The cul-de-sac at the end of the road to enlightenment

Discussion in 'Knots Landing' started by Jimmy Todd, Jun 8, 2019.

  1. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Active Member

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    There are a flurry of books out there now using philosophy as a lens to view popular culture(i.e. Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Philosophy, etc)
    I've decided to indulge two subjects I spend too much time thinking about: KL and philosophy.
    I'm far from an expert, and I could definitely be wrong, so any constructive criticism, insights, views will be welcomed with an open mind.:welcome:

    Part I. Gary "The Other" Ewing
    The "Other" is a concept several philosophers discuss. To simplify it as much as possible for the sake of this post, it's putting people into a category that essentially separates them from the self or the "Us." Historically, as we all know, this has been done by Europeans to the people who populated Africa, Asia, and the Americas. This has also been done to gays, immigrants, Muslims, but I personally have seen it done to the police, people who voted for Trump, the poor, and the rich. From my understanding, it's stripping someone of their humanity making it easier to hate or debase.
    The character of Gary Ewing is a good example of "othering." His family viewed him as the "weak one" and "the black sheep." His neighbors often saw him as "the drunk" and the "one who cheated on 'poor Val' " and the media depicted him as the "Ewing heir" anytime he was on trial for murder.
    An aspect of this concept is that the "other" is a reflection of ourselves in the eyes of people and how we conform to this image. Jean-Paul Sartre famously said, Hell is other people" in that we can't escape the "gaze" of other people. We lose a certain amount of autonomy in outside opinions. That is our "hell." Sone philosophers raised the idea that we discover our true selves through our interactions with this "other" and their is the possibility for personal and moral growth when we recognize the humanity in whoever we deem separate from the Self or "Us."
    I like to think Gary escaped this hell as the series progressed, due to his own growth, to a degree. When Val told him how she hated her mother for abandoning her, he pointed out how young she was when she had Val. In other words, he didn't excuse Lilimae's actions as much as display an understanding of her humanity. Just as Gary was more than the "weak Ewing," Lilimae is more than the "Bad Mother."
    You could say Gary was more trapped in Sartre's hell in one of his earliest appearances on Dallas. He spends more time with baby John Ross than his own daughter Lucy. Babies can't cast a reproachful gaze on us the way young adults can. In Lucy's gaze, no matter how happy she is to see him, he'll always see himself reflected as the drunk who abandoned her. A few seasons later he visited SF and could interact with her(and give her his voting shares). Maybe this is why Muss Elllie could travel all over the world yet somehow never make it to California to meet her new twin grandchildren. She's be in the crosshairs of Sartre's gaze, courtesy of Valene, and see herself as the woman who stood by and let her son kidnap Valene's baby, Lucy.
    In fact, in the end Gary could be the luckiest Ewing of them all. He was the victim of JR, Jock, and Abby Cunningham, but it was through his interactions with them that he may have achieved the most personal growth out of everyone in both series. That way he could finally settle down with the one person who never "othered" him, Valene. It took 14 seasons of affairs, marriages, a succession of blondes and brunettes, but hey, the road wasn't boring.
    Next in Part Two: Simone de Beauvoir and the men, the females, and the humans of Seaview Circle.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
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  2. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Active Member

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    Simone De Beauvoir: The Men, the Women, and the Humans of Seaview Circle.

    I first heard about the feminist philosopher Simone De Beauvoir back when I was a wee lad in the 70's from the most distnguished of sources: Joanie Caucus of Doonesbury fame. Ms. Caucus had left her husband to start a new life and was working at a day care center.
    She quoted Ms. De Beauvoir to her very young charges, " There are two kinds of people: human beings and women. When women start acting like human beings they are accused of trying to be like men."
    Many years later I recalled that quote when I read more about Ms. De Beauvoir. Her theory on male and female roles in society drew heavily on the concept of "the Other." Men were the standard and everything a woman was only in relation to him. A man could have total autonomy over his identity and place in the world, but a woman existed only as a reflection of HIM. She was HIS wife, HIS daughter, the mother of HIS children, HIS secretary, etc.
    You've all heard of that conversation game, if you could invite any 3 or so people to dinner, living or dead, who would it be? Well, I'd modify that to, if you could invite any 3 people to watch KL with you, who would it be? My pick would definitely be De Beauvoir(The other two would be Pope John Paul II and Tina Turner, but that's a topic for a different thread).
    I think de Beauvoir would love KL, and its female driven narrative. I can't think of any problem she woukd have with Karen, but if she did, I'd be intrigued to know it. I'm hoping she'd feel about Abby as I do, appalled by her ethics, but admiring her ambition, strength, and intelligence. Imagine her response, having been born in 1908, to Abby calmly telling Richard she doesn't need him the way he needs her, and then amassing a fortune by the end of her run through a mixture of guile, business sense, and marrying a Ewing. I'm not saying De Beauvoir would be thrilled about that last part, but I'd like to hear her thoughts.
    I think she'd respond very well to Val's evolution, although maybe sigh when she marries Gary a third time, after marrying two other men. No matter how much Val grew, she seemed to need to follow a conjunction, Gary and Val, Ben and Val, Danny and Val, Gary and Val. Was there ever more than an episode or two where
    she was really just Val?
    However, the character that I believe would get the biggest reaction out of De Beauvoir would be fan favorite Laura.
    Laura's story seems to best convey De Beauvoir's observations about sexual roles in society as well as her wish for what they could be. Laura begins as a typical housewife, married to a man who fits De Beauvoir's view of the insecure male who needs to "other" women in order to affirm his own superiority. Yes, Laura struggled against him and the traditional beliefs on a woman's place ingrained in her. She got her real estate license, despite his disapproval, and began to experience success. However she didn't have Abby's steely confidence nor Karen's forthright nature to fully evolve in the manner of her choosing and was constantly being pulled back down, at times brutally so.
    The scenes that I find the most telling are the ones that involve life and death choices. Laura tells Richard she wants to have an abortion, and he slaps her. Greg tells Laura he doesn't want her to have the baby that will become Meg, yet now she firmly persists. When the doctor asks Laura if she wants to know the sex of her baby or be surprised at the birth, she decides. "Surprise me now" Laura wants to leave Richard but decides to stay with him when she finds his suicide note. When Laura learns she is dying Greg wants to be with her, yet she persists in dying alone without explanations or apologies. Many male existentialist philosophers have believed that a person's defining moment is death, while some female philosophers promulgated the idea of meaning occurring many times in our own personal births and rebirths. Laura combined those male and female views when asserting her essence.
    When Richard returns for her memorial, he chastises her friends and neighbors, saying that obviously it is a poor reflection on them, that her choice to die alone must be indicative that something is inherently wrong with the cul-de-sac. I love that he raises this idea and the show never provides a definitive response. No, Richard still doesn't get it. Just as he didn't get Laura's friendship with Ciji as anything more than just Laura's desire to be herself with another human being. It had to be sexual because Richard can't conceive of a female not needing to "get" something from another. Richard always saw Laura's life as "the other," not as a human being existing unto herself. This applies to her death as well. Her choice to die in her own way is not a reaction to Greg, her neighbors, or anyone else. It was solely about Laura just wanting to live and die her way.
    I believe one important reason that Laura was such a favorite among fans is that her innate desire "to be" touches a chord within all of us. Karen wanted to be the savior. Val wanted to be with Gary(no matter whom she married). Abby wanted to be the richest, the most powerful. The roles they sought defined their place on the show. Laura ultimately wanted to just be Laura, but first had to find out who exactly that was. Ms. De Beauvoir believed that no one was "born" a woman, but one "becomes" one. While Karen, Val, and Abby had there identities set from their first episodes, Laura became Laura over eight seasons. It wasn't until her death, and her choosing the way she died(complete with a final video ensuring Laura had the last word) did she make unequivocally clear who she was. The title of that episode, "Noises, Everywhere," has two meanings. It reflects a line from a child's story she reads to Meg, the life she created, and also to all the "noises" in society to which Laura was subjected, telling her who to be, finally silenced so the real Laura can speak.
    Yes, Laura's story is a feminist story, but deeper than that it's everyone's story. Male, female, liberal, conservative, gay, straight, feminist, housewife, working woman. So many labels out there, and thirty years later, even more so. We can now add Socialist Democrat, neo-conservative, pansexual, non-binary, transgender, womanist, etc. etc., it's so easy to mistake oneself for just the label, and forget the human. We are lucky we have Laura to remind us that what unites all of us is the desire to have all those "Noises, Everywhere" stop telling us what to be and let us just....be.
    Thank you to anyone who reads my ramblings. Responses, comments, and opinions are always welcome. And of course constructive criticisms are as well because, of course, I could be wrong about everything:embarrassed:
    Next:
    To Albert Camus,
    Thanks for everything!
    Greg and Anne
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
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  3. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    This was echoed in the John Lennon-Yoko Ono song "Woman is the N***** of the World" in the line If she's real we say she's trying to be a man.
     
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