Sunday, 4 May 2008
Hawk I? One can never be completely Shaw.
"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty". Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“…the thing about Obama is he has this, he’s a very articulate guy when it comes to saying nothing”. Mark Steyn.
In P.J O’Rourke’s precise and very funny book ‘Give War a Chance’, he speaks of how in the 1960’s and its shabby aftermath, he once believed in everything but the facts. And now he believes in nothing except the empirical and even then. For me, this fits kind of neatly into my two favourite Left Liberals and maybe my only two. Sadly, both are entirely fictional characters.
The first one that really influenced my feeble humour and attitudes was Hawkeye Pierce from the TV show M*A*S*H. I loved Hawkeye and it was always disappointing as a profoundly clueless 14 year old that I didn’t live in a cool army tent riffing with a hip pal on the resident straight man. And that I didn’t have the required equipment to home make a martini.
Hawk was and is a classic Left Liberal of the imagination and a human mess of contradictions. Filled with good intensions and unaware it seems, of the path to Hell they pave. At turns morally driven, decent, obsessive and immoral; he’s witty, fun, giving and entirely selfish. Hawkeye was good company, neurotic, unstable and courageous while simultaneously an utter wimp. Hawke also managed to be paranoid, open, careless, fussy, annoying and fascinating.
Pierce was a highly skilled professional and mostly personally incompetent. Hawk had deep insight and self destructive sensitivity to many things, while believing that equivalence was broadly applicable which made him often utterly clueless to the many true forces for evil. That’s because, for Hawkeye, the paradoxical self flagellant and egotist, everything must be about him, good and bad included, so anything bad can only be from either himself or alternatively, his own country and culture. For Hawkeye, there are no independent agents outside of America and the West, only victims.
This is perhaps the main Left Liberal conceit. Thus the North Koreans were not so bad for a Totalitarian and total war aggressor, as long as you just got to know them a little. This flawed, tragic and wilfully naive paradigm is repeated by Alan Shaw in Boston Legal, in that there is not really any enemy that could possibly possess their own motives and goals, but as Mark Steyn has said; merely misunderstandings and grievances that haven't yet been met...
And that while looking at all the trouble in the world, it can somehow and quite insanely for many, be reduced to the fault of George Bush and Cheney.
Hawk seemed to often understand little of what didn’t directly effect him, often remaining incapable of discrimination beyond default delusions and his own right on prejudices. But he said as much regards his own human flaws on many occasions, a Liberal practice that seems to have faded somewhat. Curiously, he had a real darkness about him and often seemed mesmerised and haunted by it, making him a curiously popular, singular and ultimately lonely and alone figure. I really cared about Hawk.
I didn’t know much of that at the time. I just thought Hawkeye was cool, casual, funny and successful, plus he had lots of great adventures and he was er, involved and cared. I guess what tires now, is the often phony narrow straw man set ups and foils, Frank Burns being the most obvious and overdrawn. Ah, but while Frank was deservedly “the ten most hated men in camp”, he was the only person with a steady relationship, however odd, in camp, and with a strange and drab arrangement stateside. Poor sad, unlikable Frank; doomed to be a walking grotesque in his own personal hall of mirrors.
While there was obviously a great range of characters in M*A*S*H, non-Liberals of the Conservative kind, were too often portrayed as only dull or ridiculous caricature extremes, such as the actually hilarious Colonel Flagg. And here's an odd thing, such Republican cartoons were clearly undoubtedly macho, virile and thus often very attractive to real women. See, perhaps Hawk and Alan are just a step away from coming out of the Liberal closet as er, Conservatives; the love that dare not speak it's name.
Hotlips Houlihan, the strongest, most desired, blatantly passionate, fecund, professional military woman in camp, was utterly turned on by Frank Burns. Go figure. Everything about Frank was shown as ineffectual, except for his sexuality. It turns out that on a regular basis, Frank Burns ate something entirely different than worms.
Now Hawk and the rest of the show deserve more than this shabby post can deliver of course, and I digress. As I say, I may be a lot like Hawk and a lot not like him, but there is also Alan Shaw, who I’m quite a bit like and quite a bit not like too, dig? I’m slightly less fictional than either of them.
"It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are".
There is always firstly for me, the great and wonderful Groucho Marx, the source of much modern humour. While Hawkeye was often a lecherous boor, and Shaw is a relentless, inventive and stunned pervert, Groucho engaged in playful, adult and perversely often ridiculously rude er, hanky panky. Then "I said 'ere Pete!", there's always Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. And P.J, Steyn, Wilde and... Ah, I love them all. I just like articulate, eloquent, funny, witty and sarcastic people of most any position, sports.
Man, the later episodes of Boston Legal started to wear me down a little, as each episode seemed like another farrago of lame Left Liberal shibboleths as taken for granted fact. Then Alan comes to the rescue, summing it all up with alleged surgical precision. Yep, sadly while his form is often magnificent, the content is sometimes bogus.
But then, I borrowed the first series and was er, relieved, well as much as one can be about a TV show. It’s great, even though there’s still a lot of naff Left by numbers pap in there; it’s not yet the seeming main angle of the show. But then, why don’t I make a better TV show if I think I’m so damn good?! Exactly. Still it’s a lot of interesting and entertaining fun for a TV drama. Sadly, interesting and fun being two missing elements in a lot of TV.
"Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event". Oscar Wilde.
Alan Shaw is a lot like Hawk, just kind of updated and I do like the character. What I like is his spontaneous high intellect, his embarrassing surgical insight, his virility, courage and the laughs. See, just like Hawkeye. With all due humility, my forte I believe, unless I’m insane, and then it doesn’t matter. Perhaps as it doesn’t matter to Alan Shaw who may be as Dr. Henry Freedman said of Hawkeye Pierce, “...the sanest man I have ever known”. Unfortunnately, sanity is the perfect pre-condition for madness... No, really.
Alan Shaw has a propulsive desire to be right and do right, kind of. If it wasn’t for their peculiar, contradictory moral vanity fantasies and destabilising darkness, Pierce and Shaw could be Conservatives. Not that Conservatives don’t have similar flaws. Both Hawkeye and Shaw are in two of the classic establishment professions of medicine and law, even with the booze, cocaine and perversions. I myself condemn all perversion unless I’m invited.
The thing is, Hawke and Alan are both really kind of dated hipster squares in a way, no matter the surface trappings, and I should know. They're both actually introverted and cover for it with various proven techniques while longing for a home. For Hawke, he has one in his precious and decent Norman Rockwell delight of Crab Apple Cove. For Shaw, he doesn’t and denies it’s centrality by keeping it temporarily at bay, by living perversely in a hotel. The only way from there is back home, I guess. Alan Shaw checks out of what is most in his heart perhaps, by checking permanently in.
But his celebrated courtroom closing speeches, while they are often terrific and correct, are also often very eloquent balls. Meaning self legitimising bullshit that the smugly superior feel should be true, got to be, but just ain’t. The thing is, people come to the show with some receptiveness to the angles ladled out, and often rather thickly.
"To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost". Gustave Flaubert.
I myself find whole sections of the later episodes too often problematic and entirely predictable cant. They extrapolate, extrapolate they do. And they do this from a naïve view that the world is somehow controllable to our own opinions and that all we need is for as per usual, the government to do something about it, and for people to not be so er, complex or seemingly contrary. Yes, ain't it so? And just like my two favourite unhinged lads, Captain Benjamin Franklin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce and Alan Shaw as they both peer seemingly forever, into the dark night of the soul.
"What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens". Benjamin Disraeli.