THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER ARTICLE ARCHIVE
"THE PRISONER - FOR A NEW GENERATION", By Jennie
I was almost
two decades away from existence when "The Prisoner" was created. To
many, it would therefore seem odd that I would instantly latch on to such a
series. Whenever I mention to people that my favourite show was made in the
sixties, they usually get an odd look on their face, as if something “that
old” could not possible have any relevance or be of any interest to someone
my age. I’ve been wondering why that is so. Of course, I totally disagree
and I think that The Prisoner is completely relevant today, regardless of age.
I am part of the “CG” generation, where the most popular movies seem to involve nothing but computer generated special effects, multiple things blowing up and ridiculously simplified soap-operatic dialogue. I grew up watching "Sesame Street" and the "Ninja Turtles", where we were conditioned into having a two minute attention span and believing that cool bandanas and pizza can solve all problems. I think, for many people my age, movies are meant to be seen and enjoyed and promptly forgotten. Many (although not all) modern television shows have been relegated to (in my mind) hour long torture sessions of “reality tv” where eating bugs or relentlessly degrading everyone on screen and reinforcing popular stereotypes have become the norm and actual thought processes are discouraged. I also think a lot of people watch television in order to escape, for a moment, from their lives. A lot of people I talk to generally don’t want to really have to think too much about what they are watching. To "Prisoner" fans, who have doubtless spent many hours relentlessly trying to figure out answers to intriguing questions and deciphering meaning from the show, television takes on a whole new meaning. The ability of this show to inspire debate, discussion and analysis is greatly lacking lately in modern television. I think this is what drew me to the show at first. Answers are not spoon fed to you, nor is the ending predictable within the first five minutes. I find myself watching the episodes over and over again and I still see new things every time. It is most definitely not formulaic. The fact that “the hero” blatantly loses most episodes and doesn’t instantly make a heroic escape while spouting corny one-liners and falling in love with the first woman who gives him a significant glance, is indicative of the uniqueness of the show.
Having said that, I do understand why many people don’t like the show. There are aspects of "The Prisoner" that do prevent many people my age from really getting into the series. It is unconventional and does not follow the formulaic “guy meets girl, has sex, and saves the world” pattern of many recent popular movies and television shows. Also, looking at the show with a modern critical eye, some things are hard to accept at first glance. Yes, there is the seemingly obligatory cheesy fight scenes in every episode. Often enough, the angles are wrong and the action mistimed, it is very obvious no one actually got hit and the sound effects bring to mind someone being attacked with a cheese sandwich as opposed to a fist. And yes, the display colour is different from modern movies and television, everything does look more faded and it does instantly date the show. Not that that is bad, but does sadly cause a lot of people to instantly put it in their “old tv, therefore not worth watching” category. And - most importantly to many people I think - very odd, often inexplicable things are often happening. There is a giant weather balloon rolling around with violent tendencies, many people are wearing odd colour combinations, lamps come down from the ceiling and brainwash you and no one is kissing anyone. And the ending. Ah, the ending. I think a lot of people, therefore, are only able to see these elements of the show and just can’t grasp the series as a whole. Once one can adapt to the sixties feel of the show and learn to love it, to see the underlying symbolism of it all, "The Prisoner" goes much beyond “that old tv show”.
I think "The Prisoner" has a definite timeless quality. Although I did not yet exist in the sixties nor do I have any experience with the Cold War outside of textbooks, subjects that are brought up within the series are still relevant today. What was only just beginning back then, such as constant video surveillance, has become the norm. I have never known a time when I could walk through a store without being videotaped and the reality of satellite surveillance now makes it even more creepy. As well, as an anthropology student, I have entire courses on “the global village” and how the world is becoming increasingly homogenized. Furthermore, I think the constant theme of social conformity also resonates in my generation (well, probably in all generations! We are such odd social animals!). As a child growing up within the public school system, I have often felt pressure to conform to the latest fad, whether through the clothes that I was suppose to wear to the music I was supposed to listen to, what was “cool” and what is not. To be “unmutual,” regardless of personal reasons for doing so, was to be a social outcast. Yes, I realize that this is quite different from having ones entire individualistic personality subjected to constant creative psychological torture in order to eliminate it and gain information, but the threat to individuality does exist today to a degree. So, "The Prisoner" is definitely analogous to our modern lives.
Thus, I think "The Prisoner" has a lot of offer to modern youth and everyone else! But it just doesn’t appeal to everyone. But, perhaps I can change some minds. I’m trying my best to spread the word, get a new generation of Priz fans out there! I’ve had some successes so far and many more hopefully to come. Be Seeing You!
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