RARA-AVIS: Re: The popularity of the Private Investigator

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 19 Feb 2006

Doug Bassett wrote that "at heart the fictional PI is an incarnation of the traditional American hero -- individualistic to the point of isolation, deeply moralistic, violent, stoic, a Romantic, etc. That figure will probably stick around as long as there's an America."

I think that's always true. But I don't know that the job title "PI" has the legs it used to have. There's an old quote (I'm misquoting) from Raymond Chandler that, by making Marlowe a PI, that saves the writer from having to create a job for Marlowe that lets him do what he does.

I think the Myth of tjhe Lone Wolf is an endangered myth. Too often, the image is the wacko down the street who was "quiet and nice to children," who grabs an AK-47 and shoots up a nursery school. We have become so globalized that the Lone Wolf -- especially the PI -- may be viewed as a threat to society.

Anybody on the margins is a threat to the Herd.

I remember some high-testicled "literary author" a few years back saying that the Terrorist was the new Postmodern Hero. Don't hear that nonsense much anymore, although I keep getting ARCs where the terrorist is the hero. Mostly Europeans once, by the way.

I dunno. I suspect the Group (the Herd) has become the dominant myth, I fear. Look at the ensemble shows on the tube -- from CSI to Law and Order to whatever. America is the Empire, and its heroes are Agents of Empire. The civil servant James Bond who slowly gained seniority on the job, took his exams, filed out his paperwork, and was given a license to kill, for instance, is just the British version. Look at American TV, and see all those heroes who passed the civil service test.

(The Postman as Hero? Hmmm. He can always go Postal, always ring twice before shooting. But I disgress.)

The other day, in passing, I heard someone on the Tube saying that the New American Hero is the Coach. He (or she) is the new Hollywood Hero. The Coach can get things done. Kids listen to the Coach. As Doug says, "the traditional American hero -- individualistic to the point ofisolation, deeply moralistic, violent, stoic, a Romantic, etc." The Coach fits. In another email, Doug write, "the Western is about confronting and "taming" or reconciling chaos in a direct kind of way." Remove the word "Western" and insert
"Coach." Hmmm.

The Coach -- aka, the grizzled gunfighter who straps on his Colt yet one more time -- makes the Team work as one! Yeah, the Herd wins the Big Game!

The Coach with two guns in his hands? Hey, I could see him protecting the day care center. Hmmm. Maybe that's Bruce Willis's next flick.

Fred Zackel

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 19 Feb 2006 EST