Where am I?
Yes, as Faithful Readers have observed, it’s been an interesting weekend. Friday saw me encounter a number of delays that bled into Saturday. Happily, I’m back on track.
One thing I’ve spoken and thought about is the concept of ‘curses,’ since both of the show’s protagonists follow similar paths. The viewer knows knows more about them than the people who lay the curses. In both stories, the occult practitioners regret the curses and try to lift them, once they have greater knowledge and insight. They felt that expectations hadn’t been met, and decided to take matters into their own hands.
There has got to be a reason why the writers returned to that well… and why they went to it in the first place. Certainly, the Vietnam era inspired a lot of people with strong feelings (justified or not) on the abuse of power. But there’s also the issue of victimhood.
The word ‘victim’ has become a touchy one in today’s culture. On one hand, we fret about who (or what) might be victimized by our actions. Just look at the concerns of environmentalists. On the other hand, we’re taught to never play the victim, fall into the trap of thinking of ourselves as victims, hamstring ourselves with a “cult of victimhood,” and so on. Basically, it’s okay for everyone else to be a victim. However, we can’t be one, because we’ve somehow lose responsibility or power that way.
It doesn’t take a logician to see the contradiction, here. Either people get abused (and become victims) or no one can. The latter is nonsense. We wouldn’t have a legal system if the latter were the case.
Men-as-victims is a very radical notion. Especially when it’s not done in a drum circle with Iron John being read aloud. Maybe the show fell into that because they happened to introduce scary, male antagonists that they later decided to humanize. But it’s there, anyway. How can such a radical concept be appealing? I think people of either gender feel victimized at one point or another, and the most perplexing of these situations is not when you face an out-and-out bully. It’s when the other person really thinks they have a point. That’s rich soil for telling a very human story with which everyone can identify.
Delving into gender for a moment, I suspect that seeing these men suffering the wrath of the Angeliques and Magdas triggers either maternal/fraternal instincts. In many who’d swoon, there might be the thought of, “I’m the one who’d understand.”
I think the show remains a safe place to say that, yes, we do get victimized from time-to-time. It is a soap, after all. The ‘opera’ in the show comes from the fact that these immortal men can suffer on a far more epic scale than others.
Both Angelique and Magda realize that they were in error and are unable to undo their harm.
Their harm is undone by men. Dr. Lang cures Barnabas and Petofi cures Quentin. But both ‘healers’ have secondary agendas to use the curses to their own advantage. It’s a very “Tyler Durden” notion, and I think it adds a balance that keeps the show from sliding into misogyny.
Ultimately, both curses are used to the advantage of Quentin and Barnabas. Lemonade from lemons and all of that.
The writers found a very solid theme in wanton “justice.” Do we all have streaks of Barnabas and Quentin? Probably. But we also have streaks of Magda and Angelique. One set is a comfort. One set is a warning. Both are the functions of the best storytelling.
On a personal note, it’s impossible to jump a canyon like this and not look down and feel a touch of vertigo. In soap opera terms, it’s seeing things in the lens of the soap opera. What’s been interesting has been to look at life through that lens, and then step back. Both have merits, and I’m glad we have both as counterpoints to the other.
I wonder what Shakespeare scholars feel like?