Swingtown, Dexter & The Sopranos - Questioning Absolute Truths

July 01, 2008
Deepti Lamba

There are no absolute truths in life; when shades of Gray are delved into, some are accepted and some are denied fervently. The relativity of absolutes are tested time and again. Whether it be by books such as Dostoevsky's Crime And Punishment or Anne Rice's Vampire Series or television shows such as Dexter or The Sopranos.

Dexter.jpgProtests were made by those who cannot fathom why we are supposed to identify with psychopaths like Dexter, or Tony and his gang and Anne Rice's books considered to be against Christianity for identifying with demonic forces.

Dexter kills but only those who he sees as evil, Tony likes children and animals yet our value system demands that we condemn them as heinous human beings and Lestat loves those whose blood sustains him.

Dexter can be seen as a superhero who kills the villains instead of handing them over to the cops and Tony Soprano just a New Jersey mobster to be taken down but not someone totally evil and likewise Lestat and his ilk feed on the dregs of society.TONY_narrowweb__300x430%2C0.jpg

That's how they would want us to perceive them since that is how they justify their own evilness to themselves. And like wise due to our love for them we try to find innate goodness in souls twisted with perversion and evil desires.

The envelope is pushed even further when we don't want them to be caught by the good guys. We don't want Lestat to be staked or Dexter or Tony to face the chair. Why?

Evil deserves to be eradicated and righteousness demands the right to surmount. That's the mantra we all grew up with. The meek shall inherit the earth but as sinners is it possible that we tend to understand the motives of other sinners and at least in the fictional world want them to have the last laugh?400_swingtown_080414_cbs_amacpherson.jpg

Another show that has the morale brigade up in arms is a new CBS show called Swingtown. Its more like an adult version of That 70's show where the old and new world collide. Though the storyline of Swingtown centers more or less around the burgeoning sexuality of a teenager and her mother, it also tests our own levels of social acceptance.

Most of us consider swingers to be weirdos but when a perfectly happy couple decide to sleep with another couple not only do we, as viewers, find ourselves grappling with our perception of right and wrong but reflect upon the insecurities of the characters themselves who otherwise had led conservative lives in the past.

The couple who continue to lead a normal life seem boring and stodgy whereas the ones willing to move with the trends of the time hip and daring.

While there is more to Swingtown than I'm discussing here, what got me thinking was the deliberate manipulation on the part of the script writers to make the regular couple seem mundane. Similarly in Dexter and The Soprano the scriptwriters made the cops ineffectual and the bad guys devious, charismatic and intriguing.

That, in my mind, is the crux of the matter just like in SpiderMan 3 where Peter under the influence of evil becomes cool, confident and oozing with sex appeal.

We are made to think that heaven is boring and hell is entertaining, that regular Superheroes like Superman are simplistic whereas dark heroes like Batman, Hellboy, Hulk or even Iron Man are far more interesting. Where simple living and being content is not interest worthy but a spicier, adventuress living for the moment, economically prosperous life is more pleasing.

Does media then have some sort of an unconscious effect on our psyche? Where we may find ourselves accepting more than just some liberal change in social norms such as swingers and take it to a higher level where we empathize with certain kinds of psychopaths if they are packaged and marketed just right?

Tales of suave criminals such as Charles Sobraj abound and titillate the public . People fall in love with murderers and marry them and there are times when crimes of passion intrigue the masses and fiction then replicates reality as it happened with the Nanavati Case back in the fifties. We tend to think we are saner than these people who find glamor in lives of criminals but then in the fictional world find ourselves seduced by evil or it that we find our own innate darkness reflected in their deeds?

Deepti Lamba is a writer, an editor for Desicritics. She can be found at Things That Bang
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July 2, 2008
12:28 PM

nice one dee:

fantasy, titillation, intrigue, curiosity, glamour all play some part

how much is really absorbed by the viewer? am not sure

Deepti Lamba
July 3, 2008
01:12 AM

T, I hope they treat it as pure entertainment and leave it at that. Thanks for reading;)

Deepa Krishnan
July 3, 2008
07:33 AM

I liked this one, Dee. Good boys get PhDs, but bad boys get laid.

Deepti Lamba
July 3, 2008
01:58 PM

Thanks Deepa, and yet happily ever afters are delivered only by the 'run of the mill' kind of guys;)

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