8FOLD: Mighty Medley # 5, May 2014, by Brenton, Perron, Russell, and Russell

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Thu May 8 16:52:22 PDT 2014

On Wednesday, May 7, 2014 11:37:55 PM UTC-4, Andrew Perron wrote:
> Well, considering that it is, in the main, a dystopia where everybody is
> made "equal" by pulling special people down so that they're at the same
> level as the stupid, or the ugly, or y'know *the disabled*... >.>;;; I
> mean, I'm pretty sure Vonnegut was not intentionally implying that creating
> accomodations for people who need them will lead to a hellish parody of
> society. But, werll...

Oh, those problematic aspects. :-D

I'm not going to say that I necessarily forgot about that part of it, because it's certainly *there*. But at the same time, I think you're right that Vonnegut was not intending for it to be read that way, particularly because at the time the story was published (1961), there wasn't the heightened awareness of and push for such accommodations. Certainly if the story was written today, or even in 1981, it'd be difficult to say that the author wasn't aware of such a reading/undercurrent-- and I think a writer as wily as Vonnegut would have taken a different tact.

That said, it's not a great story by any means-- Vonnegut was always a better novelist than short story writer-- but I've never met a dystopian story that I've ever had much use for.

The movie, from 1995, is worth seeking out-- I think. I was favorably impressed with it when I saw it some sixteen odd years ago, but at that time I also enjoyed Howard Mackie's X-Factor run. And the film itself is a TV movie from 1995, hardly a time-and-format pairing that's known for quality.

In this version, Bergeron is recruited by the non-handicapped government to program the state-run television station. Rather smartly, the film focused on the medium of television and its potential for good and for ignorance, to further culture or to banish it. At the climax he rebels and basically invents public television-- playing great films, sitcoms, music, and even teaching the whole of his America that the holocaust happened. It's almost like an argument for why culture-history matters and why television as a mass media matters. It could be that I'm just remembering how good (at the time that I thought) the last fifteen minutes were and projecting it onto the rest of the film, but I got more out of it than I ever did out of the actual story.


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