November 03, 2019
Just how repellent I find this series will probably show up in my analyses that are to follow. I wrote recently about how a nation's, in a global world perhaps a world's, sensitivities can quickly become inured against knowing what is acceptable and not acceptable in behaviour, and this inured state will include how a person accepts or refuses the fare that is considered to be 'entertainment'.
“Frost” is just one of a number of TV shows, shows like 'Silent Witness' and “Waking the Dead”, which go beyond being fairly self-contained part fantastic, part formulaic, crime detective fiction; or else beyond those TV detective shows one watches, if one watches them at all, for their ingenious plots and Byzantine twists and turns alone.
In the first category are 'Poirot', 'Father Brown' and 'Midsummer Murders' and in the second 'Lewis' and “Foyle's War”. There are a number of detective shows resting on the cusp, bordering on 'grim' indeed; shows like “George Gently” and “Endeavour”; and which don't go as far as the graphic and full-immersion ghastlinesses of “Frost” and its fellows.
So in the first place what I have against “Frost” is the appalling subject matters it takes up and shows onscreen. Like 'Silent Witness;' and Waking the Dead', “Frost” brings not just forensic post mortems to the screen as part of our 'fare of entertainment'. I guess autopsies are a fact of life and so on the edge and maybe to be acknowledged; but shows like “Frost” bring horrendous storylines and appalling depravities to us and holds them up in a 'love to hate' way which makes gorging hypocrites of us all.
In these shows the fare is normally abhorrent; that is their selling point, sad to say. We see child molesters and serial rapists, psychopathic tortures and an outrageous callous viciousness portrayed as our standard fare. We know that were we to choose to watch such a programme the fare will be something ugly and depraved.
True there's a 'horrid fascination' about watching such programmes, a 'can't look away' magnetism which couples up along with a sense in viewers which is telling them that this is subject matter and drama beyond the pale and as it were 'pollutant' to their senses and their psyche.
This is my own feeling.
Now I guess many people – if indeed many people might read my words – will be a little baffled about what I mean by these shows polluting one's mind? So I'll expand, try to explain, and indeed this is one of my main issues causing me to write here.
Firstly there was a Frost episode I was 'captive' to listening to – not viewing – recently – I was in a vehicle when it was being played on a DVD. The storyline was about:
Hit and run death by driving
Children gone missing
Paedophilia and child grooming
A sex gang which circulated taken children
Parents and couples involved
Involved couples professing taken children to be their own children
Scene where a distressed mother identifies her dead child
The mood of the show throughout was pretty grim. A looming murk cloud of morbid darkness. As the show progressed ever more appalling revelations of depraved child abuse were unveiled. Deepening the horror and the distastefulness.
The mother identifying her dead child was a very dreadful scene. I could hardly bear it and I came near to asking for it to be switched off.
The treatment of the spectrum of this kind of subject matter was contributory to the unease and repellence I felt. For the policemen involved, who were gentle towards grieving relatives of these children, were otherwise taking all the vileness as being 'part of a normal day's work'. This behaviour may be true to fact, I don't know; although my own outlook saw it as being 'too cool' 'too workaday' as if exaggerated to give an impression that such things come to the attention of police daily, hourly, and in many places in this country. If this were true, if it is true, I would be dumbfounded and shocked utterly. I put the show's blasé police attitudes down to 'dramatic effect' – part of that web being woven by the show to draw you in and capture your aghast attention?
This approach to portraying this horrid subject matter in the show also cast a doubt over whether the condolences and comforting of police officers to poor parents was anything more than 'routine'' ; and so also and merely par for the course going through the motions for them? It's a natural observation and conclusion to infer I think?
The character of Frost also is one which I feel anger and repugnancy towards – even as – especially as - it being fictional. The character is loud and brash to a point of cockiness – giving out harsh and smart quips as tick-offs to his crew and to others, sometimes to 'put them down' aka 'in their places' and he fires pot-shots made from a supposed 'moral and/or intellectual high grounds'. Their recipients are always portrayed as having been remiss in observation or in feeling, or as having missed a trick or being just plain dull, like a scatter gun goes off and wounds a number of people who have between them a variety of 'reasons' for having been 'in the way'.
So you again get 'the best/worst of both worlds'. Just as the 'everyday fare' of police is shown to be this hard and shocking life tackling sordid and degenerate crimes yet these police can stand inured and yet also show themselves softly sensitive to parents about such crimes and at the same time; likewise the witty quips firing off in all directions from Frost and gunning down figures for a range of remiss reasons, these too show Frost to be smart and acute in his thinking and his sense of target sharp and discerning; yet he is happy to insult and demean people around him simply because they are less quick or less aware than he is. Do you scorn a person who has learning difficulties because their learning is slower than yours? Do you do dishonour to a garbage collector because he couldn't obtain a job like yours? And so on. (Are indeed garbage collectors and people with learning disabilities somehow in any way lesser persons than oneself?)
So you get a picture of Frost as a person 'on the ball' 'rarely misses a trick' and 'not suffering fools etc' and 'smart to retort' as well as 'incisive and discerning' intellectually. On the downside you get a guy who is dismissive and intolerant, somewhat 'above his companions and knows it', and prickly and demanding and really very seriously caustic and scathing. Unpleasant indeed.
The Frost drama needs these contraries and unconformities in his character so as to give him 'viewer appeal'. He has to be harsh abrasive sensitive kindly superior sharp-witted, discerning and crude – all these conrtadictories together because each trait individually is desirable as an attraction to a viewer to watch in action – for use at the 'appropriate' times and places in the course of a show.
I can go on dissecting the character of Detective Frost, but these two chief aspects tell us enough about it. As a moral entity the character of Frost has zero moral integrity – simply because he needs to be morally hypocritical and dubious for him to retain viewers' eyes and ears on him. Each individual trait as I said is a draw to viewers; each trait is 'a plus' for engaging one's attention either sensationally, or else something sordid-sympathetically.
A viewer is meant to enjoy and revel in that kick to an arrested offender that expresses Frost's outrage contempt and superiority. A viewer is mean to relish that smart sharp quip that summarily puts down – in the script and the drama a put down inserted gratuitously simply to grab viewers – and regardless of its uncouth unkindness. A viewer is meant to see Frost as a smart vital sleuth, so these retorts of his are needed to add a distinct foul cutting kudos. And so on
Thus Frost becomes a character of no ethical distinction; no behavioural integrity; a mishmash a hotchpotch of stylised and sometimes sour tasting aspects of a person; these being a bag of tricks and pot-luck attributes that he has to have and be for him to get the viewing figures. But here's the problem
I have spoken before about the incremental 'pushing the envelope' 'stretching the boundaries' of TV, of movies and fiction and of non-fiction content and presentation generally. The case has been and continues to be that a director or scriptwriter etc is coerced by times and tastes more or less into 'upping the ante' of thrills and spills so that each show he makes in order to grab a public's patronage, has to be a little more 'edgy' and (thrilling, unsettling, violent, fast-paced, special effects, visually vivid,) and so on than his, or his competitors' previous show was.
This is a reflection in the entertainment world of the conditions of free market capitalist enterprise on that industry. In two major and separate ways.
Firstly the pressure of these times of having to make a good deal of money from a show demands that producers etc are constrained make the next show always a little further 'beyond the pale' than was the previous one.
Secondly, and this argument is the leading one – the one which drives the former necessary need of producers etc. Secondly, the public, the entertainment consumers, have been vitiated, made unclean in their tastes (I use the word unclean deliberately, Frost has been my example, but apply the Frost analysis to many shows and see).
Apple is now at iPhone 10 is it - or more? Microsoft is halting service on Windows 7 in January 2020. 5G networks are being introduced drip fed into the marketplace right now. New ranges of products appear incessantly and most claim to be distinct 'upgrades' ; 'improvements' ; 'new and revolutionary'. The holiday industry has become and continues being ever more exotic and far flung lengthy 5 star luxury 'getaways' to worldwide destinations – many of which holidays a good chunk of British take advantage of up to four or five times each year. A binge. A theme-park life. Christmas sees millions of Brits go away to the sun or on skis for two weeks.
Everything commercial and consumerist is also pushing the ante upwards deliberately and as far further as it can. (Note our noises about carbon dioxide, climate, and emissions, pollutions, etc are loud - but there's little out of our bag of junk pleasures and entertainment gives way to these imperative calls). We go on regardless and in ever spiralling quantities and speeds of depredation.
In a world like this, which is our world and presently, can it be otherwise than that characters such as Frost and his cronies in other shows, are constrained yet again to be made having a goodie-bag bundle of traits not dramatically or personally integrated so as to make a character let alone unbelievable, but nor even savoury. Only they are a ragbag of traits collected to hook viewers.
So viewers are hooked because the whole commercial consumerist and economic set-up in which they have lived for decades now has and continues to reflect and subsist upon this 'up the ante' berserk twisted ethos! Just as each holiday has to be just that bit more exotic offer just that bit more frisson, and the next phone and OS and delicatessen and footwear etc etc likewise – what can be expected but that our entertainment should follow suit? It's not just change; not just current tastes are a moving staircase. It's a race to the bottom for our shared civic values, behaviour and public demeanours – Trump and Johnson are what we have made of ourselves writ large on the political rostrums.
They are not exceptions. Nearly all politicians, like ourselves, are now lying in public, brushing aside with a slighting breeziness many reasonable asks and exceptions, cheating, going back their words deliberately with eyes wide open, fingers uncrossed. Our loss of trust and belief in them is real and true – but we also have heavily contributed causes to this disastrous impasse of a joke called politics and society, by us having accepted, embraced with open arms and wallets this race for cash towards the dustbin of behaviour initiated and vitiated by consumerism and commerce - where we are heading right now.
The Premier League in soccer; the proposed Cricket equivalent being baking in the oven right now, are in the same trough of swill as was satellite TV when Rupert Murdoch (I believe?) called its advent 'a license to print money'. They are not sports – no longer are they – they are business - global mass money super-udders – and the whole set up of merchandising, televising, remote streaming, season tickets, loyalties, fans, obsessions, dedications, transfer fees, interviews, advertising, and so on – all of it is a great scam – like The National Lottery – a deception and one great and contemptuous offensive manipulation of the ordinary person. A premier case of 'upping' the ante to the zenith.
Their moneymakers employ crowd-pleasers to whip up loyalties, keenness ,passion – to accrue yet more wealth. Yet where is the loyalty of players managers, moguls who run the clubs? Their loyalty is only and always to money – a player at the drop of a hat changes clubs – he is let go off by managers moguls and the money rolls in. Fans simply change loyalties to transfer to players to suit on demand. One might say that The Club is what is sacrosanct; but I say yes, The Club, but The Club only as Brand and Trade Mark. Look at Rangers, Wolves, Leicester – when they became non-viable commercial assets
Whole sectors of industry huge in impress and extent draw in huge income from The Premier League worldwide; and you say – because you have been catechised to say – it's all more wealth for us all in the end. But NO, it's a waste of resources time effort materials thought which otherwise is well spent getting clean water and health and food to a good deal of the world that lives without these vital goods. The Premier League is just a bit more theme-park life and consciousness in the stupid West.
The pollutions and degradation of natural resources it causes are then unnecessary and evil. And if there have to be downside side effects like these from economic activity, why not pray for and ensure we obtain instead a result that helps those in direst need?
As you can see Frost has led me into a whole world of nonsense and calamity happening at all our front doors right now. Our greed and acquisitiveness, our lemming-like following of the headlines of nasty newspapers that tell us lies that suit their pockets; lies that are told to us as what we are to believe and to think – if thinking is not overstating the case? - all this had helped us into this terrible cesspit of life called by millions of persons in The West 'civilisation' – and who have a sketchy idea only what civilisation might be or look like.
The “Any Answers “programme on Radio (BBC) today asks listeners to phone in with 'views' on political questions of the day. Of course it's mostly Brexit wall to wall these days. One can hear loudly the echoes of toe-rag newspaper headlines in the blatant and crude misinformed and spurious arguments leaping to the tongues of so many callers-in who each 'have the definitive answer' - one each and each 'their own'.
Of course our education system(??) has let many people down – for years now having been deflected, distorted, into serving the needs of employers and making raw labour fodder for private and public enterprises. Once again the profits to be made thus are the problem – education being connected to consumerism and commerce has in this linkage been vitiated and blunted badly. A student whether secondary school college or university is likely to be studying to become a worker of some sort, vocational they say but not a professional oftentimes. Oddly enough professions like medicine are one of the last bastions and sanctuaries that our country still has, of humane and rounded broad education leading to real care of heart towards others. Much else that passes for education here now is mere training up in apprenticeships to do a trade or an office of service .
Thus we have graduates graduating who know everything that a king-pin and a drive-shaft is and does but do not know how to be polite and civil to peers. Sounds like an old man's rants? Well, yes, indeed many young people are showing themselves seriously concerned and are rebelling against this 'all for a grand, and a grand for all' outlook that is extorting the very life out of species, resources and a once-hospitable world.
What we need to begin putting the pieces back together in the right places; what could begin a reformation in us, might be a revolution in entertainment. The second-coming of a high-earnest for getting character, and drama, as role models - right. It is an ancient idea and it was resurrected in The Renaissance that entertainment should be a teacher of 'how to behave well' and of 'what is properly called for' in response to situations.
Instead of having violent personal griefs portrayed on screen, which are always tender and private affairs, we do not have a mother bereaved of her child to sex abusers shown as drama; nor do we show as news the Vietnamese families in great grief about their relatives dead in the refrigerated lorry in Kent here. Instead we use delicacy, for the sake of mourners everywhere, and so feel the grief of others truly, and respond to it appropriately, which is by us letting the sufferers mourn without having to bear our prurient eyes of interference.
Such a delicacy is not effete nor wussy, nor is the showing of it. It takes more self command to avoid peeping into another person's closed bedroom curtains to gather in the 'experience' - than it does to marshal a true empathic sympathy in oneself and give these people their due privacy and kindly respect.
The great and well known saying of the famous poet and priest applies across the board here. It applies to us using self-restraint, allowing respect for others, observing temperance, and to ever to us owning a due kindly feeling concern towards friends and towards inoffensive strangers:
“Send not to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee'