Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fictional drug smugglers usually evil. Odd, considering who creates them

Have been watching the latest Rebecca Gibney mystery-thriller called Winter. Actually enjoying it quite a bit. I love this kind of TV show, and not just because of the whodunnit aspect. Being a fusty old conservative the moral polarization appeals to me. While the good guys are far from perfect, they are very clearly on the right side of the conflict. And the bad guys -- be they serial killing psychos, ruthless terrorists or other sinister subspecies of low-life -- are most definitely bad. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer that kind of clarity to the moral equivalence and ambiguity you see in so many edgy, hip productions in other genres. 

In Winter, as in many similar shows, the bad guys masterminding the murderous mayhem are making squillions out of the illicit drug trade, among other things. Without a doubt drug smuggling is one of the unequivocally evil occupations in this genre. If you're a drug king pin, well, you're the scum de la scum of society. And if you're one of his goons or salespeople you're not quite that bad, but you're still seen as an irredeemable waste of skin.

Given the pervasiveness of this televisual stereotype it seems quite odd that so many arty wankers in the industry are outraged over the impending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

You've got to ask: If they don't think smuggling drugs is such an evil thing, then why do they participate in productions that invoke that perception, and very strongly? So strongly, in fact, that in many cases murder is often seen as completely justified, with the hero or heroine ultimately sending the villain to hellfire and damnation in a hail of bullets!

This contradiction doesn't apply so much to actors, of course. Evil characters can be the most memorable and fun to perform, after all. And the surest way to a crap performance is to telegraph your personal judgement of the character as you play him. But scriptwriters, producers, directors and the like must be quite conflicted over this issue, surely. They tell stories, and stories make statements -- even if they're in genres not seen as primarily political.

If they think drug traffickers are not the apotheosis of evil, then why do they keep presenting them in this way? They couldn't be working only for the money, surely! Or maybe their near unanimous condemnation of Indonesia's punishment of drug traffickers is not as sincere as it is presented to be ...

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