Well, I finished watching "Ashes to Ashes" and to my disappointment it was neither as awful as it could have been nor as good as it could have been. But it ultimately did set itself forth as a shining example of the cultural limbo, Jaron Lanier describes in his book "You are Not a Gadget".
Basically the show ended it's argument that it is a depiction of limbo for cops. And Gene Hunt is some saintly being barely past adolescence who is charged with herding souls to the afterlife.
I don't where we, wee regular folks get sent to after we die but it sure isn't Hunt's delusion. The show never answered that because it has this weird, fascistic fascination with yes and no, black and white, right and wrong, and might makes right. Except when the creators need to let the lines blur as they do with the character of Gene Hunt. Who in the course of both series "Life On Mars" and "Ashes to Ashes" was anything but a worthy soul, much less someone who could take care of other souls. But I guess he was filled with the POWER OF LOVE! Just like Harry Potter in a way, so that anything he does...any reprehensible act, like say torture (which both Potter and Hunt commit in their worlds) is ultimately a show of good character. They are chosen no matter what they do. So Potter can defeat the Dark Lord and Hunt can beat up the Devil.
When I stated in my last look at the show that it was not an example of the 80's still stands. The 80's, like the 70's, are just there because they are more interesting. The cultural icons that the show lacked were packed into the last episode, but not in a way that celebrated their place in the cultural past. They were used in such a fashion that mocked them, that denuded them of their place in history. They were not acknowledged as examples of a once vibrant and a little more innocent culture. Lazily, everyone involved in the show can claim it wasn't about the 80's. None of it matters.
And that is right, nothing matters in this show. Nothing was real. There was no journey made by any of the characters. They didn't need to grow. They only had to realize that they were dead. There was some mumbo jumbo about working out past personal issues but that is a load of hogwash. If the person realizes they are dead before they work past these personal "issues", they move on regardless. So it is all meaningless. Which is why the subplot of Alex Drake fighting to get back to her daughter was so callously thrown out the window. It didn't fit the life denying impulse that the creators wanted to cynically push down everyone's gullets. The creators threw Drake and Tyler out with the bathwater to sanctify Gene Hunt. End of.
Because the story of a woman who learned personal lessons, comes back from the brink to her child a renewed person, is so passe. It would be, so embarrassingly 80's.
The show even drops the ball on the most fascinating element of this limbo construction. I thought the character of Jim Keats, was a kind of Devil's Advocate. A being that would present arguments against a person up for sainthood. I thought it was a stroke of near genius that this character was in the equivalent of our police department's Internal Affairs and that he was investigating Hunt to prove/disprove that he deserved his place. But the creator's didn't have the maturity to fly with this story. Keats does prove that Hunt was unfit as a soul herder. Hunt chose to forget himself and allow his fellow beings in limbo to remain in limbo for strictly selfish reasons. But there are no consequences to these actions. Because they just wiped it all away with the explanation that Keats was PURE EVIL. So nothing he discovered and showed to the residents of Hunt's world mattered. He wasn't a character, he wasn't even the devil...Keats was just one big plot mcguffin. He was whatever the creators needed him to be to push this mess of a show forward.
But now back to Lanier, his book "You Are Not A Gadget" and how it relates to this show.
Lanier states in his book that our culture is a culture of no culture now. We are effectively in cultural limbo. And this started around the mid to late 1990's with the advent of computer usage. Far from setting us free, the internet has flattened us. It has taken out the meaning in our touchstones and it can't give new ones in their places. Lanier's argument is that since the net has taken our culture, denuded it with open source witch brew, all we are left with is stealing ideas from our more vibrant past. He asked his readers to really think about the difference between the music from 2000 and 2010 just like we can of say 1970 and 1980. It is almost impossible to do. Because there are practically no differences. Most of it is rehashed ideas stolen from the 60's, 70's, 80's and perhaps the early 90's. It isn't only music that suffers from this limbo. Our TV shows and films are stuck in a loop, reiterating our past. Because we have no ideas now and if we do, they can't germinate because the open source net immediately denudes them of meaning and subjects them to remash pap.
"Ashes to Ashes" is one of the signs of our no culture culture. There is no NOW that could have been used for a limbo. So it must pretend to be an 80's tribute to glean any hint of meaning, history and cultural importance in it's story. It uses the 80's as a figleaf to cover up the fact that none of it's stories or characters matter. It is cynically using our own collective memories of the 1980's to imbue it's empty show with any semblance of life.
Because Gene Hunt is a figment, he is a nothing. The only "Life on Mars" was Bowie's poor song remashed into an empty figure of a character.
Labels: culture, reviews, television