Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is Revolution trying to say something about gun violence?

This week, Stephen Barton, one of the victims of the Aurora theatre shooting, appeared in a timely and provocative political video that doesn't endorse either candidate, but rather demands that one of them address the epidemic of gun violence in this country. He's got a point. We should be talking, in culture high and low, about not only the political and legal parameters of gun ownership in this country, but also the complicated and powerful position they hold in the American mythos.

Revolution, NBC's latest entry in the "Next Lost" sweepstakes, has, three episodes in, been rather consistently meh in my opinion. The drama imagines a world that has gone permanently Hunger Games since the electrical grid failed fifteen years prior to the present of the show. In flashbacks, some sort of conspiracy is hinted at that caused the blackout, and there are intimations that the power could be turned back on. About these things (aka, major elements of the show's ontological structure), I could care less. Seems to be a problem.

But there is a subsidiary, though persistent, narrative focus on guns and gun ownership that I'm keeping my eye on (spoilers follow). In this postapocalyptic America, a well-run, and well-armed, militia sustains and perpetuates its power largely through outlawing the ownership of firearms by private citizens. Being caught with an unauthorized gun, as evidenced in the second episode, is a crime punishable by death. Initially, I suspected this was indicative of a subtle and disturbing conservative streak in the show--they're going to take your guns . . . and your freedom! But a reveal in the third episode's flashback sequence made me think they're trying, if not wholly successfully, to investigate the psychological intersection of guns and power, and the inherent dangers therein.

One of the central characters of the show, Miles, a military man pre-blackout and a charming rogue post, is being hunted by the militia for, we think, knowing something about the cause of (and perhaps cure for) the blackout. We find out in "No Quarter" that he was actually the founding commander of the militia, and the closing flashback sequence gives us his fascist origin story. After coming across countless victims murdered for their supplies on a crosscountry road trip, he muses to his friend, and future co-founder of the militia, that there was "no one coming to help." When he comes across a brutal beating in progress, he first cows the perpetrators by his superior weaponry (lifted when he went AWOL), and then summarily executes them.

It's a very good question as to why guns are so scarce two months after the blackout in a country rife with them, but I'll overlook that right now. I'm curious to see whether Revolution will continue to examine the troubling assumption of unilateral power and righteousness that Miles uses his firearm to enforce and justify. Guns are fetish objects on this show in a very literal way--they stand in for survival both for the rebels and the militia. Everyone is constantly obsessed with who has them, and fixated on how to get them. I suspect I'm making more of this than the show is, but I could see a very interesting interrogation of how heroes and guns have been persistently conflated in American pop culture history, particularly in the "Wild West" ethos the show's "Life After Man" sets invoke, and the terrible cost of that equation.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't get into it during the first episode. Haven't watched it since... Too many other good shows to devote time to. Thank goodness for my DVR!