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Posted by on Nov 5, 2009 in Arts & Entertainment, Media, Politics, Society | 13 comments

“V” for Vilification: Liberal Paradise, Obama Nightmare (Guest Voice)

“V” for Vilification: Liberal Paradise, Obama Nightmare
by
Rick Moran

Want to piss off the left? Everybody watch every single episode of the new ABC mini-series “V.” Drive the ratings through the roof. Make the show the hottest cultural happening since Seinfeld. Copy the hairstyles. Ape the fashion. Start bidding up the action dolls on Ebay.

And most especially, actually tell people you believe that this is a show about Obama and the left. It isn’t, but if you want the liberals to poop in their pants, say you think it is.

I find it not a little ironic that Jonathan Chait would see a “Tea Party Worldview” in a show that is such a hammer over the head metaphor for fascism. That’s because in the universe created for “V,” the birthers are right, the paranoid loons who believe Obama is a Muslim terrorist have a point, and there really are Haliburton built concentration camps in Utah.

Except the plot line follows fairly closely the original “V” which aired before many tea partyers were even born. This makes any overt connection to Obama problematic, although the writers manage to stick it to the president on at least one occasion when “national health care” is mentioned to describe the Visitors plans to help humanity.

Chait:

The political drama of the original was replaced by a ham-handed metaphor for President Obama. The visitors are young, charismatic, futuristic, and have a one-worldish vision of peace. They target the young by enticing them to join an idealistic (but, in reality, sinister) youth group. A few perceptive humans warn of the dangers of hopping on the bandwagon before we know what the bandwagon is really about. The alien leader, Ana, promises to use futuristic technology to heal humans. “You mean universal health care!” gapes a reporter, who, naturally, has been co-opted by the aliens. Anna soothes skeptics by declaring that accepting change can be difficult. A small band of human resistors forms. The lead character is skeptical–what proof do you have she asks, besides some scary thing “you read on the internet.” But the seemingly hysterical message from the internet is true! The charismatic new leader is masking her true identity! The death panels are real! Etc., etc.

The real irony passes so far over Chait’s head it doesn’t even muss his hair. The fact is, the “resistors” are paranoid. That’s because at first, there is no proof that the aliens are anything other than benevolent souls who only want to help. It is not until the true reptilian nature of the Visitors is revealed to one of the main characters, FBI Agent Erica Evans (played by the ravishing MILF Elizabeth Mitchell) that the “paranoid” conspiracy nuts are proved correct.

Now this might be considered something of a birther fantasy come true – except the show has been in the works since 2007, according to executive producer Scott Peters:

Others on both sides of the political spectrum may point to the visitors’ explicit promises of hope, change and universal health care as a pointed reference to pledges of the Obama administration. But [Executive Producer Scott] Peters says the show has been in the works since 2007. Reality was “never really a factor,” he says. “There’s no political message being shoved down anyone’s throat.”

Could it be that the outward, and unintentional parallels with Obamamania is discomfiting some on the left because the parallels to Hitler’s Germany – so obvious, so easily seen – hold implications for the ease with which many of them succumbed to the siren song being sung by the president? Not that Obama is a fascist in any way, but is Chait really upset because he and his fellow leftists might, under other circumstances and with another candidate less dedicated to constitutional order, have fallen into supporting a real fascist?

It would upset me if I suddenly realized my susceptibility to abandoning critical thinking and embracing an undemocratic leader. All that is missing from Obamamania for it to have become an American nightmare was a candidate willing to take the cult of personality he created and turn it into something that perverts democracy. The same can be said for some other political leaders in America (one – Huey Long – may have actually harbored such un-American notions).

But in Obama’s case, the ability to manipulate the media (not to mention the open cheerleading for the candidate during the race), more money than God, and the extra added bonus of being able to stifle criticism by playing the race card at the drop of a hat all combined to create an extraordinarily incendiary mixture that a man with more authoritarian appetites than our president might have been tempted to use to the detriment of democracy.

Thankfully, Barack Obama is not such a man. Sure, he tries to stifle dissent. What modern president hasn’t? Clinton blaming conservative talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing and Karl Rove calling war protestors “unpatriotic” are just two examples of how the presidency has evolved to control the opposition by marginalizing resisters. It didn’t work any better than Obama’s efforts to shush Fox News so perhaps we can be grateful that even with their enormous power, presidents have to put up with criticism despite their best efforts to silence it.

In the case of “V,” one wonders if the unintentional parallels to Obamania will actually force script changes down the road. That’s because ABC has decided to air only 4 episodes this month, and then send the series off to hiatus until the spring. Already, there are signs that someone is not happy with the finished product.

Naturally, when a show debuts to huge ratings and mostly great reviews, the producer’s career is golden. Not this time. Apparently the network who gave Obama an infomercial and refuses to release the “Path to 9/11? DVD decided to replace the show runner Scott Peters before the pilot even aired. In fact, ABC hosted a big visit by press people last Monday, but Peters was notably absent. Exec producer Steve Pearlman spoke with the reporters.

Peters has been demoted to exec producer, a largely honorary title and has been replaced by former “The Shield” and “Chuck” alum Scott Rosenbaum.

Was this a case of ABC purging a political dissident from the show to make it more politically subservient? ABC has been very pro-Obama. And while the president’s name is never mentioned once in the show, there’s little doubt what they’re getting at. Critics of the “V” aliens are shown to be viewed as wackos and fringe people, the same way the MSM likes to portray ordinary Americans who don’t drink the kOOl-aid. Journalists who question the motives of the V are treated like they’re “not real news”. Wink!

My understanding is that such a change is not uncommon in the industry once a series goes on the air. Still, one wonders if the writing will take a different turn for future episodes given the jawboning on the left about parallels to Obamanania.

Yes, there are superficial similarities with Obama, but perhaps because I loved the original mini-series so much (both parts), I was more focused on how closely this incarnation of the story reflected back to the 1983 version. From what I’ve seen so far, the biggest change is the strong female characters compared to the original. Elizabeth Mitchell plays one tough cookie. She is also a single mom raising a problem teenager. The alien leader, Anna, is cool, gorgeous, scary smart, and so self possessed that any male I know would fight for the chance to ask her out for coffee.

There’s also an interesting religious angle with a Catholic priest questioning his faith with the arrival of beings from another world who never heard of Jesus, and who appear to be the real “saviors” of man. I hope they develop this a little more because it certainly would be one of the major implications for humankind if it was ever discovered that an alien civilization existed.

The special effects are a lot less cheesy, the revelation that the “Visitors” who look gorgeous in their human costumes are actually dragons isn’t handled half as well, and there is less big hair and more pixie styles among the women. (Being a big hair lover, I found this disappointing). The way we discovered the Visitors were aliens in the original was when the female co-leader Diana was seen by newsman Marc Sanger who had snuck aboard the Mothership, devouring a hamster whole. Now that was great television.

The 1983 series had “scientists” who were the persecuted minority – stand ins for the Jews. Given references to the internet already, might bloggers be targets in the remake? I’m with Chait who doubts whether scientists will be the imagined “enemies” of the Visitors. I also doubt that the fifth columnists will all be filthy rich, having been promised fabulous wealth by the Visitors if they cooperate. The great columnist Dorothy Thompson once wrote a piece on “Who would go Nazi?” if fascism ever came to America. Most of her choices were Republicans. I wonder if the new series will try and advance that same meme?

Overall, I’d give the production a B+ for it’s faithfulness to the original (so far) and a B- for political content. The have yet to really get into the fascist parallels that made the original so compelling. That grade may change as the story is fleshed out more in the coming weeks.

But if you want to enjoy the show, I suggest not trying to see Obama criticism or tea party worldview validation in every scene. It’s not there, and it will take away from immersing yourself in what promises to be a good story with lots of action.

Rick Moran is Associate Editor of The American Thinker and Chicago Editor of Pajamas Media. His personal blog is Right Wing Nuthouse.

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • JSpencer

    Yeah, some folks are getting worked up about possible or imagined parallels of V to Obama, and people do need things to get worked up about – especially political junkies, but the only thing about V that bothers me so far is the derivative, formulaic production. Seems like you have to go back to the library if you want any decent SF these days. In fact I’ll put in a plug here for Alastair Reynolds. SF lovers who have yet to discover him are in for a genuine treat. So… are we going to be seeing pics of Obama soon showing his lizard scales beneath his skin? I guess that will be pretty tame relatively speaking, perhaps more tame than seeing Rick Moran admit to liking big hair… for example. 😉

  • tidbits

    Speaking as a reptilian [most lawyers are], I can only hope for fair treatment of the species as the show moves forward. It’s not easy being cold blooded, constantly seeking out heat sources to remain active. Those among you who are warm blooded mammals would do well to learn some empathy for the plight of your reptilian brothers and sisters.

  • pacatrue

    Could it be that the outward, and unintentional parallels with Obamamania is discomfiting some on the left because the parallels to Hitler’s Germany – so obvious, so easily seen – hold implications for the ease with which many of them succumbed to the siren song being sung by the president? Not that Obama is a fascist in any way, but is Chait really upset because he and his fellow leftists might, under other circumstances and with another candidate less dedicated to constitutional order, have fallen into supporting a real fascist?

    Uh no. Or, my more honest reaction: @#$%@^?

  • JSpencer

    Right pac, that is some seriously disingenuous %#$^. Rick is trying to have it both ways here.

  • dduck12

    OK, I really got disturbed when I watched V. I thought what will happen to all those guys that sell umbrellas, their families, their suppliers, the manufacturers, so on and so on. Those big things in the sky will cause a mini-depression for those folks what with no rain or snow. (To say nothing of the extra green house gases emitted as people turn on more lights.)
    Quickly, I reread Brave new World, 1984 and Fahrenheit 491 and saw the parallels. These authors were ahead of their times and anticipated the charming Mr. O. (Yes, he charmed the press, and us, he did not “manipulate” it)

  • JSpencer

    Well this is great. Now I’m wondering if I could have scales under my skin too. Maybe I’ll just unplug the TV…

  • Jim_Satterfield

    Could it be that some who see Obama in this show never saw the original mini-series and TV series? Just maybe.

  • squiggleslash

    I don’t want to burst your bubble, and I know this will come as a massive surprise and shock to you, but I’m not aware of a single Nazi regime in the world who got into power by preaching peace, love, understanding, and universal healthcare. Hitler’s supporters did not hold up signs with rainbows and the word “Hope” on them. The Hitler Youth was not made up of idealistic volunteers who wanted to promote peace and understanding with an “alien” group. And Hitler didn’t run on a platform of ending “needless wars”. Much the opposite, to be quite honest with you.

    This also may come as a complete shock to you, but shows generally don’t get filmed at the moment they’re pitched, and then stuck in a vault for three years before they’re shown. Nor do shows generally end up being made as exactly the same things that were originally developed and pitched.

    For example: the original V was pitched as a show about a Nazi take-over of the US. Between the pitch and the first actor (if you can call them actors…) being signed on, the show was radically changed to become an allegory about Nazis using space aliens as a metaphor. And between that and the show being televised, somehow – presumably unintentionally – the show ended up becoming a story about a conspiracy by a secretive subhuman group who were trying to enslave and murder normal people, which is supremely ironic if you think about it.

    The problem with the notion that the new V is not a bizarre twisted attempt to use right-wing talking points to equate Obama with Nazis is that, well, the new V is a bizarre twisted attempt to use right-wing talking points to equate Obama with Nazis. I don’t know how the show would have played out if Obama hadn’t won in 2008. I’m sure Clintonesque imagery would have been associated with the visitors had she won, and I suspect the show would have been largely apolitical if McCain had won.

    But Obama did win. The imagery and many of the concepts used by his supporters, coupled with the exaggerations of a right wing who mistake support for Obama with the kind of Worship they gave Bush until 2006, is being used by supporters of the visitors, despite having no connections to Nazism whatsoever. That’s unmistakable, and it’s absurd to argue otherwise.

  • yetanothermoderatevoice

    I have to say, I was way disappointed. When I saw the new Battlestar Galactica remake I was spellbound, whereas this remake just seemed lame in comparison with the original … Seems to me if you’re going to call something “reimagined” you have to, well, reimagine. Like Devo’s cover of “Satisfaction”.

    The universal health care reference did seem pretty ham-handed, especially given that just about every other OECD besides the U.S. has it – so what would be their motivation for cooperating with the V’s? BSG’s messages were equally overtly political, but they didn’t lend themselves to such easy answers.

  • Boonton

    “I don’t want to burst your bubble, and I know this will come as a massive surprise and shock to you, but I’m not aware of a single Nazi regime in the world who got into power by preaching peace, love, understanding, and universal healthcare. Hitler’s supporters did not hold up signs with rainbows and the word “Hope” on them. The…”

    Ditto that, in the early 80’s V was an amazing series but there is a pretty dishonest idea in it with the Obama=Hitler loonies. Fascism was NOT some type of slight of hand or trick the Nazis played on an innocent population. Both facists and communists at the turn of the century were very rough, nasty people and they got support because of that. But this modern day meme is about intellectual masturbation for the right. They get to pat themselves on the back and tell themselves they are the smart ones because only they can see through the hype while everyone else is fooled. Unfortunately this doesn’t do justice to the real victims of fascism.

    But a sci-fi story should stand on its own. Yes it will have points of inspiration from real life but we shouldn’t go too far with that. How much nonsense was wasted on Battlestar Galactica trying to figure out if President Rosalyn was Bush, was using suicide bombers against the cylons implicit support of the insurgency in Iraq etc….

    As sci-fi, the New V has several major problems:

    1. We are much more literate when it comes to science. In the late 70’s Battlestar Galactica could muddle galaxies, stars and planets. Today many of us have a much better understanding of astronomy (thanks Dr. Sagan and those endless Nova and now history channel documentaries!). This means we demand a lot of scientific consistency from our sci-fi. A whole industry exists trying to reconcile science as it is to the science of franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. People were taking stills of the background stars in Battlestar Galactica and trying to pinpoint where in the galaxy and how close to earth the series was. What does this mean? It means when aliens show up in 29 ships maybe just slightly smaller than Manhatten and say they need water…everyone knows a planet’s worth of water can easily be sniped from the comets in our Oort cloud or one of the moons of the outer planets without us even noticing. Needless to say, other questions like what are the odds that aliens would evolve to look exactly like humans and why would they have knowledge of all the world’s languages are also not raised but they would be by us. The original series kind of answered that by having the scientists silenced so tough questions wouldn’t be asked. But we are all scientists now!

    2. This ties into the first point. The characters are inferior. Battlestar Galactica really raised the bar. For example:

    “There’s also an interesting religious angle with a Catholic priest questioning his faith with the arrival of beings from another world who never heard of Jesus, and who appear to be the real “saviors” of man. ”

    Give me a break. We all know the real arrival of friendly aliens would be a huge topic for the Catholic Church and religion in general. Not just a mushy, quickie declaration that everyone’s a child of God. There’s not even a hint that the writers understand that such a huge event would spawn a thousand difficult and vexing questions.

    Likewise we have paranoid resisters who know the whole story, including the fact that the Vistors have sleeper agents among us….yet no story of how they acquired such intelligence nor do we feel that these character have such a convincing history. No doubt the backstory will get filled in in some future episode but at its best Battlestar Galactica didn’t feel like it was being written on the fly. You felt there was a long history that made all the characters…even if you didn’t happen to know what it was, it felt real.

    Yet oddly the resistance can’t even get a single meeting together without it getting raided by Ninja visitors who risk exposure by swinging sword like weapons….when clearly they have remote drones that can kill. But worldwide there’s mass protests against the visitors that forces the leader-babe to commission a softball interview to try to win popularity. But wait, I thought everyone already loved the visitors? who are these protestors and what are they protesting?

    Like the Tea Partiers, no one really seems to know. They are just protesting and the V-babe needs to go on TV to sooth their concerns…but what are their concerns? They have none because they are just stock footage of protests.

    Maybe it will get better but I don’t think so. All the mechanical elements are there but there’s no there there. It doesn’t feel real and it falls short IMO. Maybe it can become really campy fun but I doubt it. It takes itself a bit too seriously for that.

  • DLS

    “Could it be that some who see Obama in this show never saw the original mini-series and TV series?”

    Seeing the earlier series is why they see Obama (and related political phenomena) in this show, now, obviously.

  • DLS

    “Maybe it will get better but I don’t think so.”

    The bigger-picture issue to consider is that (as with remaking songs on the air waves, and movies in the cinema, like “Pelham”) this is another re-make — not only is Hollywood lowly and low-IQ, but short of ideas as well — or the trends it has been following are empty or so low as to being desperately “poor.”

  • DLS

    “The great columnist Dorothy Thompson once wrote a piece on ‘Who would go Nazi?’ if fascism ever came to America. Most of her choices were Republicans.”

    She is ignorant of history, in particular since the 1930s! Does her bias lead her to say black is white?

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