Want to piss off the left? Everybody watch every single episode of the new ABC mini-series “V.” Drive the ratings through the roof. Make the show the hottest cultural happening since Seinfeld. Copy the hairstyles. Ape the fashion. Start bidding up the action dolls on Ebay.
And most especially, actually tell people you believe that this is a show about Obama and the left. It isn’t, but if you want the liberals to poop in their pants, say you think it is.
I find it not a little ironic that Jonathan Chait would see a “Tea Party Worldview” in a show that is such a hammer over the head metaphor for fascism. That’s because in the universe created for “V,” the birthers are right, the paranoid loons who believe Obama is a Muslim terrorist have a point, and there really are Haliburton built concentration camps in Utah.
Except the plot line follows fairly closely the original “V” which aired before many tea partyers were even born. This makes any overt connection to Obama problematic, although the writers manage to stick it to the president on at least one occasion when “national health care” is mentioned to describe the Visitors plans to help humanity.
The political drama of the original was replaced by a ham-handed metaphor for President Obama. The visitors are young, charismatic, futuristic, and have a one-worldish vision of peace. They target the young by enticing them to join an idealistic (but, in reality, sinister) youth group. A few perceptive humans warn of the dangers of hopping on the bandwagon before we know what the bandwagon is really about. The alien leader, Ana, promises to use futuristic technology to heal humans. “You mean universal health care!” gapes a reporter, who, naturally, has been co-opted by the aliens. Anna soothes skeptics by declaring that accepting change can be difficult. A small band of human resistors forms. The lead character is skeptical–what proof do you have she asks, besides some scary thing “you read on the internet.” But the seemingly hysterical message from the internet is true! The charismatic new leader is masking her true identity! The death panels are real! Etc., etc.
The real irony passes so far over Chait’s head it doesn’t even muss his hair. The fact is, the “resistors” are paranoid. That’s because at first, there is no proof that the aliens are anything other than benevolent souls who only want to help. It is not until the true reptilian nature of the Visitors is revealed to one of the main characters, FBI Agent Erica Evans (played by the ravishing MILF Elizabeth Mitchell) that the “paranoid” conspiracy nuts are proved correct.
Now this might be considered something of a birther fantasy come true - except the show has been in the works since 2007, according to executive producer Scott Peters:
Others on both sides of the political spectrum may point to the visitors’ explicit promises of hope, change and universal health care as a pointed reference to pledges of the Obama administration. But [Executive Producer Scott] Peters says the show has been in the works since 2007. Reality was “never really a factor,” he says. “There’s no political message being shoved down anyone’s throat.”
Could it be that the outward, and unintentional parallels with Obamamania is discomfiting some on the left because the parallels to Hitler’s Germany - so obvious, so easily seen - hold implications for the ease with which many of them succumbed to the siren song being sung by the president? Not that Obama is a fascist in any way, but is Chait really upset because he and his fellow leftists might, under other circumstances and with another candidate less dedicated to constitutional order, have fallen into supporting a real fascist?
It would upset me if I suddenly realized my susceptibility to abandoning critical thinking and embracing an undemocratic leader. All that is missing from Obamamania for it to have become an American nightmare was a candidate willing to take the cult of personality he created and turn it into something that perverts democracy. The same can be said for some other political leaders in America (one - Huey Long - may have actually harbored such un-American notions).
But in Obama’s case, the ability to manipulate the media (not to mention the open cheerleading for the candidate during the race), more money than God, and the extra added bonus of being able to stifle criticism by playing the race card at the drop of a hat all combined to create an extraordinarily incendiary mixture that a man with more authoritarian appetites than our president might have been tempted to use to the detriment of democracy.
Thankfully, Barack Obama is not such a man. Sure, he tries to stifle dissent. What modern president hasn’t? Clinton blaming conservative talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing and Karl Rove calling war protestors “unpatriotic” are just two examples of how the presidency has evolved to control the opposition by marginalizing resisters. It didn’t work any better than Obama’s efforts to shush Fox News so perhaps we can be grateful that even with their enormous power, presidents have to put up with criticism despite their best efforts to silence it.
In the case of “V,” one wonders if the unintentional parallels to Obamania will actually force script changes down the road. That’s because ABC has decided to air only 4 episodes this month, and then send the series off to hiatus until the spring. Already, there are signs that someone is not happy with the finished product.
Naturally, when a show debuts to huge ratings and mostly great reviews, the producer’s career is golden. Not this time. Apparently the network who gave Obama an infomercial and refuses to release the “Path to 9/11? DVD decided to replace the show runner Scott Peters before the pilot even aired. In fact, ABC hosted a big visit by press people last Monday, but Peters was notably absent. Exec producer Steve Pearlman spoke with the reporters.
Peters has been demoted to exec producer, a largely honorary title and has been replaced by former “The Shield” and “Chuck” alum Scott Rosenbaum.
Was this a case of ABC purging a political dissident from the show to make it more politically subservient? ABC has been very pro-Obama. And while the president’s name is never mentioned once in the show, there’s little doubt what they’re getting at. Critics of the “V” aliens are shown to be viewed as wackos and fringe people, the same way the MSM likes to portray ordinary Americans who don’t drink the kOOl-aid. Journalists who question the motives of the V are treated like they’re “not real news”. Wink!
My understanding is that such a change is not uncommon in the industry once a series goes on the air. Still, one wonders if the writing will take a different turn for future episodes given the jawboning on the left about parallels to Obamanania.
Yes, there are superficial similarities with Obama, but perhaps because I loved the original mini-series so much (both parts), I was more focused on how closely this incarnation of the story reflected back to the 1983 version. From what I’ve seen so far, the biggest change is the strong female characters compared to the original. Elizabeth Mitchell plays one tough cookie. She is also a single mom raising a problem teenager. The alien leader, Anna, is cool, gorgeous, scary smart, and so self possessed that any male I know would fight for the chance to ask her out for coffee.
There’s also an interesting religious angle with a Catholic priest questioning his faith with the arrival of beings from another world who never heard of Jesus, and who appear to be the real “saviors” of man. I hope they develop this a little more because it certainly would be one of the major implications for humankind if it was ever discovered that an alien civilization existed.
The special effects are a lot less cheesy, the revelation that the “Visitors” who look gorgeous in their human costumes are actually dragons isn’t handled half as well, and there is less big hair and more pixie styles among the women. (Being a big hair lover, I found this disappointing). The way we discovered the Visitors were aliens in the original was when the female co-leader Diana was seen by newsman Marc Sanger who had snuck aboard the Mothership, devouring a hamster whole. Now that was great television.
The 1983 series had “scientists” who were the persecuted minority - stand ins for the Jews. Given references to the internet already, might bloggers be targets in the remake? I’m with Chait who doubts whether scientists will be the imagined “enemies” of the Visitors. I also doubt that the fifth columnists will all be filthy rich, having been promised fabulous wealth by the Visitors if they cooperate. The great columnist Dorothy Thompson once wrote a piece on “Who would go Nazi?” if fascism ever came to America. Most of her choices were Republicans. I wonder if the new series will try and advance that same meme?
Overall, I’d give the production a B+ for it’s faithfulness to the original (so far) and a B- for political content. The have yet to really get into the fascist parallels that made the original so compelling. That grade may change as the story is fleshed out more in the coming weeks.
But if you want to enjoy the show, I suggest not trying to see Obama criticism or tea party worldview validation in every scene. It’s not there, and it will take away from immersing yourself in what promises to be a good story with lots of action.