Category Archives: Television

James Rockford and sustainability in the twenty-first century, or “the reel of the desert”

james_garner_as_-jim_rockfordJames Garner was a cool American actor. He had starred as ‘Maverick’ in a 1950s comedy-drama Western TV series. In the 1970s he was James Rockford, a private-eye (“two hundred dollars a day plus expenses”) in a genre-shifting TV show called ‘The Rockford Files’ (1).  What the hell has this got to do with sustainability in the twenty-first century, you are asking.  Have I been click-bait and switched, you are asking.

No, you haven’t. This;

There’s an episode [called ‘The Great Blue Lake Land and Development Company‘]where he is out in the Californian/Nevadan desert, trying to recover some money that was stolen from him.  There is some kind of con going on, involving real estate, with worthless land being boosted.  The real estate con artist is showing Rockford sagebrush and cactus, urging him to get in on the ground floor. Within a year or two all that he sees around him will be sub-developments, houses and malls.  Rockford, playing a long game, manages to keep a straight face.  The con artist also mentions there is going to a lake for recreational purposes and – in the middle of the fucking desert – offers Rockford a cheap deal on a boat.  As I recall, James Garner is able to give this beautiful look of not-quite supressed incredulity (2).

Anyway, that’s how I feel a lot of the time.  People are describing the “desert” (3) that is the acceleration of the already unsustainable (in every sense) trajectory of industrial omnicide and then sell me the boat of sustainability. I’m also (supposed to be able to be) playing a long-game, am supposed to be able to keep a straight face.  But I’m ready for a straitjacket.

(1) See ‘The Nice Guys’ for a recent homage
(2) Think Guy Pearse in LA Confidential  when James Cromwell   asks him if he knows of a Rollo Tomasi).
(3)I use desert in the loose/inaccurate/metaphorical sense of ‘lifeless/barren’, not in the actual sense – there’s a lot of life, if you choose to see it… That’s the real of the desert.

Planes, Claims and Automobiles – #masculinity, #cars and #advertising

Two adverts have been on the idiot’s lantern at the gym (I am one of those tremendous bores who doesn’t have a television and lets you know at every opportunity)

Briefly, the plots; In one, a generically handsome (quietly athletic, mid-30s, stubbly; basically the male equivalent of the beige cheeky-boney woman you see in the other ads) is awaiting the arrival, by plane, of his gorgeous wife at their own isolated house in what might be the Canadian north (pine trees, lakes). There’s a (comedic, but unintentionally so) accident with the generator and the runway lights go out! OMG, She’s about to die!!! He leaps into his car, and because he can waggle the LED lights independently of the car, he guides her plane down. They exchange a steely, stoic and oh-so-sexy look, and the car logo comes up. Buy this car. You can be rich enough to own a plane, your own runway, and sang froid.

In the second, a generically handsome man (see above) is driving his sexy car. Over some ice. Suddenly a helicopter bristling with air-to-surface missiles appears, and starts to attack. He swerves and dodges among the explosions. Then (and this is dreamlike) the car is racing down on of those toboggan luge things. It flips up out of the luge, and circles over the helicopter. When it is directly above, the chopper pilot looks up and sees the car driver, smirking and in slow-mo, doing that points-fingers-at-own-eyes-then-points-at-pilot thing (i.e. “I own you.”) The car lands safely back in the luge chute, having done a complete circuit. The helicopter pilot, clearly distraught, doesn’t see a low-hanging powerline and is snagged, blowing up. The car pulls to a stop… Think that opening sequence in Top Gun, or perhaps Die Hard 4.0 and the “you killed a helicopter with a car” thing.

So far, so normal/outrageous/ridiculous/sinister and silly. I’ve wasted more time typing this up than I should have. What’s going on, under the surface?
I think there are claims about masculinity (I know, such insight!!)
Men are famously under attack (all those crazed feminazis out there, setting up roadblocks and burning their bras and calling for an end to everyday sexism via projects like Everyday Sexism . It’s the Handmaid’s Tale in reverse! We cis-men are oppressed!!)
And cars have been constructed as (sold as) places of virility for a century or so. (anything longer than wide is, after all, a phallic symbol).
What are these two adverts are claiming is that, via a halo effect, if you own the car you will have –
Mastery/competence, being able to improvise, and to cope when over-matched by either accident or malice. I’ve a friend who says that part of the attraction of James Bond is that he is able to become uber-proficient at whatever gadget Q gives him, and often literally shreds the instruction manual.

And you will be showing that you want to/are able to
Protect womenfolk
Defeat adversaries on the battlefield, especially ones with more firepower (one is reminded of Rambo and his exploding arrows in Afghanistan, or the Wolverines in Red Dawn. Nobody wants to win as the over-dog…)

See also

Decoding Advertisements by Judith Williamson
Mythologies by Roland Barthes