Showing posts with label TV. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TV. Show all posts

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The United States of the 1980s

I'm watching Stranger Things, Season Three. The Russian characters kill me for all of their 1980s styling. They were right there in the beginning of season, but as tangential characters. Just enough was known about them to build a tense story which really had nothing to do with the Soviets. They were a McGuffin for season 1, left out of season 2, but in season 3, they are a major plot point.

I'm not going to spoil Stranger Things for you, but American TV used to portray Evil Soviet Citizens in a particularly goofy way.

One of the things that stands out to me is, as the Evil Characters, they always had some tiny amount of easily understood motivation. Usually it was played to show their humanity. And where those motive forces most came into play was a deeply subversive scenario.

Said Soviet Super Citizen was always physically stronger than the American opponent, often smarter in very technical ways, but total out of their element when not dealing with brute force or when the operation deviated from the characters background knowledge.

Where the subversion comes in is not in the fact that once the Super Soviet Citizen is free of home influence do they show some heroic, sane and pure traits, but the fact that nearly every aspect of Western European and American culture is designed to somehow subvert them. They want a hamburger, a Coke, a convertible, a nice house, etc. All the things common people like.

While I am sure that many times the intended message was "America is just better", the actual message was cultural perversion. Basically, the good guys end up bribing the Soviets with good ol' American Scooby Snacks.

"Did you just bribe Cthulhu with ice cream?"
"Not any old ice cream. Häagen-Dazs* is the shit."

Let that one sink in.

While we can't go back to the 80's, I think this is an excellent method of designing better villains. Most of the time villains are rather one dimensional, but being evil, they should succumb to perversion of a bigger evil.

*There is some deep irony that Häagen-Dazs came into being to save an American ice cream company from bad sales and lack luster marketing. Make it look different, and poof!, profit.