Monday, February 1, 2010

Meditations on Six Feet Under

As the time approaches 5pm on this Monday, I think it's probably obvious to you that I've been a real procrastinator today.  I'm really trying to get back on my blogging regimen and post 3-4 times a week, religiously.  But so much of sitting down to write is consumed by: "What the heck am I going to write about today?"  At times it feels like a bit of a cop out to just pull something out of the air and go with it, but I also realize that that's sort of what writing is.  The good stuff can only emerge by exploring all the possibilities out there.

So pardon me if this seems a little random.

Corey and I have been watching a new TV on DVD--you may have heard of it--called Six Feet Under.  This is an HBO show that began in 2001 (the year cute husband and I started college) and ran until 2006.  I actually rented the first season from Blockbuster one summer when I was home from school and after about three episodes decided I wasn't that interested.  So imagine my mixed emotions when I opened up the complete series from cute husband on Christmas Day.  He could tell I was less than thrilled...  But the man is going to be a lawyer--he's very convincing.  Let's just say we started season one about three weeks ago and we're now about to start season five (the final season).  In short: we can't get enough of it and though I won't make this official until we finish season five, I can comfortably say that it's my favorite television show ever.

I'm not posting about it here so much to recommend it to all of you (while of course I do recommend it, I know it's different strokes for different folks and I know TV on DVD can consume a lot of time) but just to have some sort of discussion with myself about what makes it great from a writing standpoint.  I took a screenwriting course in college and found that style of writing to be incredibly limiting and difficult, but that hasn't stopped me from having involved daydreams about converting my novel into a screenplay and winning an Oscar.

So these are things I love about SFU.

I love that the writers have dared to give us weird characters--not weird as in fetishes and obsessions, but weird in the way that most of us and most of the people we know are weird.  Everyone has little strangenesses about them and it's those things that are most intriguing; it's those things that draw us to one another.  It's our weird hangups--the things that bother us and press our buttons and excite us for no good reason--that color our relationships with everyone we know.

I love that the strangeness of the characters makes for a strange family (the show focuses entirely on a family of funeral directors), but not so strange that they can't function and love one another.  All families are dysfunctional in some way, but only in rare cases does this mean that there's no love there.  In my experience, most movies, television shows, even books want to give us the rarer story and forget to tell us about the truth of most "normal" families--yes we're weird, but it just makes things interesting.

I love the portrayal of gay and minority characters as real people.  What a novel idea!  The most normal couple in the show is the gay couple.

I love that the writers let us hear whole conversations--long meditations between two people or several members of the Fisher family really hashing it out, saying what they mean, letting things out that they've been holding in for a long time.  Being mean to one another. 

I love how the characters go through marked ups and downs.  They can be on the right track for months at a time.  Life is going well, there's a modicum of contentment each night before they fall asleep.  And yet restlessness always returns.  They re-examine things and upset the apple cart again. 

I love the relationships that exist between each of the children and their mother.  All three are like her in some way, and though she drives them crazy, they all love her more than they could ever express.  Though their father is dead--he comes back in the form of a ghost--I love that all of the characters still seek his approval for so many things: not just congratulations on a triumph, but permission to be sad or angry, or to move on.

I love that the show is willing to discuss death in a matter-of-fact way.  Not in a religious or mystical sense, but as something that happens to all of us.  And I love that it has no opinion about life after death.  We just know that in some way the dead visit us again, whether in our own minds or in some ghostly way, we don't ever really know.  But does it matter?  Either way, they are speaking to us.

It's fun to think about what makes something you love so good.  My hope is that some of these bullet points will seep into my work.

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