I love a good character study, whether enjoyed through reading a good book or a watching a dramatic presentation.
Nothing says “humanity” better than witnessing exposed human foibles and a character’s visually-recorded self-delusion.
It’s the mirror we all stare into but seldom realize who we see because we are so busy watching ourselves acting in different bodies with strange faces that sometimes appeal to or repel us.
This comes as no surprise to anyone who watches it, but our present television offering is the black hole of attention consumption. It sucks away our hours, our days, and our lives. We watch renditions of LIFE rather than actually living it.
And in return, television media gives us…….um,……I mean besides all the blatant money-grubbing advertising, …it basically gives us little other than being an insomniac’s last refuge or a 50-inch, rectangular pacifier.
I wouldn’t even call most viewing options “entertainment” as much as I would call it varied flavors of escapism—escapism geared to your favorite obsession or fear.
So when I, in my own escapist foray, ran across a really good dramatic series based mainly on character study utilizing creative character dissection, I took notice.
I’ve trolled the Netflix options many times. Some series are so-so, some hard to get past the first 4 minutes, and some were fairly interesting. But if you are really into character studies, I would suggest the series called “American Crime.”
It’s certainly not what I expected it to be, and gladly so. The main actors are some of the best, and are well-known in their own rights, but combined together in this unusual format and artistic renditions of “life as it actually is, not as we project it to be” they are superb mirrors of human self-deception, self-destruction, and self/family annihilation.
And that is the ironic title’s claim: “American Crime” – it explores the cultural/societal/legal crimes we commit daily on ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Why on earth would that be interesting or entertaining to watch?
Because it is so revelatory in each unveiling episode. You relate to the de-masking of the characters—their proposed aspirations, their genuine woundedness, and their hidden weaknesses. Through each of their depictions, you see how easy it is to slide away just a little from your own integrity and end up in a complex situation with the sudden choice of now facing the evolved problem head on, or trying to bury it deeper in even greater deception coupled with harsher future consequences. (Hint: they all go for the latter one.)
What I liked most about the two season series other than showing the same actors in alternate character universes, was that there really were no clear good guys—no clear bad guys depicted in the show. There were no easily distinguished heroes and no pure villains, although some were implied and assumed until proven not to be.
In each season’s dramatic character exposition, there were only flawed people like you and me, making one or two choices that led to violent repercussions and forever tainted lives because of their simple acts of greed, lust, loneliness or self-loathing.
The most prevalent theme I took from both seasons was that all of us need love and acceptance, openness and understanding. But without those necessities, we live shallow, deceptive, and destructive lives that eventually implode.
It isn’t that our lives are fated to be that way—it’s that we choose our fates because of those unmet needs.
And that is the biggest crime.