The Holocaust, Entertainment and Trivialization of Serious Themes

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The Holocaust, Entertainment and Trivialization of Serious Themes

Post  Aslinn Dhan on Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:32 pm

TV, books, movies and other media can be  used for many different things. Some of those things are about pure entertainments without any context about larger moral issues, they can teach moral truths, they can place things that are abstract to us and make them more understandable, relate able. They can titillate and charm and excite us. True Blood does all those things for us.

Confronting the uglier side about human nature is never comfortable. For example, I remember that show Quantum Leap, about a scientist who is thrust into some of histories most incredible stories and he assumes the lives of people in that reality. For the most part, it was funny and entertaining because it was a continual fish out of water story. Then he began to explore things like, what it was like to be black in the south during the civil rights days of the 60's, what it was like to be a soldier during the Vietnam War and then he did the most disturbing story of all, he became a young woman who is date raped. Believe me, I remember the controversy. No one was above having an opinion about this. Some said it trivialized the topic and others said it was a look into what it must feel like to be a victim from a man's point of view, because sometimes we saw him as others saw him, the young woman, and sometimes we saw him as he saw himself, himself in a young woman's clothes.

There were others too. One of my major faves was Alien Nation. It was based on a movie of the same name and it was about a not so distant future when aliens were marooned on Earth and had to carve out an existence on Earth. The protagonists of the story were George and his side kick Matt who were police officers in California. You learned all this stuff about them, like the fact they got drunk on spoiled milk and they ate things raw and they were super strong and they had all these different weakness, like the fact that salt water is like battery acid to them. And what we discover is they were actually slaves on the ship and they had a class of their own kind called the Kleese An Soonk, the Overseers,  and they wore a tattoo on their wrists that showed their position in their world. In one episode, George’s daughter was trying to understand the concept of Halloween and she didn’t think that being a vampire or a zombie was scary so she took a pen and made the tattoo of the Overseers and her father hit the roof until she explained why she did it.

There are those who hold certain events as sacred and I am one of them. The Holocaust, September 11, December 7th,  June 6th, there are a lot of days that represent for me days and periods that tried the human spirit and shown the greatest in Human kindness and the darkest part of its heart. But time has a funny way of softening the blow, gentling the memories and somehow erasing the immediate pain of memory.

When I wrote Wake the Dead with its exploration of evil and the holocaust like themes of evil Nazi doctors and the painful experimentation I put Eric through with the mind altering Berserker drug and season five sort of did the same thing, even to having a German character who pressed the button and sent liquid silver through Bill’s veins, I knew I was using imagery from the holocaust. I did it on purpose. I did it because I wanted to feel it for myself. I can’t take a Quantum Leap and end up in Nazi Germany and get to run a stake through a bunch of Nazis. I explored my angst and my deep feelings of anger through the tale and to some extent through the show. I was so angry, I was so afraid for Bill and the others and I cringed whenever they did things to our Vampires.

Yes, True Blood is a work of fiction, but it has through the metaphor explored issues like gay marriage (Bill asking Sookie to marry him in Vermont, where vampire/human marriages are legal), abortion (Arlene going to Holly for an abortion), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Terry in about every other episode), Rape (Tara, Holly, Jason, Antonia), The Burning Times during the Inquisition, drug addiction (Jason, Andy) and social persecution of a minority (The Fellowship of the Sun and the Obama Mask racists who killed the shifters and Vampires in season five). Why shouldn’t they confront a holocaust like scenario? There is no reason they shouldn’t.

Because the Holocaust of the Germans against the Jews is not the only Holocaust in the history of the world, and I fear will not be the last. Happening simultaneously were the artificial food famines in Russia when the government went in and ordered every stalk of food be gathered and nothing left for the farmers and millions starved to death and some resorted to cannibalism. Before then there was the Burning Times when hoardes of Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians including the still practicing Pagans were rounded up and forced to convert or were murdered by the Inquisition. In America, Native Americans were rounded up and put on reservations where they were all but forgotten and starved and deliberately exposed to disease. Then there are instances where medical experiments were carried out on people of color in the south for everything from syphilis to tuberculosis so experimentation could be carried out on them. Then there is the whole Japanese Internment Camps where thousands of American born and immigrant Japanese were put in camps and many of them went hungry and were treated like the enemy. We didn’t do that German Americans; we didn’t do that to Italian Americans. If True Blood were “real” why wouldn’t the same things happen to them, they are hard to kill but they do die, they are strong but they still feel pain. Believe me, there would be a segment of society who would do this and they would say they could do this because they are not real people, they don’t have the same rights, they are animals, right?

See, what people forget, and it really doesn’t take that long, there will always be a minority of somebodies that can fall victim to the whims of the majority and be considered nonpeople. Oh we like to talk a good game and say, “Not in this day and time.” But the ugly truth is, yes, in this day and time we can still look down on a group of people and say: “They are not us, therefore they do not have the same rights as us and therefore we are not beholden to them to look at them as anything but non-people.” We do it all the time. We demonize what we fear, and we hate what we don’t understand, and we defile what is not sacred to us. Not just Americans or Christians, but all of us.

So, it is good to have programs or books or movies that make us laugh and is pure fluff and silly and even naughty, but it is also good if a program, book or movie makes us think, and if it takes feeling empathy for Vampires to learn empathy or maybe remember this all happened before and will keep happening, so be it. I don't give a good g-d where you learn the lesson, just so long as you learn it. It doesn't trivialize it, it makes us see it again, and we are reminded that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Thus endeth the lesson.

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Aslinn Dhan
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