September 18, 2010

About A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange was, apparently, grossly misinterpreted. Some people took it to be a celebration of Alex, but Kubrick thought that he was obviously despicable. Taken in light of the fact that you aren't supposed to like Alex, and that he's obviously a fucker throughout the show, the final scene takes on a certain significance. Kubrick says to his audience "you can sympathize with this person." This fact, whether it's exhilarating, is disturbing.

In Dexter, I wonder whether there is enough self-consciousness that it can justify portraying a serial killer. The task of making a serial killer likable isn't a significant one. There's no trick to making a terrible person likable, at least not if you give them some time on the voice-over narration. Witness terrible teen shows if you need proof of that. With Dexter, it isn't even clear whether the serial killer should be disturbing.

Perhaps this is why it's groundbreaking, or cutting edge, or what-have-you. But I don't think there's anything great about making the worst about us seem likable. What's great is to demonstrate that the fact that the worst about us can seem likable should be shocking.

6 Comments:

Blogger Tony Gonzalez said...

I'm reading Lolita these days and struggling to not love Humbert (his writing, him).

September 18, 2010 at 1:57 PM 
Blogger goat said...

I think there is a bit of struggling not to like Humbert. (Is that hum-bayr' or hum'-bert?)

September 18, 2010 at 2:33 PM 
Blogger goat said...

But what's not to like about Humbert? I think that the end of the first book more or less establishes Humbert as a villain.

September 19, 2010 at 3:59 AM 
Blogger StewieChris said...

Just started reading Lolita myself, incidentally.

Remember in grade school when we were told that "protagonist" meant "the good guy"? It's inaccurate, sure, but we never shake that concept. Even with an unlikable villain, by telling the story from his perspective, letting him explain himself in his own terms, we understand him better. The leap from disgust to understanding is a big one, but moving from understanding to liking feels the most natural thing in the world.

There are always perspectives competing for your approval in any story--the protagonist's, the villains, the author's. The trick is to remember that these are merely perspectives, and that there is usually something else going on.

September 21, 2010 at 10:55 PM 
Blogger Mark Porter Perkins said...

I started to write a response that got quickly out of hand, so I blogged about it instead.

September 23, 2010 at 3:05 AM 
Blogger Daniel Silliman said...

David Schmitt, an expert on serial killers in American culture, says Dexter's just the logical extension: serial killers have, for a while now, been good ol' Americana.

We like our transgressives. They're warm and cuddly.

If you wanted to do serial killer that gave us the vicarious thrill serial killers do but then also made us think, whoa, we are bad people, I think the killer would have to be an out and out racist.

He could be a police lab assistant by day and then, at night, go out and kill blacks and Mexicans like a one-man klan (another of our evils, which, if you think about it, has been made all funny and hokey).

September 23, 2010 at 2:30 PM 

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