Saturday, March 22, 2008

I feel bad that I prefer Dexter

Sara over at Orcinius has a marvellous post that makes me almost miss regular TV and its pieties. Did you know that Canadian TV has a new series called "Little Mosque on the Prarie?" OK, don't bother to read anything else I write here because I'm an addict. Just click on the link and watch the first episode. She argues convincingly that popular TV and popular culture generally has an important creative role to play in enabling disparate communities to imagine their commonalities and to transcend even age old divisions. Her example is one an extremely popular greek version of Bridget Loves Bernie, or Bridget Loves Bernie before the marriage and with knives:

The Borders of Love was a Romeo-and-Juliet tale of Nazli, a beautiful young Turkish woman, who falls in love with Niko, a dashing Greek man. ..

Nazli's part of the story was scripted in Turkish, with Greek subtitles supplied. Niko's friends and family all spoke Greek, with Turkish subtitles supplied. And the show was shown -- and became a massive hit -- in both countries. Young Greek men snapped up posters of the elegant Nazli; Turkish girls swooned over handsome Niko.

But the show caused a shift that went much deeper than that. As Greeks and Turks found themselves rooting for the young couple to make it through (which they did: their wedding show was a landmark TV event on both sides of the Bosporus), many of them began to question the thousands of years of mutual animosity that, in most cases, had become nothing more than a reflexive habit. People from both countries began seeking each other out and having civil conversations (often with their fondness for the show as the opening piece of common ground). New trade initiatives were launched; the amount of business between the two countries soared. Greeks and Turks on the street realized they had more in common than baklava and belly dancing; that, as neighbors, they were stuck with each other -- and that might not, in the end, be an awful thing. If Nazli and Niko could make it work in the face of their crazy families, they decided, maybe the rest of them could give it a try, too.

I think what is so shocking about Obama's speech to the far right is the way it asks us to transcend racial division culturally, socially, and politically through a recognition that its already happened biologically and historically anyway. What is that speech but the speech of Niko and Nazli's kid? But its received pettishly and fearfully by the right wing because without ressentiment they've pretty much got nothing. Look at Peggy Noonan's response to it. (Oh, come on! Click the link! Do you really think I'd send you to the WSJ? Of course I linked to Roy's brilliant "Pros before Hos" post on la Noonan' "rancid racial gambit"). But all joking aside I think what strikes me as so sad about all the Peggy Noonan "they forced busing on us" crap is how our real commonalities and histories are obscured while our frightening social differences and struggles are heightened--and in whose interest? As Doghouse Riley said of the anti busing white flight crowd (or the Louise Day Hicks memorial citizen's civility corps):(over at Bats Left, Throws Right):

They want to feel safe, they want to feel their children are safe, they want them to receive a quality education. These things are understandable. What isn't is why they'd just as soon Those Others die poor, and stupid, and somewhere else.

Can great, sympathetic, comedy TV help us overcome this faux racial memory of white oppression? Sigh. Probably not. And that's why I'm still watching Dexter. Because I'm way more likely to need to feel sympathetic to a serial killer than to the other raced guy sitting next to me on the subway. Certainly in Bush's world the numbers are on the serial killer's side.