Lockdown stopped some series short, delayed premieres and served to make sure that not a single channel was left without their videoconference series. Almost all of them were vile. In Netflix’s Home made, out of ten shorts, only a couple managed not to fall into the emptiest pretentiousness and only Larrain -who gave us on Amazon Prime this summer’s only joy– indicated the resources of a professional narrator. Of all the zoom and hangout displays that appeared on the world’s public televisions during the second quarter of the year, only Staged, a show by David Tennant and Michael Sheen, managed to be entertaining.
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In the following months, the release from lockdowns did not exactly result in an outburst of new metaphors or stories either. It seems that the closest thing to an approach to pandemic fixations the producers of the large American chains have felt capable of has been… to prepare for October aNorth American remake of the British Utopia taking advantage of the conspiracist tidal wave. Pitiful. The only notable resistance to the discourse of the identitarian left: Kevin Costner in the last season of Yellowstone. Not too encouraging either. The message: Indians and Anglo-Saxons, whites and blacks, chiefs and ranchers, we are all indians now in the face of economic forces -the capricious financial bourgeoisie of New York- who want to destroy the old and sacrosanct ways of life of the old families owning souls and estates. Terrific.
And it’ s not like the first releases of the fall are too great either. Prime, HBO and Netflix had already prepared a new wave of series very much oriented to their audience in the United States and with the prospect of the November elections. The menu could be summarized in the formula identitarianism with everything from the corniestreality show to horror and tribute to Lovecraft if needed. It didn’t offer very optimistic forecasts either.
And then came the science fiction series that had been popping up in all the previews as the next big thing.
The return of Ridley Scott
Raised by wolves is a pastiche. The first loan, the one with the most potential, is taken from Voyage from Yesteryear: IAs restarting civilization on an empty planet by carrying human embryos. This time, however, they will not build communism. Quite the opposite. Never before have androids been so obsessed with instilling the sacrosanct character of private property. The objective from the beginning is different: to bring forward a messianic perspective. The reference then becomes The Homeconing Saga by Orson Scott Card. But neither do they know how to take advantage of it. The first impression is that the scriptwriters are not as familiar with soteriologic mythology as the Mormon writer and their lack of knowledge leads them to miss the point and jump more sharks than Sharknado’s characters.
Actually, Scott and his team want to talk to us about something else: how to renew the political system of a fractured United States. We know from the first moments that Humanity has destroyed the Earth and all that is left of it has migrated to the same planet. Up to this point, the metaphor could be talking about Venezuelan emigration in Madrid or the arrival of vacationers to the coastal towns on vacation for all we know. But we learn that until the very moment of the disaster, the United States (is there any other place in the whole world?) was experiencing a civil war between mithraics and atheists. And we discover in the second chapter that there is a Mithraic prophecy speaking of an orphaned child on a new planet who will unveil the secrets and reunite society and who, oh coincidence, could be the main character. For the third installment, the screenwriters already got him five little friends, each one in the canon of an American racial category, with a comically overdone apostle-like face. And in case we don’t get the clues, he reminds us that the number five is the most important for atheists.
If we ever doubted that this could lead to a sustainable messianic solution before November, the main Mithraic character turns out not to be a real Mithraic, but an atheist who managed to save himself and his partner by undergoing surgery to become the double of a Mithraic captain who totally looks like Ragnar Logbrok, with a guaranteed place on one of the three ships destined to save the religious elite. More coincidentally, the captain and his partner turned out to be the parents of one of the five children, and both Ragnar and his partner develop a sudden parental instinct when they meet him on the ship. In other words, the Mithraics are corrupt, prayerful, sexist, inefficient, owners of more advanced technologies, and win over atheists. Something suspiciously similar to Trumpism seen from Hollywood. But we have one hope left because everything points to the fact that they will end up having an atheist boss at heart. On the other hand, the child protagonist, raised in the militant and not very tolerant android atheism, he throws a few prayers every time he can. In short… the usual Protestant themes: fate and religious faith as a universal human instinct.
Is there hope in literature?
Of all artistic forms, the audiovisual one is the most industrial and therefore the most aligned not only with the values of the ruling class, but globally with the trends and power groups within it. When an episode of a normal international series comes with a budget of fifty million euros it is obvious that in order to have creative freedom, the predictable results of such freedom must first coincide with the worldview of a producer and investment funds from which no antagonism to the principles of the system can be expected. This is what makes the audiovisual industry the best barometer of ideology and its trends. But by the same token, the audiovisual form is also the most limited, the most Anglo-centric and generally the least sensitive to changes in the social base.
While television networks and cinemas offered little and of the same thing, bookstores allowed a glimpse of what was happening outside the ruling classes.
First call of attention: The Lying Life of Adults. The latest novel by Elena Ferrante, the Neapolitan author adored by European and American critics, is actually a youthful novel, a hero’s journey, whose point of arrival is that moment when the character discovers that she belongs to a class. It doesn’t matter if it is the petty bourgeoisie, it doesn’t matter if it takes place within the framework of a family ostracism… the news is that the reality of a society divided into classes returns to the story. For that alone, this story – and its success – is significant today.
And for the same reason The last romantics by Txani Rodríguez is even more significant. A novel to which something similar to what happened to Patria in its day is happening: without having received any hype or affection from the publishing house, it has been growing over a rumor of recommendations and followers.
The Last Romantics is also an initiatic novel. It speaks of the self-discovery of the main character, a shy and nerdy working woman, through the relationships she establishes while on strike at her workplace. Rodríguez, who grew up in the Llodio of the great strikes within a working family, thus provides a beautiful answer to Ferrante: what opens the way to adulthood is not knowing where you are in the world, it is facing it collectively. Knowledge and self-knowledge are not individual products nor are they born from any essence. Consciousness is not identity.
One more detail about the book: although the plot develops in a contemporary world, between cell phones and tablets, the environment described in the book has a 70s patina. It is as if the author wanted to connect the present with the impetus of the workers’ struggles of her childhood in Llodio and bring the air of that time to the story. Failed or desired, the temporal bridge is part of the message. And it is no less important than its core. Especially in a moment like this one.