Monday, September 13, 2004

On Why "The West Wing" is the Best Show Ever (pt.#3)

Despite what I have said in previous posts (you, dear solitary and silly reader from the future, you with "too much time on your hands" as they of little patience like to say, who are reading backwards - yes, I did plan this, although it took Hugh to discover and co-sign it), what might the virtues of a show like "The West Wing" be? How about a list:

1.0) The show's sense of time is, in all its pathetic, sentimental, multi-layered embellishment, nonetheless educational, bringing the lay-person up to speed on the 'postmodern' pace of politics. Such an appreciation is integral to any efficient, informed and effective critique. The recent developments in activist counter-surveillance, networking, political blogs, etc. prove this. Giorgio Agamben comes to mind.

2.01) The show is hopeful, or rather it dares to be hopeful, which is certainly a courageous thing, given the apocalyptic tenor that now functions as default in so many otherwise intelligent circles. "Uncompromising gaiety," Derrida says, and - despite his pervasively charming melancholy (or rather, without which such serious gaiety would be impossible, mind you) - I think his choice of emphasis is absolutely right. He's nowhere near the same league as Derrida and never will be, but Clinton recognized the power of something resembling this "uncompromising gaiety," (which is anything but dogmatic or firmly ideological). Unfortunately, so did Ronald McDonald Reagan. In any case, "The West Wing" persists in this - dare we say "uniquely American" tradition. (At one point Derrida toys with the idea that "America is deconstruction," although of course he must drop it.) Still, something of this New World hope and optimism, though never neatly severable from the specters of a profoundly contaminated history, cannot be responsibly dismissed or conflated with said history.

3.002) "The West Wing" is a timely show, one that thematizes the ghost of JFK at a moment when the vested interests are desperately trying to conjure him away. Shakespeare. In a way, the show is a new 'literature,' and as such to some degree defers, resists, and desists (Lacoue-Labarthe). More than merely cite the name or frozen image of JFK, the show, as did Clinton, interprets his combination of charm, intelligence, pragmatics, and optimism in a fresh and transformative manner (Specters of Marx); it renders mourning relevant, and awakes us to the dawn of a new day (Thoreau). Not just waxing poetic here; it really is an archive that trembles in some respects. As such it refuses to be an isolated panacea, but neither does it pretend to be purely immune to contemporary economies of interest. The burden, and the power, as always, rests with the viewer, the one who hears (Ear of the Other. Now one could argue that the structure of the show - it's televisual, advertising context - preempts a responsible counter-signature, but things are not quite so simple (Zizek is wrong, yet again).

4.17) to be continued...(with less JD of both the liquid and mimetic wax kind)...

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