I can’t watch “The Man in the High Castle”

 

It’s nothing to do with the quality of the show itself; I’m actually impressed by its production. It has beautiful wide shots, impeccable sets, great costuming. It tackles the epic scale of Philip K Dick’s novel with grace, and creates a very believable alternative history. It also has Frank Sponitz as creator, who used to work on The X-Files and is a favourite with the XF fandom.But in my present state of mind, I can’t do the thing where I abide its white framework and keep watching.

So the Nazis have won WWII and the US is occupied. An interesting 21st century adaptation could explore the irony of the situation, use it as an opportunity to adopt a new standpoint. But no, the story is told from this same white lense that you’ve always known, so you are to put yourself in the shoes of the poor white Americans who’ve lost their way of life[1]. In other words, you are encouraged to imagine the so-called West’s worst nightmare since 9/11.

And I’m sick of being told to imagine this stupid scenario. It’s coming at me from everywhere: the media, the governments that represent me, my family, my friends… “They’re taking over”. “They’re trying to get in”. They want to destroy us”. For fuck’s sake guys, stop imagining yourselves so important that someone should always want to take your place.

Because that’s dangerous thinking. My country is currently in a State of Emergency. This means, among other things[2], that French citizens can be subject to searches and arrests for voicing their opinions in any way that the National Police considers disruptive. On the same grounds, French citizens can also be banned from residing in the country. And what caused this interesting state of affairs? Not Daesh. Not evil Syrians. It’s the French government, that’s buying so hard into this illusion of invasion that it decided the only way to safety was ignoring the very principles on which its democracy was built.

Look, I’m not saying Daesh shouldn’t be dealt with. Way too many innocent lives have been lost. But don’t try and make me believe they (or North African immigrants, or Syrian refugees, or rich Saudi Arabian expats) are a malevolent force that’s out to obliterate my way of life and take over. This kind of thinking puts us at the centre of the world, in the most enviable position there is- the very thought process that created the mess we’re in, in case you’ve forgotten. As I understand, this illusion of importance is also what pushes Daesh to do what they do; shouldn’t that be reason enough to ditch this way of thinking?

And no, before you ask, I don’t have a solution. I know that the State of Emergency is not the solution, and I know that maintaining this “us vs them” mentality is not the solution, but I don’t have anything else to suggest. But guess what, that’s alright, because it’s not my job, or my responsibility. All I can do is use my voice to point out the mistakes of my representatives, and that’s what I’m doing. All I can do is reject this fear of invasion and destruction in my own life, and that’s what I’m doing with TMITHC.

Pop culture both reflects and shapes culture. It’s not that I don’t expect to see paranoia and fear on TV at this point in time, but if all it does is perpetuate the already dangerous and supremacist views of the western leaders, then I’m not interested. It’s a mentality that has had, and continues to have, very real consequences.

 

Before you get tired of reading about the Paris attacks and their aftermath, check out this article by Sebastian Budgen, commissioning editor for Verso Books. It’s succinct, and it says it all.

 

 

[1] In one memorable scene, you are even encouraged, via the white protagonist, to observe runaways “with the wrong skin colour or the wrong bedfellow” as if from the outside, although you are at this point a runaway yourself.

[2] If you can read French and want a more complete description of what the State of Emergency entails, I’d recommend this article in Le Monde newspaper.

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