Pick Your Pop Culture

So, I've like written about music for 25 years, and like I've got a lot to say and not enough people to pay me for it, and like I like to write about TV, and books, and movies, and stuff like that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Three More Things About Medium

I don’t blame you if you think this is really a Medium fan site, with the occasional blathering on about other subjects. Of course, I haven’t figured out a way to say what it is about this show which compels me to keep watching week after week, and I’m not sure it’s going to last long enough to let me do that. This week, I have three more comments about the twisted sexuality and right wing politics found in the latest adventure of my favorite psychic crime fighter/suburban mom.

1) The opening this week was right up there with last week’s sex and death combination. (And, by the way, Kitten was right in her comment that there was no actual female skin shown during that sex scene; I simply filled it in with my imagination, because it was implied that the guy was enjoying regular old-fashioned missionary position sex with a live lady.)

This time, we find a young couple in a therapist’s office. The shrink is urging the man to stand up for himself and to let his wife know how much something means to him, and how good it would be for her to share this. He’s a little timid, but his wife is smiling, and the therapist is saying how normal all this is, so he stands up in front of her lovely face, and reaches towards his crotch in a move that looks for all the world like he’s about to open up his trousers and show us what he’s got inside.

Okay, so we’re convinced this is some sort of sex therapy, and the couple is going to learn about blow jobs by practicing in front of a teacher. Obviously, this seemed a little weird – okay, a lot weird – but we’re talking about a TV show where the main character routinely talks to dead people, and where last week the villain killed women and then had sex with them for up to two weeks thereafter. How do you define the limits of what could occur in this world?

But, no, remember, Alison Dubois dreams of death, and instead of pulling out a hard dick, this guy pulls out a shiny revolver. Jeez! Sigmund Freud’s corpse must have jumped up and yelled, “I am the winner!” just as John Lurie’s grandmother did playing cards in “Stranger Than Paradise.” As his wife smiles, because you know she wants it, he shoots her in the head.

2) Jump to halfway through the show, after Alison has had her obligatory tense interaction with a cop who seemingly has the run of the entire city without having to worry too much about his superior officers expecting him to work on the cases they assign. This cop is personally interested in convincing the district attorney and everybody else that the rash of murder/suicides over the last couple years by couples who had just passed their first wedding anniversary was not entirely coincidental, but in fact murder. Why does he believe this? Because his sister was the first victim, and she would never do this. Neither would his brother-in-law. Apparently, nobody mentioned to him that it’s common to believe your friends and family aren’t capable of killing themselves.

Anyway, Alison has won this guy over, and honestly, I don’t think there was any good reason given as to how she did it except that it was time to move the plot along towards resolution. She has examined the photos taken at the scenes of each murder/suicide, and she knows that in each case, there is a third presence missing from the photo, presumably that of the killer. But, in the shot of this guy’s sister and husband, Alison says there are four presences.

Bingo! Suddenly, the cop remembers that, oh, yeah, his sister was three and a half months pregnant at the time! Like that detail never entered his mind when reciting his belief that neither his sister nor her husband would kill themselves, or for that matter, when simply expressing his own grief and outrage. “Oh yeah,” he says. “My sister was three and a half months pregnant.”

But, see how slickly the right wing agenda gets promoted here (and see how slickly I co-opted the way the right wing always talks about our agendas on the left?)? That three-and-a-half-month pregnancy is conflated with a human life, not a potential life. Alison senses a fourth person, a full human, albeit one which is still pretty damn far from developing into anything that could survive outside its mothers womb without extraordinary measures. There are many efforts around the country to give fetuses the status of live humans. I’m impressed with the choice of three and a half months here. It’s long enough to make it to the second trimester, when abortion becomes a little less popular with the American public, but well short of viability, when arguments regarding fetal safety can be considerably more convincing. I tell you, you’ve got to stay on your toes when watching seemingly harmless entertainment. You never know when they’ll try to brainwash you.

3) Finally, we come to the capture of our villain for this week. This guy is a pip, quite possibly even sicker than the one last week. Nah, that’s impossible. But, he’s close. He’s a wedding photographer, a guy who likes to follow up each of his clients, surreptitiously, of course, to assemble a collection of candid shots over the course of the first year of their bliss. But, he’s not planning to surprise them with a lovely document of their marriage, nosirree. Instead, he shows up unannounced in their home, always just before the husband arrives from work and while the wife is there alone. (And, holy moley! How did I miss that little gem before I started typing that sentence?) He holds a gun to the husband’s head, and tells the husband he’s conducting a sociological experiment. He hands the husband a gun, puts it to the wife’s head, and tells him to kill the woman he loves. If the husband shoots, then the bad guy will let him live. If not, then the bad guy will kill them both.

Alison figures out from the photographer’s collection of photos that he’s going to strike again in just enough time to get over to the next victim’s house and have the cop replace the husband entering the house. The villain starts babbling about how interesting the sociological experience of being captured is, and, despite having killed several people already, he doesn’t shoot this last woman.

Here, we have a case where the very nature of scientific research, or at least sociological research, is displayed as evil. The producers of “Medium” are none too impressed with facts, either already available or potentially discovered. They are all about instinct, hunches, communion with the other world. Researchers don’t care about right or wrong any more than jurors do (see last week’s episode). If it takes killing enough people to determine statistically how many men would kill their wives of one year if faced with such a choice, so be it. You can’t stop scientific progress, can you? And, hey, if you get caught, well, shift your research around to the process of being caught itself. How much more is there to learn, and why don’t you stop trying to find out things and simply accept the world is the way we say it is?

That’s it, that’s what I’ve got this time. What’s going to run out first, the chances NBC will give “Medium,” or the outrageous points which keep me ranting about it? And, stay tuned, because I really do want to examine what I like about this show, too.

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