all_unnecessary: (Default)
[personal profile] all_unnecessary
A friend of mine recently returned from summer vacation and brought back with him a mighty, mighty recommendation: watch Misfits, and now. As some of you may know, my Anglophilia knows only the slightest of bounds – Misfits turns out to have been one of them. Or rather, I don't know why I never got around to watching it, after it having been recced to me more than once (waggish? Was that you?), since it's basically designed for my adoration.

  • Fantastic sci-fi premise adroitly plotted and executed? Check.

  • Insightful and well-considered characterizations of its heroes? Check.

  • Freakishly talented actors? Check.

  • Cracking soundtrack? Check.

  • Perfect balance of genre-jamming and fanservice? Check.

  • Urgently needed and timely social commentary? Fucking Check.


Five ASBO kids start their community service on the day a super-power-dispensing storm passes directly over their estate. Way too many people are affected (that is, given characterologically consistent superpowers), including their Probation Worker, whose basic contempt for the kids with whom he works turns homicidal (HULK SMASH CHAVS!).

And thus it begins: cultural stereotypes are literalized and we are all enjoined to sit back, grab some popcorn, and marvel at it. Cos it really is marvelous.

And it hasn't been cancelled! New series on the way this fall!



Warning: this show is so very entertaining you really won’t want to be spoiled. Go watch the first episode (or even the whole frigging two seasons) and come back. I'll wait.


NATHAN: You lot, superheroes… no offense, but in what kind of fucked-up world would that be allowed to happen??

Were it only this world, Nathan! Chav superheroes, indeed.

Now I’m only an Anglophile and not an actual Brit (and PLZ correct me in the comments), so don’t take the philosophizing that follows for anything resembling an informed take on recent events in the UK (the riots, specifically - other people are writing about them and this with more authority than I am here), but it seems to me that Misfits is very smart about stereotypes of the “underclass” currently circulating in the UK, smart in its basic premise, in its execution, in its very warp and weft. And it’s part of a zeitgeist that’s cottoned on to the cruelty inherent in the institutional barriers those stereotypes obscure (CF: Owen Jones’ _Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class_ and Andrea Arnold’s _Fish Tank_), and the murderous intent implied therein.


No subtext here!

The 'Chavs' phenomenon….charges poor people with getting ideas above their station, with being feckless and irresponsible with money, tasteless, stupid, drunk, thuggish, and barbaric.



KELLY: You call me chav one more time, I’ll kick you so hard in the cunt your mum will feel it.
NATHAN: Her mum’ll feel it, how does that work?


What happens when you literalize these stereotypes? If considered out of context: they kill their probation worker and bury his body under a flyway. The chaviest of them all, Kelly, bashes his head in, and then stomps on it for good measure. But the context is this: through no fault of their own, Probation Worker is murderously bent on their elimination (and has already killed one orange-jumpsuited kid and shoved him in a locker), and no-one will believe their very true story of self-defense. Even the stomping is entirely called for.


You thought he was dead, but no! “Chav!!” he screams, grabbing Kelly’s leg.


“I AM NOT A CHAV!” screams Kelly back.

The facts of our world obtain: Misfits is not a pocket utopia. And even that personal responsibility shite decent folks are spouting is sent up: whose responsibility is it that the Probation Worker wants to kill them? Theirs, for being annoying and disrespectful and lazy, such that his superpower is directly derived from his irritation at them? Or his, for actually doing the deed? Or neither, or the storm?? It’s a marvelously brutal way to present the socio-historical situation (a kind of David-Simon-esque point to make, nu?).

Misfits speaks to the “savage creed” that is the meritocratic “common sense” of our moment, about which Richard Seymour has been writing over on Leninology. Consider this excerpt from Seymour earlier this year, with the first episode of Misfits in mind:

The 'Chavs' phenomenon….charges poor people with getting ideas above their station, with being feckless and irresponsible with money, tasteless, stupid, drunk, thuggish, and barbaric. In the guise of lewd satire, celeb-bashing and tart social commentary, it gives us a hit of class hatred. It references, and caricatures, the outward signs of social problems such as poverty, alcoholism, bad education and so on, but does so in the manner of a taxonomising anthropologist or zoologist, naturalising these very signs as qualities of a particular social sub-species: here a 'pramface', there a 'Croydon facelift', and mark the Burberry and inauthentic branded wear. The 'chav' is a folk devil, the quasi-satirical subject of the last decade's repeated moral panics about the 'underclass': nightmare neighbours, feral youths, ASBO kids, and so on. It is the byproduct of a neoliberalised social democracy which, in its acceptance of 'free markets', low taxes, and the language of meritocracy, was unable to directly challenge the growing inequality that, as a consequence of the unimpeded operations of the market, reached new peaks under New Labour.


Misfits are those folk devils, and while the show is endlessly full of moving social commentary, it’s also fucking hilarious, surprising, exhilarating, etc. Misfits does all this in an engagingly chav-like way: filthy, foul-mouthed, totally fucked up. I cannot squee enough.

The music choices, too, are spot on: here’s Lonely Soul by Unkle, ** which accompanies a moment at the end of the first episode in which we are given to recognize the deeply, soul-killingly ironic nature of their superpowers: the shy weirdo kid can turn invisible, the young black woman’s touch turns men into rapists, the chav can hear the dismissive thoughts of those who already clearly dismiss her, the otherwise upstanding young athlete who “shouldn’t even be here” can’t control his ability to wind back time, the asshole motormouth who keeps turning up like a bad penny is….spoilers!


I love this shot of Nathan, skulking outside his mother’s house, out of which he has been kicked, cos it’s either her mother’s boyfriend or him.

If it’s possible, Series Two is even more fun than the first, and includes a time-travel narrative that I found quite involving (and about which I’ll probably write).


The viewer is wondering along with the rest of the gang, “What the fuck is he going to say now??” Probably something deeply, hilariously wrong.




*From http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/11092466 a comment on The Guardian’s review of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones.

** funfact: this video was produced more than a year and a half before Misfits’ first run. Well done, student filmmakers! Captured a zeitgeist.

Date: 2011-09-05 12:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] agoraphiliac.livejournal.com
fanks! I checked out the first couple of episodes.

You know what else is kind of good on a related topic, not chavs exactly but a critique of the kind of comedy that offers the guilty pleasures of class hatred, is Stewart Lee's rant about Topgear. Excerpts on youtube, though it's also worth watching the whole show, "If You Prefer a Milder Comedian."

Date: 2011-09-05 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] all-unnecessary.livejournal.com
Yah, I hate Top Gear as well. Whenever Jeremy Clarkson's on Quite Interesting, I'm always waiting for Fry to humiliate him.

Date: 2011-09-06 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrwaggish.livejournal.com
Nice fangirling!

I saw the first couple episodes, I think, but I didn't see that any overall plot arc was emerging, so I sort of lost interest. Does it come together? I thought the ep with the reverse aging person was the best.

<3 Stewart Lee.

Date: 2011-09-06 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] all-unnecessary.livejournal.com
Plot schmlot.

But seriously, there's plot - maybe even meta-plot. I'd say it's worth it, but I seem to have become a rabid fangirl. Compared to TW, it's bloody Shakespeare.

Profile

all_unnecessary: (Default)
all_unnecessary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 19th, 2017 05:07 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios