There are some interesting cross-show movements in the most recent Battlerstar Galactica and Jericho episodes involving the relation between fathers and sons, truth, and space/mobility. I am most pleased with Jericho’s recent developments because that show, albeit very interesting, seemed to be playing out some kind of lame soap opera in post-apocalyptic middle-America and was tending towards the boring end of entertaining. I will write about some disjunctive parallels between the shows when I get bored with the dissertation. There are many parallels. (This has been written in more than one sitting.)
Post-apocalyptic social relations and space/mobility.
Both shows exist within a post-apocalyptic imaginary of liberal America. Why now? They are not just post-apocalyptic but are direct cultural manifestations of the emerging ‘post-‘ movement in neo-liberalism. Post-liberalism emerges when neo-liberalism flips over into a popularist performative totalitarianism due to the extraordinary efforts of neo-conservatives and their ‘movement’. How do avergae folk survive when society is turned upside down and values taken to be sacred in civil society become unnecessary? No decency, no respect, no rights, no love, no hope. This is not a rhetorical question, but the reality of the changes to liberal capitalist societies over the last two decades.
To the love of neo-Foucaultians Battlestar explores this problematic by framing it in terms of a genocidal inter-species war and the militarification of the surviving refugee populations. Jericho instead combines Little House on the Prarie with MacGyver. The two shows lay on either side of the space/mobility tension isolated by Wark’s reading of Foucault’s discipline societies thesis. Wark noted it was ironic that there was a ‘school’ of Antipodean Foucaultians when the mode of power that saw Australia colonised and convicts sent here required the power of the vector rather than the disciplinarity of confinement. This is interesting because of issues that continually emerge around the violence of localism and/or projective trans-localism (neo-colonisation), and the paranoid anxiety of some populations interned in the local — either by necessity or through the complacency of privilege — of the Global as big Other.
Something that this season of Battlestar has the Jericho does not is a sense of being closed in and of a perpetual claustrophobic tension. Not only the actual spatial enclosue of the fleet, familiar rooms, or actual jail cells, but the social enclosures of too-familiar faces, of stratified class-based expectations, of the pressure of unknown enemy. The tension of proximity is constant and the role of contingency in the formation of intimacy is much more successfully explored in recent episodes of Battlestar than, for example, in the film Babel. Babel should be lauded for the attempt to engage with complexity. However, the film suffers from a mechanistic complexity where there was little contingency as such; events unfold on a line of surreal linear causality. On the other hand, Battlestar is successful in introducing contingency as contingency. In doing so it can unleash the truth of contingent events and the the cascading effects of the truth of such (often drama-filled) contingency ripples throughout the claustrophobic enclosure of the ‘fleet’ like a resonance chamber. In Battlestar the central character is often the non-represented ‘fleet’; everything is done for the sake of the ‘fleet’. Only very rarely are personal triumphs and tragedies experienced as personal.
Jericho exists in the open. It is some weird Mad-Max-small-town of rural America. Most of the drama is produced through the relation between the town and the outside. There has been the threat of radioactive rain-fallout, numerous raiding rogue paramilitary units of various types and proximity to the town, the mass movement of refugees and others and the dropping of international aid. What makes Jericho a slightly less successful show in my eyes is that, unlike Battlestar, normal ‘normality’ in Jericho is the truth and deviation from this truth is the measure of drama. Battlestar is an intensive and closed social experiment. The reality of its everyday life is entirely fabricated; to paraphrase Deleuze (from The Fold) it is not the variation from truth that produces the Battlestar drama, such as in Jericho, but the truth of variation. This is why Jericho is essentially a conservative show (in the philosophical sense), while Battlestar is not.
In the most recent episodes of both shows have seen the action focus on the relations between father and sons. In Jericho the mayor-father is seen before the nuclear bombs handing his line of succession over to his what appears to be ‘favourite son’. This son looks like him, talks like him and in certain ways acts like him. The other son returns to Jericho just before the bombs go off. This is the nomad son; where the show gets its Mad-Max-ness about it. The nomad son has experienced war and has the graces of a soldier. The other son is a statesman. Statesman versus nomad. Like in Mad Max 2 (aka The Roadwarrior) and A Thousand Plateaus, it is a question of the State formation harnessing the War Machine, and the proximity and foldings of this relation in light of the already militaristic US culture. What makes Jericho interesting are movements in variation away from these starting points. The statesman-son has an affair and is therefore dishonorable, while we learn the father is more like the nomad-son than we realise. This disrupts the expected lineages.
In Battlestar the death of a much loved character has seen the father Adama and son Adama grieve in their own ways. The tension between them has been played out through the location of the ‘law’ (it is a very masculine grief!). The ‘law’ has become mobile, not in the jurisprudencial sense of laws being invented, but the burden of expectation for different systems of law moves across the surface of other social relations. The ‘law’ has become the “object = x” or differenciating Dark Precursor of Deleuzian philosophy. There is a multiplicity of ‘law series’ which the ‘mobile law’ moves across: there is a kind of constitutional law series of the ’12 Colonies’, a military law series of being a soldier, a familial law series of being a father/son, criminal law series, and maybe even a religious law series. The mobility of the law is evidenced in a number of scenes, including Admiral Adama grieving over a series of clippings and files that expressed in a simple manner the different registers of expectation for the dead character. Is it not slightly Kafka’s The Trial-ish that Adama is grieving over the ‘file’ of the dead person? There is also the mobility of the actual law books not just owned but written by ‘grandfather’ jurist Adama; they appear as a surprise gift from father to son, as a charisma trick from new lawyer to son, and again in an argument between son and father. The dramatic dimension of this mobile law is provided by the new lawyer who says something like, “The law is for whoever wants it the most.” This does not mean that the law is for those that necessarily sublimate it, but the mobile law (and the various ‘pure events’ that each ‘law series’ has as potential) can be used as a tactical weapon in social movements.