of entertainment. How much did 24 influence American’s willingness to support torture? In this age of terrorism, we want superheroes; we want spies who are all-powerful and can get anything done at any cost. Look at Burn Notice and even Chuck. Spies can do anything in fiction.

Is something wrong with me? To enjoy something I don’t believe in, politically?

I’m at a weird place with spy fiction. I’ve lost the heart to read or write it, but I miss it. I love the stuff. But I feel like if I wrote it, I’d need to put a big political disclaimer at the beginning.

I got to thinking about all this because Barry Eisler’s Fault Line came out today! Yay! Finally! Maybe that’ll get me out of my funk. :-)

Do you ever enjoy the fiction of something you don’t believe in, in real life?

16 bonus scribbles:

Edie 3/10/2009 04:52:00 PM  

I watch NCIS, but I love it for the characters and all their quirks. But I don't watch 24, Burn Notice or Chuck, so I'm the wrong person to ask. And I never supported torture. There was never an accountability for what happened, and that's a crime.

To answer your question, I enjoyed the Sex and the City movie, and I don't believe in walking around in uncomforable shoes that cost upwards of $1000. But the characters had the same problems people I know have -- they were just dressed better.

Robin 3/10/2009 06:38:00 PM  

I'm really sick of 24, but I watch it because the boys enjoy it. I agree about the conservative politics. It's tiring. Plus, Jack has lost his personality. I find him sort of boring now.

Anonymous,  3/10/2009 06:59:00 PM  

I liked the Devil Wears Prada, but I found the whole fashion industry thing to be ridiculous. If someone spent every waking moment to design my jeans, I hope they made their money back when I bought them for $12 off the JC Penney's clearance rack.

Anonymous,  3/10/2009 08:19:00 PM  

I love Burn Notice. I think part of the appeal is that watching it feels like reading a spy novel because of the clever narration.

RE: "24." I don't believe in using torture in real life, but I'll admit to rooting for Jack Bauer when he (for example) tazers traitorous terrorists. Rather sick of me, I know.

Angie 3/11/2009 01:49:00 AM  

For me, the difference is that in fiction -- whether a book or movie or TV show or whatever -- the writer can set things up so that what the spy (or whoever) does is right. They never torture the wrong person, or blow up the elementary school by mistake, or find out after the fact that the guy they executed with a bullet in the brain actually didn't do what they were absolutely no-doubt-at-all sure he did. Unless they want to write a story about how that mistake affects the protag or something, which is a whole different kind of story. But if you're cheering for your Super Spy who goes around maiming and torturing and killing and leaving a swathe of destruction behind him three miles wide, you can kick back on your sofa with your popcorn, secure in the knowledge that everyone being done to deserves it.

Your super hero comparison is particularly apt, because traditional super hero stories are told for children, with simplistic storylines, black and white moral issues, and bright primary colors reflecting their shallow treatment of whatever plot they might be describing.

Mind you, I was a major super hero comic fan as a kid and young adult, and only cancelled my comic shop subscriptions when I lost my job and could no longer afford the $200+/month. And yes, there are plenty of independent comics out there (and were back when I was still buying regularly) which give a much deeper and more shaded treatment of their stories and characters and issues. But I was always aware that comics are not reality, and that their Quick-N-EZ solutions to whatever problems came up (usually by beating the crap out of them) don't necessarily work in the real world.

So I can enjoy watching Batman kick ass on the villain every month, without thinking that actual law enforcement officers should be able to do the same thing. Nor do I think that having actual costumed vigilantes running around kicking the crap out of anyone they think is a bad guy would be a positive addition to our society. I can enjoy watching Batman kick the crap out of people I know are bona fide villains while still getting really pissed off at police brutality, and at people in general who make snap judgements about how anyone the cops bother arresting is obviously guilty, because otherwise they wouldn't have been arrested, right? Because the cops know...? [eyeroll]

It's that clear division between fantasy and reality that lets us enjoy fiction about things we wouldn't tolerate in real life. I don't see any contradiction there, myself.


Pink Ink 3/11/2009 07:56:00 AM  

I don't watch Spy fiction, but if the show tends to get "political" I can see why that would pull you out of the story. Any fiction that allows me to escape has its place.

Charles Gramlich 3/11/2009 10:55:00 AM  

Unfortunately, TV and movies have a huge influence on people's thought patterns. I wish it wasn't true, but alas.

Charles Gramlich 3/11/2009 10:55:00 AM  

I've never seen an episode of 24

spyscribbler 3/11/2009 01:15:00 PM  

Edie, NCIS rocks. The characters are just amazing. I don't know how they did that so well! I love the characters in Chuck, too, which manages not to be goofy and not to take itself too seriously. Burn Notice isn't that political, either, but 24... Oh man!

Very good point about Sex and the City! I don't believe in wearing heels, period! LOL!

spyscribbler 3/11/2009 01:18:00 PM  

I couldn't agree more, Robin! With exactly everything you said, except I don't have to watch it with your boys, LOL! :-)

spyscribbler 3/11/2009 01:19:00 PM  

LOL, Marcia! I like fashion when it's an expression of self or an artistic expression, but dislike it when it becomes about keeping up with the Joneses and being "in" and stuff like that.

$12? Aw, man! I just spent $20 at Target!

spyscribbler 3/11/2009 01:20:00 PM  

You sick person, you, LOL! RJ, I LOVE Burn Notice. It's almost perfect, as spy shows go!

I used to root for Jack. I'm not sure what happened. :-)

spyscribbler 3/11/2009 01:23:00 PM  

Wow, Angie, that's is PERFECTLY it! We are secure in the knowledge that the wrong person is not tortured or blown up. That's exactly it!

You're right, there's no contradiction. I guess for me, I live in the fictional world more than the real one, LOL! So I get confused!

spyscribbler 3/11/2009 01:24:00 PM  

Jewel, lately, it seems all I want to do with fiction is escape. Especially in these troubled times!

spyscribbler 3/11/2009 01:25:00 PM  

Charles, you're right. It's a double-edged sword, depending on how that power is used.

24 was better a few seasons ago. It's actually pretty fun to make fun of it, so you might enjoy watching it and yelling at the TV.

Melanie Avila 3/11/2009 04:06:00 PM  

I'll side with the ladies who mentioned movies that focus on fashion. I like looking nice but I don't buy designer and couldn't care less about labels.

I think you need to pop in Spy Games or Alias to get over your spyish funk!