Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No spoilers...

There's a telling moment in the recently broadcast series finale of HBO's "Six Feet Under" (which will soon be on DVD), where Claire, the youngest, most artistic of the Fisher clan, tells her decidedly opposite Bush-voting boyfriend that he "possibly has the most unhip musical taste ever." I don't know if you've ever seen "Six Feet Under," the series set in and around a mortuary home and the family that works and lives in it. It's a kind of surreal soap opera lent weight and depth by great acting, deep characterizations, constant unpredictability and both a human understanding of death and a willingness to laugh in its face. Within the three Fisher children (and the rest of the clan) just about the entirety of emotional existence for the so-called everyman is explored. By "everyman" I just mean those of us who stumble along our paths regularly but for whatever reason maintain hopes and desires that reach for the sky. We don't give up.

Elder son Nate is most like "us," or at least me. He's a likeable, impulsive guy with a big heart and not the best judgment. He's also a bit of a fuck-up who gets away with it most of the time because of his charm and good looks (I may be charming, but cute is a stretch). When he comes back to work at the funeral home because of the inevitable family tragedy, he literally faces death, and his own inadequacies, the only way he knows how: honestly and emotionally. It's Nate's desire to be so true and "emotionally available" with everyone--but himself--that often pushes people away. He's the most troubled character on the show, which in a way makes him the most accessible.

David, the middle Fisher child, is something else, both uptight and upright, and an in the closet homosexual till the show's beginning (the first season is largely devoted to his coming out). David and his on/off/on boyfriend, a former cop (!) named Keith, are good people in the truest sense, but they make mistakes just like the rest of us. Every impulsive act, meltdown and mending is lent a universal depth that makes them utterly human and transcends any sexual boundaries or stereotypes. The songs of the great Magnetic Fields come to mind in David and Keith's scenes of domestication. Stephin Merritt may be gay, but he's a person first, and the gender of the characters in his songs is almost a moot point in light the poetry of their words and actions. "Six Feet Under" works just like that. It's a show that strips away all the layers and facade of who we are--that as the things we most see in our day to day interactions--to reveal the soul and humanity beneath.

Even though Claire knows her boyfriend is a total dork, the kind who simply "hears a song on the radio, likes it, and goes and buys the CD at the store," she can't help but respect that simple logic. The purity of an action that isn't tainted by more elitist considerations that might drive the choices of the uber-hip undergroundist, possibly like some reading this here diary of indulgence. And ya know what? I know this guy. He's a friend of mine. He's a lawyer. He's money obsessed and kind of a dork in the art sense, but he's true to himself in a way that I often doubt in the indie/art scene. There's a lot more posing here than there ever was in so called mainstream society. I sometimes think I'm still a poseur too, and that I always will be. And I'm not sure it's a bad thing if I at least recognize that it's a natural impulse to want to be something else, be it better, beautiful, intelligent, "profound"... The goal is to step beyond the boundary of pretending to being, or to be more accurate, doing. Claire sees a guy that's comfortable with being, and who can blame her for wanting to have some of that in her life? Especially after a year or two of art school.

One of my favorite story devices in SFU is the inclusion of ghosts, not the kind that moan or go bump in the night, but they certainly haunt. These ghosts are merely an accumulation of memories as refracted through the minds of whoever sees them. What a concept, eh? It gives me shivers just thinking about it. One day we will all just be an accumulation of memories in someone's mind. Each person in the show sees his or her ghost a different way because their relationship to that person is unique. In other words, the ghosts are just surrogates for his/her own conscience. We all strive to be better, yes? At least I do, and I often wonder if my own judgment is enough. I tend to look to others for approval and dismissal, but always wish that my own was enough as I do so. Needless to say "Six Feet Under" gets to the heart of being and loving in a way that no other show ever really has, though the ones that come close are also HBO original productions.

Which reminds me, I love HBO. Last night I watched a show about porn stars with John Waters. Life is good, if not cheap.

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