- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

Fictional war

“After a string of recent flops … television producer Steven Bochco is again garnering high praise, this time for [an F/X cable TV] series focusing on soldiers in the current Iraqi conflict. ‘Over There’ … marks a milestone in television as the first series to fictionalize an ongoing war.

“Both F/X and Bochco have gone to great lengths to publicize the notion that the series takes no political point of view. …

“Bochco characterizes the soldiers in typical postmodern fashion, as in [a scene] from the first episode, where a young soldier reflects on his role in the war: ‘Someone said tragedy was the inevitable working out of things. And the tragedy here is, we’re savages. We’re thrilled to kill each other. We’re monsters. And war is what unmasks us. But there’s a kind of honor in it too. I guess if I’m a monster, it’s my privilege to be one.’ …

“If Bochco’s Iraqi conflict is populated with young recruits that ‘are not fighting for an ideal,’ as he told the New York Times, then his is indeed a fictional war.”

—Megan Basham, writing on “Baghdad Hill Blues,” Wednesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

Tradition’s future

“America has been in the midst of a culture war for some time and will probably remain so for some time longer. But culture war is not peculiar to this country. …

“In every culture war, the existing customs and traditions of a society are called to the bar of reason and ruthlessly interrogated and cross-examined by an intellectual elite, asking whether they can be rationally justified or are simply the products of superstition and thus unworthy of being taken seriously by enlightened men and women. …

“Can a particular tradition be justified by reason? And what if our traditional belief conflicts with reason — can we rationally justify keeping it? …

“Hence the question before us: In a world that is being more and more rationalized, does tradition have a future? Or will we one day look upon it as we now look upon the myths of the ancient world — quaint and amusing, but of no real relevance to our lives?”

—Lee Harris, writing on “The Future of Tradition,” in the June-July issue of Policy Review

Grown-up TV

“The trouble these days is that the kind of film we used to be proudest of — the film that met a general standard of seriousness, intelligence and sociopolitical awareness — has been all but lost. …

“What we’ve allowed to happen is the domination of the market by audiences of a certain age range. … Now, that audience determines not just most of the films that are made, but their general nature, their tone. I do think that a lot of people my age — I’m 64 — have given up on the movies. The truth is that television, if you pick and choose, is a lot more grown-up and satisfying these days: HBO, for instance. …

“A very interesting example, I think, is the show ‘24.’ Now, ‘24’ has had its ups and downs in my opinion: I think that’s inevitable when you’re working as fast as you are in television. But it has also been a pretty smart thriller that has really thrilled; it has hooked people. And as a viewer, you’ve had to work hard with it: The show doesn’t make concessions to those who haven’t seen the past episodes. It’s shot in a way that’s a great deal more interesting than the way most movies are shot today.”

—Film historian David Thomson, interviewed in the June 29 issue of the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages

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