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October 1994


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 20 Oct 1994 11:38:31 -0600
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Kevin writes:
"Also, even when there seems to be only "shock value" at stake, isn't there
always necessarily something more going on?? That is, aren't there
necessarily additional "implications" at stake when one finds something
"shocking" (e.g., there must be powerful social boundaries being
transgressed or negotiated, powerful social meanings at stake, etc.--and how
could that be considered insignificant?)"
I'd agree absolutely. (I have to, as a devotee of Thomas Pynchon). But
there's a difference between "implications" that are a fruitful part of
the overall structure of the work in question and those that are a result
of the social/ideological context that is articulated within the work (not
that you can always--or even often--separate the two easily).
As a case in point, X-FILES is often compared to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, yet the
two shows deal with the fantastic and paranormal in rather different ways,
the most obvious being Serling's sometimes heavy-handed moralizing. I think,
though, that for younger viewers of my generation, that moralizing made all
the differences. One fabled episode that we discussed on the grade school
playground was the one where astronauts are abducted and put into what is
finally revealed to be an alien zoo. As facile as the story is, I think it
raised issues about difference and Otherness that could only be read in
the context of the conformity of the 1950s and perhaps the civil rights
movement. I know that it made me think about what it meant to be an Other--
to be viewed, separated and categorized as something and not somebody.
On the other hand, what does a mutated parasite in the sewers of New York say
that isn't said by the urban legend of giant albino alligators and nuclear
fears expressed in GODZILLA and so on? It's simply there. Pynchon mocked
and made use of such folkore in his novels, but I don't see X-FILES *going*
anywhere with this, beyond getting us to distrust the government.
Paranoia can be a spur to action, but taken on its own, it simply leads to
paralysis (that's another lesson from Pynchon).
So enjoy THE X-FILES for whatever reason, if you will, but for a "progressive"
view of the kinds of issues you see at work, I'll stick with the various
STAR TRECK spinoffs, which throw in a little shock from time to time but
always in the context of larger questions (again, as juvenile as its expression
may sometimes--but not often--be).
Live long and prosper,
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN
Neither a Trekker nor a Trekkie, but a fan of good tv :->