Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Corruption and Television

Recently I finished watching the final episode of the television series "Damages" on FX. The show is about a ruthless attorney played by Glenn Close who is going after a billionaire played by Ted Danson that bankrupted his company yet escaped with his wealth through well timed stock sales.

FX has a number of good shows; they have "Dirt" starring Courtney Cox, "The Shield", "Nip / Tuck", "Rescue Me" and "The Riches". The unique hook for Damages was that you saw glimpses or flashes of what was going to happen in future episodes; then you had to watch the show to figure out how it happened. These FX shows aren't subject to broadcast standards since they are on cable; they often are far racier and dirtier than you'd ever see on regular TV.

If for some reason you are watching the series and haven't gotten to the end stop reading here (spoiler alert) - but that probably isn't very many of you because the series was poorly rated. The point of this post isn't the series, however - the point is that the world-view of this show is extremely dark and warped, yet typical of Hollywood.

At the end of the first season I counted through all of the institutions and individuals that were portrayed as thoroughly corrupt. They include:
  • Business - since Frobisher represents the businessman, by Hollywood standards it is a foregone conclusion that he is a complete scumbag without a scrap of humanity. He loots his company, abandons his long-time employees, orders people murdered with impunity, and buys off every institution in his path. His only fault that he admits to his son is "putting too much trust in people"
  • Legal (prosecutor) - Glenn Close's attorney character is completely without morals. She hires killers, attempts to murder her own employees, blackmails the opposition, lies continuously, and ultimately "renigs" on the legal settlement central to the case
  • Police - the hired killers from Frobisher turn out, of course, to be the police. They murder in cold blood without a shred of guilt and clean up the crime scene through other corrupt leads to cover their tracks
  • District Attorney - the district attorney is corrupt; he drops charges in exchange for information that could increase his odds of getting re-elected
  • Government / SEC - the SEC executive tips off Frobisher in time so that he can sell his stock for a huge gain; then he sabotages the investigation to get him off
  • Attorney (defense) - the defense attorney sometimes appears to be a redeemable human but then tells hired killers where the "loose end" witness lives (whom he secretly loves) so that he can be executed. He later kills himself
  • Jury - Frobisher buys off the lead plaintiff in the case who in turn feeds him critical information; in the end the juror shoots Frobisher in the gut and leaves him to die when he is cut out of the settlement
  • Witness - two of the witnesses lie and are bought off by Frobisher; it is a given that everyone testifying is on someone's payroll
The only individuals that remotely aren't played as corrupt is the boyfriend of the lead attorney character; he is a doctor who tries to extract her from Glenn Close's firm. He is killed and strangled in cold blood for his efforts.

By the time the series is done virtually every character has been murdered or at least had someone try to kill them. All this in 13 episodes and the pilot.

What is interesting to me is that this is apparently art in Hollywood; the assumption that EVERY SINGLE INSTITUTION is rotten to the core just goes without saying. Likely this is their backstabbing world of agents, movie stars and producers; but thank God not every institution thinks this way or we wouldn't be in the United States, we would be in Russia.

I realize that this seems odd coming from someone in Chicago where we are famous for corruption; but I can't believe that every institution is completely rotten to the core.

What a horrible world-view someone must have to think up all these episodes this way.


gerry from valpo said...

We have met the enemy and he is us - Walt Kelly

Jonathan said...

I think that this kind of cynicism, which is relentless in Hollywood plots, is very bad for people in the long run. It's just unreal. The world doesn't work that way, and pretending that it does doesn't help people who don't know better. (Even if you know better it's difficult to fight the distortions if you're immersed in them. Look at how many people still think, based on MSM reports, that Iraq is a lost cause.) And the political correctness of many of these shows makes it all worse. If you got all of your information about the world from TV you might think that:

-Middle-aged white businessmen are more likely than anyone else to be criminals.

-Businesspeople will generally cheat their customers if they think they can get away with it.

-Most judges, surgeons, high military officers and other authority figures are black.

-The person who, by virtue of bad character, looks most likely to have done it, didn't do it. Personal character is meaningless.

-Wars get started because of misunderstandings. The people whose business it is to understand war don't understand it as well as journalists and actors who don't know any history. Except that some wars get started by warmongers. But there are only warmongers on our side.

-Young people are smarter than older people.

-Show business is a noble calling. Actors and artists have much to teach the world.

-Ditto journalism.

-Ditto politics.

-If a Hollywood character doesn't understand some event, the most likely explanation is not that the character is ignorant or is overlooking something, it is that some vast conspiracy is preventing the truth from coming out.


Carl from Chicago said...

That is an excellent summary