Monday, November 24, 2008

MacGyver and the anti-MacGyver

Action adventure is a television genre. They are part of culture of the time. In the 1960s there were many horse opera westerns. There was a good deal of social commentary in many of them. Watch episodes of Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Maverick or Big Valley. See how many moral issues are addressed. How many of those issues, were really pointing to the then current America. And how many advanced progressive views and answers. Espionage shows, such as: I Spy, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E, also pointed this way, and so did the space opera, Star Trek.

Now, in the years preceding the Clinton presidency, there was the action, adventure series, MacGyver. In 1984 Reagan trounced Mondale (and Dukakis did little better in ’88). Most of the country seemed more attuned to the political views of Mondale, but still more voted for Reagan. Reagan’s initial bellicosity (before perestroika, and the Iran-contra and Beirut disasters), and carte blanche to the moneyed interests, was much challenged. Reagan’s Hollywood did not applaud and propagandise for him. MacGyver was a socially conscious [some read preachy], intelligent, action hero, who was remarkable in his calmness, and especially, his resourceful ingenuity, but he realised, that, sometimes he needed at least a ‘Plan B ’.

An identifying, and memorable feature, was his inventiveness. With barely more than a swiss army knife, and nearby flotsam and jetsam [junk at hand and occasionally duct tape], MacGyver rigs a workable, mechanical solution. ‘MacGyver’ has become a verb. A couple of times, at work, people have used the term. Sometimes, merely humorously, others admiringly: “You’ve macgyvered that! ”, “What now MacGyver? ”, “You watch MacGyver, dontcha?”.

Overall, MacGyver was a peaceable, and anti-violent hero. He strongly avoided guns. This plot device has been rarely used in the US. Now, there was the wonderful Andy Taylor of the idyllic Mayberry, the sheriff without a gun. Well occasionally he did get one out, but he did not walk around armed. He permitted, his deputy to carry a gun, but the lone bullet would be in Barney’s pocket. But those were comic devices, MacGyver was earnest.

In contrast, to the ending, of the current mini-epoch, of this country’s usurpation, we have the show ‘24’. A hideous modus operandi of a programme (including the preposterous ‘real time’ one day gimmick), that flourished under georgebushjr’s US, and, probably, could never have been written (and, almost, certainly not aired) outside the atmosphere of such a regime. A fictive, secretive, security agency*, that, has no qualms in using evil means to achieve their ends. All is permitted to fight ‘terrorism’, in order to ‘defend’ the country. Human and civil rights are thoroughly ignored. Torture is legitimate and necessary. Invented dilemmas, where there must be victims sacrificed. This show will not last long under a return to democracy.

had the Phoenix Foundation, 24 has the Counter Terrorist Unit, Get Smart had CONTROL and KAOS and so on.
postscriptum: There is a humor in the choice of the character name ‘MacGyver’. Obviously scottish, the scots have had a stereotype of being very canny, and frugal, about managing resources and being mechanically clever. There is the old joke, about the scotsman at the guillotine, where Scotty turns to look at the falling blade and says, “Aye, laddie! I ken yourr prroblem.”
[further digression: the chief engineer on Star Trek was “Scotty”] Finally, in a late programme, it is revealed that his name was the archetypal ‘Angus’. But, this also is the socially aware, near bleeding heart hero. MacGyver is an alternative spelling of MacGiver, both of which can be read mac--giver, pronounced with a short vowel.

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