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Rand Paul To Ted Cruz: I Met Ronald Reagan (Once), My Dad Was An Early Supporter of Ronald Reagan. Senator, You're No Ronald Reagan. | Main | Lena Dunham on Saturday Night Live
March 10, 2014

The True Detective Finale and The Left's Inability to View Art As Anything Other Than an Ego-Flattering Political Affirmation

Well, it's all over. Spoiler alert: The Yellow King Theory was 100% right.

Mild Spoiler Stuff below. I didn't think this was major spoiler stuff because I don't get into details about the plot, and the plot was already largely revealed (or was it???).

But artisanelle ette notes that there is still some Spoilerage here, so I'm putting this all below the fold.



A few weeks ago, the left began claiming that this show, which they liked (as many not on the left liked it) would wind up affirming their most sacred cultural-religious dogmas. A writer for the Daily Beast insisted the show was primarily an Anti-Christian narrative which would finally show those rubes for the Flying Spaghetti Monster worshipping dunces they really are.

Another popular conceit was that the show would blow the lid off conservatives' school voucher agenda.

A couple of weeks back, a conservative asked me about the show, and if he ought to watch it. He'd heard this chatter about a relentless leftist/atheist narrative.

Here's what I told him:

1. The Reverend Tuttle is plainly involved. So, if that's your test of whether a show is "anti-religious," then it is. But that's not my test. All men stray.

2. There is some connection to Tuttle's religious schools.

3. But as for an anti-Christian or anti-religious narrative -- nope, I didn't see it, and furthermore, based on interviews with the writer (and he's given a lot of them) I don't get that sense of him at all.

I would have added this much more: It seems to me that the writer conceived of his show as art, and about the human condition, and the human condition is not one of simple verities (conservatives are bad, school vouchers are bad for the children!!111!!!, God is a Lie) but one of mystery and doubt.

Note the large difference between what works as a political agitation -- simple truths plainly stated, one side plainly in the right, one side plainly in the wrong, a resolution which works towards certainty in one's beliefs, and a flattering of those beliefs -- and what works as an artistic one -- muddled messages, no resolution of conflicts between different points of view, questioning one's beliefs and challenging them.

A story about humans is an awful lot different than one about political agendas.

And yet, for many on the left, they could not see the difference. True Detective was a good show, therefore it must serve to flatter their cherished cult beliefs. It must resolve, they thought, to ultimately say that everything they believe is right.

Leftists pretend to care a great deal about art, and they attack the right for reading extraneous superficial political narratives into artwork.

And yet, and yet.

A few weeks ago, in a comment, someone asked about Cohle's nihilistic, anti-natalist, hyper-materialist belief system, and whether the show would wind up championing that.

I told that commenter I didn't think so-- in fact, I imagined that Cohle would have some kind of epiphany that challenged that belief system.

Note that this does not mean that I think the writer Nick Pizzolato is religious. In fact, based on his interviews, I would say he's probably an atheist or agnostic.

But I was fairly confident Cohle would wind up having some kind of epiphany that challenged his atheist beliefs anyway.*

Why?

Because drama. It's a rule of drama that drama is about conflict and change.

If a man comes into a movie claiming he knows everything and that he is 100% certain of every detail of his philosophy, welllll, shiiiit. You are almost guaranteed that that man's absolute certainty will be absolutely challenged by the end of the movie.

This isn't exactly a New Rule. (I mention "New Rule" because the left likes Bill Maher a lot and might understand it better phrased in this manner.)

This basic idea is only about 5000 years old, is all.

So yeah, I thought from the beginning that Cohle's absolute surety about his nihilistic beliefs would be challenged by the end of the show-- at the end of the show.

And that is indeed what happened. Cohle had a some kind of Near Death Experience in which he had a vision of something that seemed fairly close to most people's vague impressions of heaven (though, of course, the show never said "near death experience" nor "heaven").

He was racked with powerful sobbing at the end because he had been yanked back to earth from this heaven-like vision of another world, in which his family (including his dead daughter) surrounded him and filled him with love.

Does Pizzolato believe in Heaven? Again, I doubt it. But Pizzolato, unlike many of his left-leaning fanbois, believes in drama, and mystery, and leaving interesting questions open rather than perfectly resolved and therefore closed.

It should also be said that Cohle's vision means almost nothing, evidence-wise: he was dying, he was bleeding out, and he has synthesia (a brain disorder by which physical sensations are misinterpreted so that, famously, one can "see" the color of music). He is an unreliable narrator as to the existence of heaven; the point is not to establish that heaven exists in the world, but that it may now exist in Cohle's version of the world.

The writer wasn't interested in proving or disproving heaven or God in his story, though he probably has ideas on this point in his personal life. He seems capable of separating "What I believe as a voting citizen" from "What I think makes for a good story."

Many of his leftist fans couldn't seem to make that distinction themselves.

The debate between the religious and irreligious has been going on since the first man ever gazed into the sky and thought the stars might be gods, and the second man said, "Nah, bro."

Did the left really seriously think that Pizzolato intended to settled this question Once and For All with a miniseries?

And how did they think this would be established/proved in the context of the show? I suppose it might have been Hart who had the belief-system-shaking revelation; but Hart's philosophy has always been very superficial. He claims to believe in God, but has never shown any interest in the matter, apart from mouthing the socially-approved position on God. He's never been seen in church (or even talking about going to church), or praying, or questioning, or seeking God at all.

To the extent he has a philosophy, it just seems to be one of convenient self-justification.

So subverting that wouldn't have been any big shakes. Hart probably would have shrugged it off after a day or two.

The show never spent much time on Hart's beliefs. It was always about Cohle's. Ergo it was pretty obvious that Cohle's philosophy, and not Hart's, would be put to doubt.

As for the rest of it: The Big Conspiracy was barely addressed at the conclusion of the show; one cop attempts to tell Harrelson more about it, and Hart says, basically, "Yeah I don't care about those details." Thus a lot of fan speculation (including mine) was categorized by the writer as "Not really what this is about."

Some may be disappointed by this; I wasn't, because I've been reading Pizzolato's many interviews, in which he says over and over "We're not trying to trick you" and speaks a lot of "my serial killer," singular. So soon after my "euthanasia cult" theory, I realized the writer intended a more conventional plot, and I was Trying Too Hard to be Clever.

The show ultimately was, as Pizzolato said, not about the serial killer at all, but about the two men, Hart and Cohle, and their long, rocky relationship with one another.

And it's about mystery. The serial killer plot is a pretext to explore mystery -- and evil -- and philosophy -- and sex -- and all the rest of it, but in the end, the show was about the mystery and muddle of life. Not about some Hannibal Lecter-like supercriminal and his lunatic beliefs.

In the end, he wasn't the interesting one; the heroes were the interesting ones.

Life is about mystery. Anyone who thinks he knows the answer to all of life's mysteries hasn't given nearly enough thought to life.

This is the essence of the human experience. And it's very, very different from the world as perceived by pure partisans and ideologues.

These two worlds are largely separate.

Ideology and certainty are useful in politics -- but they are the death of art.

Alas, our friends on the left, who fancy themselves to be quite sophisticated aesthetes, are pretty sure that political identity and cult loyalty is pretty much the sum and extent of the human experience.


* In fairness, my plot-related speculations were almost all wrong. Hart's daughter was not revealed to have been molested (but that hint remains there). Hart's daughter did not join the cult and was never in danger. The cult was not an euthansia cult (though the killer's iconography suggests he was releasing people from the "evolutionary mistake" of consciousness).

But in terms of character arc, I felt a bit more certain (though not 100%) that Cohle would have a serious belief-shaking epiphany. If you set a guy up as knowing everything there is to know in Episode One, he's got to not know everything by Episode Eight.

Chekov's gun, you know. If a gun is shown on the wall in Act One, it must be fired by Act Three. Otherwise, the gun should not be on the wall.

digg this
posted by Ace at 11:46 AM

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