Across the Landscape of Selfhood

From start to finish, the journey of Number 6 in The Prisoner is a journey across the landscape of selfhood. From the construction of the Village, to the defiant demeanor of Number 6 and his attempts to escape, to the identity of Number 6 as Number 1, the series explores various dimensions and interpretations of selfhood. This exploration centers on the noir hero, and through his own perspective we are led through the noir elements of misapprehension, confusion, and ambiguity, in terms of both...

Aeon J Skoble

The Fugitive aired on ABC from 1963 to 1967 and starred David Janssen in the title role of Dr. Richard Kimble, on the run from the law, wanted for a crime he did not commit. It was classic TV noir, both stylistically and thematically. In terms of the noir aesthetic the first three seasons were in black and white, and even though the fourth season was in color, for its entire run the series was filmed with a distinctly noir sensibility unusual and unsettling camera angles, shots and scenes that...

An I Exam Is Existential

Another similarity between existentialist fiction and film noir is indicated by a shared narrative strategy. By 1947, Sartre was advocating a literature without the omniscient narration of all-knowing witnesses or those who had a privileged point of view.20 This approach has its counterpart in one of film noir's most venerable devices, the voice-over narration, particularly in what Andrew Spicer calls its confessional mode.21 In connection with this narrative device, Spicer observes, flashbacks...

And Noir

While most people are familiar with instances of film noir, it is unlikely that many would be able to offer a succinct definition of it. I shall use the term noir here to refer not only to the classical period (generally recognized as beginning in 1941 with John Huston's The Maltese Falcon and ending in 1958 with Orson Welles's Touch of Evil), but also to a contemporary style that is inspired by that period and exemplifies prominent features of it. One of the most notable features of noir is...

Angels Travel on Lonely Roads

This drama is nowhere more in evidence than in the several occasions in which Kimble actually saves Gerard's life. In Ill Wind, for instance, Kimble has been captured after one member of the migrant worker community with which he had been living is coerced into revealing Kimble's escape route. But a hurricane forces Gerard and Kimble, handcuffed together, to shelter with the migrant workers, who resent Gerard for bullying them. Their loyalty is to Kimble, whom they see as a benevolent figure....

Animals and Animosity

In the pilot episode, Tony reveals to Melfi that he has become obsessed with a family of ducks that have taken refuge in his backyard and that regularly use his swimming pool. Tony is amused by these visitations of wild creatures to his suburban enclave, especially by the ducklings that are learning to fly. He even wades into the pool to feed the ducks while still attired in his bathrobe and begins to study a detailed book on birds. The ducks bring him a welcome sense of serenity amid the panic...

Brother Justins Fear and Trembling

The fathers of Christian existentialist philosophy are Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Soren Kierkegaard, and the best noir owes debts to both nineteenth-century thinkers. Robert Bresson was an avid reader of Dostoyevsky and based his movie Pickpocket (1959) on Crime and Punishment. Greene also is frequently compared to Dostoyevsky. John Updike agreed with the comparison, calling Dostoyevsky another problematic believer.11 Updike would be the first to admit that while Greene exhibits some important...

Camus Man of Revolt

Having demonstrated that 24 is representative of the noir style and that 24's lead character, Jack Bauer, shares notable features with the stereotypical noir protagonist, to determine whether Jack also fits the description of Camus' existential hero, it is now necessary to offer some background on Camus' man of revolt. To discern the qualities of Camus' figure, one must first understand his theory of the absurd, because absurdity is what Camus' existential hero revolts against. Like most...

Case Studies

To investigate some of the philosophical themes raised by CSI, we will examine the episode in which Grissom and his team are challenged by Grissom's former mentor (The Accused Is Entitled), the three episodes that feature the serial killer Paul Millander (the pilot episode, Anonymous, and Identity Crisis), and the three featuring the dominatrix Lady Heather (Slaves of Las Vegas, Lady Heather's Box, and Pirates of the Third Reich). The Accused Is Entitled features a movie star who reports a dead...

Coda A Noir World Order

Murray Rothbard's libertarian critique of the illegitimacy of the modern state captures the subversive spirit that animates both The X-Files and Millennium The State is an inherently illegitimate institution of organized aggression, of organized and regularized crime against the persons and properties of its subjects. Rather than necessary to society, it is a profoundly antisocial institution which lives parasitically off of the productive activities of private citizens.25 Film noir has always...

Duty and Motivation

Kimble's explanation to John is a very frank statement of one possible source of motivation for his risking his life to help another (and just to be clear, since he is a fugitive from death row, every case where he risks capture by Gerard is an instance of risking his life). In this case, at least, it is not so much that he has a duty to risk his life to save her but that his life would be unbearable if he had to carry the guilt his knowledge of her death would entail. Yet in other cases,...

Existential Errors

The No Exit episode of Miami Vice can be seen as an application of not only Sartre's depressingly negative account of human relationships but also his familiar formula recognize life's absurdity, accept responsibility for who you are and what you do, and then take action. On closer examination, however, the Sartrean notion of action has some not altogether harmless implications. For one thing, there is the slippery slope from the fervor of revolt to the endorsement of violent action as an...

From Film Noir to TV Noir

Television noir is historically and conceptually related to film noir, and it has long been a matter of dispute whether the latter is best described as a remarkable cycle that began in the early 1940s and lasted until nearly the end of the 1950s, a distinctive visual style with roots in German expressionist cinema and French surrealism, a highly fatalistic sensibility and point of view reflecting American hard-boiled fiction, or all of these. Various noir wars or controversies over the...

Fugitives

In the dark world of The X-Files and Millennium, the ultimate objective of the governmental conspiracy is to reduce all individuals to docile subjects. Not only would the government surveil its entire population, it would also reduce each individual to a mere number (like 512), case load, or file. One of the most shocking, if oft-repeated, revelations in both shows is the discovery that the government monitors, tests, tracks, and records the lives of its citizens. Knowledge is power, and the...

Half a Dozen of the Other

But then, all of a sudden, Fall Out seems to take a 180-degree turn. In perhaps the most bizarre scene of the most bizarre episode of this bizarre world of the Village, the noir element of confusion, apprehension, and ambiguity explosively returns to the forefront of the series. Number 6 meets Number 1, only to find that he is Number 1. Our dark hero, resolute to maintain his free self-identity, and the antihero, the overseer who attempts to break down all self-identities, are one and the same....

Am Not a Number I Am a Free

As we suggested in the introduction, those who are in power in the Village focus their attention on the new resident, Number 6, since he has the most valuable information. The information in your head is priceless, he is told by Number 2 in Arrival. I don't think you realize what a valuable property you've become. A man like you is worth a great deal on the open market. And so, the treatment of Number 6 follows the various methods of treatment toward prisoners of the Village deprive him of his...

Jennifer L McMahon

One does not have to watch Fox's hit series 24 for very long to see the noir elements in it. The focus on crime (namely terrorism), the stunning amount of violence the cynical air of many of 24's lead characters the presence of several femmes fatales, and the stoic resolve of the show's protagonist, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) are all suggestive of the noir style. I shall argue specifically that in addition to fitting the profile of the noir protagonist, Jack Bauer is also an example of...

Know Thyself

When we discuss the cinematic realm of noir, what exactly are we talking about Literally, the word noir means dark. But what is so dark about these cinematic features to constitute them as films noirs Typically, such features are dark in their imagery and content. Visually, most noir is characterized by dark scenery, tilted angles, black-and-white film to sharpen the contrast, and gloomy atmospheres. Meanwhile, their content is characterized by moral ambiguity, usually emphasized by the leading...

Life Lessons and Death Sentences

An episode from season 1, bearing the title of Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit, registers an early encounter with existentialist themes and gives some indication of the philosophical orientation of later episodes. Bruce Willis is Tony Amato, an international arms merchant trying to sell a shipment of stolen stinger missiles to undercover vice detective Ricardo Tubbs. This draws the attention of the FBI, as Crockett and Tubbs discover when the bureau threatens to take over their operation. Once...

Miami Masquerade

We learn the extent of Crockett's difficulties reconciling his true self with his undercover identity, Sonny Burnett, in an early episode from the first season, Heart of Darkness.19 Arthur Lawson (Ed O'Neill), an undercover FBI agent, has infiltrated the operation of a Miami porn dealer, Sam Kovics (Paul Hecht). Lawson has succeeded in penetrating the small, tight-knit outfit because he identifies so completely with his undercover persona, Artie Rollins, that he becomes indispensable to...

Michael Valdez Moses

The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the social worker-judge it is on them that the universal reign of the normative is based and each individual, wherever he may find himself, subjects to it his body, his gestures, his behaviour, his aptitudes, his achievements. The carceral network, in its compact or disseminated forms, with its systems of insertion, distribution, surveillance, observation, has been...

Mr and Ms Noir

In Michel Foucault's influential account of the rise and consolidation of modern society, the individual soul, if it can be said to exist at all, is the easily manipulated product of an all-pervasive and interlocking set of disciplinary institutions and administrative bodies, a carceral archipelago consisting of prisons, schools, hospitals, psychiatric clinics, the army, social-welfare agencies, the police, and the courts. For most Americans, Foucault, like Orwell before him, would seem to...

Never Stop Running

If Kimble's integrity gets him into trouble at times, it is also (and almost always) an asset. Most obviously, we frequently see other characters coming to trust him and believe in him because of his ethics and integrity. More centrally, though, his integrity is an asset because it is what keeps him a whole person. Notice the etymological similarity between integrity and integrated in this context, it is one's character that might be said to be fully integrated. Plato, for example, describes...

New Hope for the Living

Miami Vice comes to a redemptive ending in the series finale, Free Fall, when Crockett and Tubbs recognize the limits of their ability to alter political events that have forced their hands. They toss away their badges in a gesture of repudiation and disgust reminiscent of Gary Cooper's sheriff in High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952). Of course, the link between drug trafficking and corporate interests already had been disclosed in the second-season two-part episode, Prodigal Son. In that story,...

Notes

Hayde, My Name's Friday The Unauthorized but True Story of Dragnet and the Films of Jack Webb (Nashville, TN Cumberland House, 2001), 245. 2. Quoted in Hayde, My Name's Friday, 46. 3. W. Gerhardie, as quoted in Julia Hallam, with Margaret Marshment, Realism and the Popular Cinema Inside Popular Film (Manchester, England Manchester University Press, 2000), 5. 4. Fifties Television The Industry and the Critics (Chicago University of Illinois Press, 199), 1-2. See also...

Open Interpretation

These considerations suggest an obvious question Is it a good thing for an artwork to be interpretively open We will now consider whether, and to what extent, the interpretive openness excluding Twin Peaks from the noir class is aesthetically desirable, and what, if so, this means for noir. So far we have engaged predominantly descriptive questions. It is time to address the evaluative side of the relationship. Let us start by taking up some of the aesthetic and moral qualms we might have about...

Postmodernism and Crime Story

As Miami Vice, 24, Carnivale, and The Sopranos illustrate, a number of the styles and themes found in TV noir extend the models found in classic film noir in their indebtedness to existentialism. But Miami Vice also departs from the existentialist model and can be classed with other series that are determinedly subversive because they owe something to the influence of postmodernist philosophies.23 And just as Miami Vice is noteworthy for its visual realization, showcasing a tropical deco...

Realism and Relativism

The technique of bringing both foreground and background objects into focus contributed to the realism of classic film noir by allowing the audience to see actors and their reactions in a single frame. Without this technique called deep focus and associated with Greg Toland, the cinematographer on Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1940), a film whose noir style is found in countless subsequent films the camera had to show one actor, then cut to another for a reaction shot, then cut back to the first....

Return to the Will to Believe

This point about Mulder's pursuit of wacky marginalized ideas, of course, also returns us to Mulder's will to believe. And, again, he pursues these ideas down in the basement bowels of the FBI, and in spite of all the ridicule of his colleagues because deep down and on a personal level (because of losing his sister), he wants to believe. This is the motor driving Mulder beyond those merely overcoded and undercoded abductions (at which Scully is so adept), and into the wilder side of the...

Robert E Fitzgibbons

Film noir's evolution from the silver screen to the television screen was untidy at best and this is nowhere more evident than in the transition from the feature-length movie The Naked City (Jules Dassin, 1948) to the TV show of the same title some ten years later. Although the movie was not the best of the noir genre, it was good and had many of the unmistakable classic noir markings high-contrast black-and-white photography, stark images, severe camera angles, brutality, (a bit of) suggested...

Sander

The television series Secret Agent, though regarded as mere entertainment by most viewers, contains philosophical themes that raise it above most television shows of its time and connect it with themes found in such noir espionage films as The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) and Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1944), both of which were based on the work of the British writer Graham Greene.1 Known in Britain as Danger Man, Secret Agent debuted in September 1960 as a half-hour espionage thriller...

Scully and Mulder as One Mind

On the other hand, however, while Scully is often two steps behind, she is hardly a sideshow to Mulder's genius she is, in fact, quite integral to it. For, it is her constant analytic counterpoint that keeps his head on straight helps to keep him level and clear, forcing him to translate his wild creativity into rigorous rationality. In doing so, she very often saves him from being too trusting and too willing to believe. For example, she immediately spots the forged alien spaceship photograph...

Six of

Throughout the series, Number 6 is portrayed as the existential, authentic individual who refuses to submit to the rules and conformist ideals of the Village. He maintains his physical and reflective freedom and so is able to hold onto his selfhood in both the material and reflective dimensions. But there is a third dimension of selfhood investigated in The Prisoner, namely the relational one. This dimension concerns the social and cultural interaction of the self. Here, one turns to the common...

Steven M Sanders

Television is the definitive medium of popular culture. With its mass audience, TV has become indispensable for transmitting the legacy of film noir and producing new forms of noir. The Philosophy of TV Noir was conceived in the belief that the themes, styles, and sensibilities of film noir are preserved even as they are transformed in a variety of television series from the mid-1950s to the present. No doubt readers can identify the principal characters and describe numerous episodes of many...

Sunshine Noir

From classic film noir, television took over the idea of the noir city. A noir subtext runs through the depiction of Los Angeles in Dragnet and New York in Naked City, where sequences are filmed on location in the city streets, whose authentic character is enhanced by documentary-style photography. By the time we get to Law & Order and CSI, the representa- tions, often using the increasingly popular handheld camera style, implicate the cities themselves as buzzing hives of criminality and...

The Ambiguous Perspective on Life

This volume traverses the distance from the realism of Dragnet and Naked City through the existentialism of Miami Vice and the nihilism of The Sopranos to the realms of darkness and the unknown of The X-Files and Millennium. In the end, the noir way of looking at things translates into a way of being in the world, and as such it implies, at the very least, vulnerability if not actual jeopardy. The philosopher and film theorist Irving Singer writes, The price one pays for the ambiguous...

The Investigative Team

Compare the hard-boiled noir detective and the CSI team. The former is a loner, someone who functions on the outer edges of the law because he has all too compelling reasons to think that police officers, police detectives, judges, and so on cannot be relied on to bring about justice. The world of the noir detective is one in which police are slow and likely to follow the wrong leads, and public officials are often motivated either by politics or self-interest. However, being himself an...

The Omissive Aesthetic

As a last remark, it seems appropriate to highlight the connection between interpretive openness and what might be called the omissive aesthetic, the poignancy of leaving out, of letting some things remain unsaid, undepicted, unshown, which is quite possibly a characteristic of all artwork. Good artwork, moreover, seems to have it more than most. Leaving things out opens up interpretation. The less left unsaid, the more clumsy, telegraphed, artless the work. The other extreme, except in rare...

The Philosophy Of

The books published in the Philosophy of Popular Culture series will illuminate and explore philosophical themes and ideas that occur in popular culture. The goal of this series is to demonstrate how philosophical inquiry has been reinvigorated by increased scholarly interest in the intersection of popular culture and philosophy, as well as to explore through philosophical analysis beloved modes of entertainment, such as movies, TV shows, and music. Philosophical concepts will be made...

The Reification of BOB

The question whether noir constitutes a proper genre certainly is a vexing one, and I will not engage it here. But Twin Peaks is such a mishmash, crossing over the boundaries of so many genres, categories, and styles, as befits its postmodern status, that suggesting it is noir in any straightforward sense is bound to raise some hackles, and rightly so. This is not to say that the notion of postmodern noir is incoherent. Far from it Films like Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992), The Usual...

The Relativist Turn

In 1960-1961, however, it returned with a new title Naked City, having dropped the The and a new hour long format with some very different kinds of storylines.2 Not only had it shed all vestiges of a crime drama, it was no longer even a police story, except incidentally. To be sure, police remained continuing characters and always figured prominently in the script. Yet the dramas and they were dramas centered primarily on critical events in the lives of various inhabitants of the city. Each...

The Story You Are about to See Is True

Like Kramer, Zinnemann, and Foreman, Webb, transferring his program from radio to television, incorporated within Dragnet those things characteristic of real life, creating a fictional world that had not been seen before on the small screen, where crime shows had meant hard-boiled dramas such as The Adventures of Ellery Queen, Martin Kane, Private Eye, and Lights Out Men against Crime, all of which were quite obviously directly descended either from the film noir, especially in its B-movie...

The White Knight

One of the most explicit discussions of Kimble's sense of integrity and moral responsibility occurs in Ill Wind, after the pitchfork incident. Later in the evening, a section of the shelter's roof collapses on top of Gerard. Kimble naturally tends to the serious injury, and when he realizes that Gerard has lost a lot of blood, he announces to the migrant workers that Gerard needs a transfusion, and he asks them to check their worker cards to see whether they have compatible blood types. They...

The XFiles Mythology

The X-Files Mythology refers to the central storyline running through the series (though not every episode involves this storyline). Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are detective partners who work in a division of the FBI known as the X-Files. This section studies cases that are filed under X because they fall outside the scope of the FBI's regular investigation units, most of them regarding paranormal activity. There is, however, one case (or...

Trust No

In 1835 and 1840, the most important work of the great French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville appeared in two volumes. A philosophic reflection on his visit to the United States in the early 1830s, Democracy in America records Tocqueville's observations on the novel political experiment that was America, a regime founded on classical liberal principles articulated by the likes of Locke, Jefferson, Madison, and Paine. Among a myriad of brilliant insights into the genius of American...

Alienation and Moral Ambiguity

Tales of alienated antiheroes can be found in numerous noir television series. Mike Hammer (Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, 1956-1959), Johnny Staccato (Johnny Staccato, 1959-1960), Fox Mulder (The X-Files, 1993-2002), Mike Torello (Crime Story, 1986-1988), Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs (Miami Vice, 1984-1989), and Jack Bauer (24, 2001- ) recapitulate the dark destinies of their classic film noir forbears. Music, realistic location footage, and flashbacks are used to establish the...

Paranoia Detection and Crime Scene Investigation

In film noir, paranoia is part of the atmosphere and everyone takes it in, like the air they breathe. But paranoia is more than a mood. It is also a way of thinking, and it helps to explain why so many noir protagonists give expression to the thought that whichever way you turn, Fate sticks out a foot to trip you up (Detour Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945 ). Paranoia takes other forms as well, but in film noir it is typically combined with, or a component of, this notion of fate or determinism that is...

The Through Line of Film Noir

Film noir was always about more than tilted camera angles, chiaroscuro lighting, voice-over narration, and flashbacks, though the presence and significance of these elements of visual and narrative style cannot be denied. Certainly the pervasive theme of crime its planning, execution, investigation, and consequences figures prominently in both film and TV noir, as do the themes of the influence of the past on the motivations and actions of the principal characters, and the familiar made...

Espionage Science Fiction and Realism

Some of the most creative efforts within TV noir have extended the noir sensibility beyond the stock images of Chandleresque private detectives, urban architecture, and shadow-filled streets into the less familiar vicinity of espionage, science fiction, and mixed genre series. It is instructive, of course, to watch the oneiric episodes The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove from Secret Agent, with its noir iconography of doors, windows, staircases, mirrors, and clocks, Shadow in the Dark from Miami Vice,...

Mulder and Scully and Clifford and James

In exploring their respective amnesias Scully and Mulder are, indeed, quite different. In fact, in exploring virtually every case, Scully and Mulder use distinct detective methodologies for getting at the truth. And at the end of the episodes, we get summaries of these methods as they narrate the reports of the cases they have just investigated. Here we get their two perspectives and explanations of the same phenomena the believer and the skeptic while leaving the viewer to ponder the truth...

Why Not Noir

So far we have identified a number of noir elements woven into the fabric of Twin Peaks the crime storylines, iconic characters, stylistic elements, and broodingly existential atmosphere. Are these elements, taken together, sufficient to peg Twin Peaks as noir It might seem so. We should consider, then, some preliminary objections to the notion that Twin Peaks is noir. First, it might be observed that noir has not only a typical subject, crime, but also a typical setting, the city. Noirs are...

The Influence of Graham Greene

Graham Greene's novel The Ministry of Fear was presented to the public in 1943 as a spy thriller. In 1944 it was released as a film directed by Fritz Lang with Ray Milland starring as Stephen Neale, a Londoner who inadvertently stumbles upon a nest of Nazi spies trying to smuggle important photographs out of England. The film Ministry of Fear unquestionably takes place at the exact time it was made, that is, during the London blitz. The backdrop for the story is a city being destroyed by daily...

Dragnet A Different Kind of Realism

Webb's development of Dragnet is a case, to put it in Darwinian terms, of ontogeny repeating phylogeny, or, in plain language, an instance of the development of the individual replicating that of its species or type. Under the influence of the worldwide postwar fashion for realist film, noir underwent a rapprochement of sorts with the other Hollywood genres that could more fully accommodate themselves to this new aesthetic. The types most affected by this new taste for and evaluation of realism...

Existentialism Crisis and Revolt

Questions about the meaning of life and doubts about its point enter into the central preoccupations of many of TV noir's principal characters, even if they themselves do not always articulate their concerns this way. These questions reflect and are reflected by existentialist philosophy. The existentialists were by temperament and life choice not only philosophers but also authors of essays, novels, and plays upon which much of their reputation depends. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, precursors of...

God and Gary Cooper Are Dead

Tony Soprano's belief that he inhabits a world of collapsing values is a major theme of the series. The ways he attempts to deal with such a world at first waver between life affirmation and life negation. But as the series progresses, Tony becomes more and more of a nihilist in the most negative and life-denying sense of that term. He is as much a victim of his own psychological weaknesses as he is a man who has been thrown into fated circumstances that weaken him. He is a mob boss whose power...

The Sad Clown

Tony's character is complex, in the sense that his personality appears at times saturated by an attitude of nihilism while at other times he struggles actively to overcome such a life-negating stance. As the series progresses, Tony's struggle to conquer his own moral weakness and inner emptiness becomes more intensified. And yet we begin to realize that his is not a success story in trying to rise above these defects, despite his participation in analysis. The transformation of Tony's character...

CSI as Procedural Noir

CSI is related to both the hard-boiled detective film from the 1940s and the police procedural film. Features of CSI that are in part derived from the hard-boiled detective film include the idea of the corrupt city shown primarily at night, detectives who are largely unfazed by crime and the criminal element, and an ironic tone. The parallels are not perfect, of course. The hard-boiled figure can typically take a beating and give one, which does not particularly carry over to CSI, although...

Shades of Noir

Twin Peaks comprises thirty episodes. The pilot was released, with additional footage inconsistent with the series proper, as a movie, Twin Peaks David Lynch, 1990 . The series was later followed by the film prequel Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me David Lynch, 1992 . The series consists, ancillary and relatively minor plotlines aside, of two consecutive narratives that focus, in the bizarre, dreamlike logging town of Twin Peaks, on FBI special agent Dale Cooper Kyle MacLachlan . The telos of the...

Jack Bauer Noir Protagonist

Most significant for present purposes is the fact that Jack Bauer fits the profile of the noir hero. Characteristic of noir is the presence of a strong male protagonist, a hardened but sympathetic figure who struggles, sometimes unsuccessfully, against violence and corruption. Conventionally a detective or an individual otherwise involved in the investigation of crime, the classic noir protagonist tends to be an intense but emotionally guarded individual whose integrity is put to the test by...

Realism and Documentary in the Film Noir

The immediate postwar era in Hollywood witnessed the sudden emergence of a generic hybrid what critics of a later age have called the noir semi-documentary. Earlier entries in the hitherto somewhat slowly developing noir series had been largely based on the American roman noir, the high voltage fiction of James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, and others whose work was beginning to appeal to a broadly middle-class audience.5 These stories of seedy private investigators and murderous...

Nihilism Noir and The Sopranos

The nearly irremediable darkness of The Sopranos is redeemed by moments of piercing light into the moral psychology of its recurring characters. Its darkness comes from its nihilism. Film noir and, by extension, TV noir, is anchored in nihilism, a values-denying and life-negating vision that has cast its shadow upon modern Western culture since at least the nineteenth century and most conspicuously in the postwar years of the twentieth century. The view that nothing matters, that meaning and...

Alien Noir

Film scholars agree that classic film noir emerges most prominently in the early 1940s with The Maltese Falcon John Huston, 1941 and The Big Sleep Howard Hawks, 1946 , and lasts until Touch of Evil Orson Welles, 1958 , setting the basic template a hard-boiled detective in trench coat and fedora investigates a murder, interviews suspects, encounters a dangerous and beautiful femme fatale, navigates through a labyrinth to solve a mystery, and kills the killer. From the 1940s to the 1970s,...

Why Drake Is Not Bond

Although the literary James Bond appeared in 1953, Secret Agent predated the first James Bond film, Dr. No Terence Young, 1962 by two years, and because of his popularity in Secret Agent, Patrick McGoohan was originally offered the role. McGoohan's decision to reject the film initially seems puzzling while of course he had no way of knowing how successful the Bond franchise would become, it is hard to see why a television actor would refuse the chance to star in a major motion picture,...

Mulder and Scully as Noir Detectives

As a neo-Sherlock Holmes, however, Mulder is also a very noir version of the classic detective just as Scully is a very noir Watson . Of course, there are no hard and fast rules about what makes a noir detective, but there are several elements common among many noir stories. Among these, first, the lead character or characters is typically a detective. And essential to virtually all noir detective stories is the idea of the labyrinth. In fact, the classical myth of the labyrinth is the ancient...

R Barton Palmer

Conceived by radio actor Jack Webb, who also starred and directed, Dragnet was one of the longest-running and most critically acclaimed dramatic series of 1950s American television, with a phenomenal total of 263 episodes broadcast from 1952-1959 and a reprise for which there was little precedent in the industry in 1967-1970 that generated a hundred more programs. No doubt Webb's police drama dominated the airwaves in the earlier decade. The initial version of the show was designed for radio,...

Detective Semiotics and the Absence Sign

The surprising fact that sets these abductions in motion the result , is always a sign or, what in detective stories is called a clue a point that brings us back momentarily to the myth of the labyrinth central to all detective stories . Remember, Ariadne gives Theseus a clue of thread so that he can enter the labyrinth and then find his way back out after killing the Minotaur. As the detective story evolved through Sherlock Holmes and noir, the clue of thread became transformed into the thread...

Problems with Cultural Relativism

I will discuss only three problems with cultural relativism even though there are many that could be specified. The first major issue is that the word culture is so unclear that for the most part the very statement of the putative position is neither true nor false but simply gibberish.19 That the ordinary meaning of culture is unclear is not surprising most ordinary meanings are. Consider, for instance, the ordinary meaning of old man. There are some things 108-year-old men, 97-year-old men...

The Authentic Number

While the villagers believe Number 6 has no values, Number 6 maintains that he has different values. He is thus estranged from the world around him he displays the freedom to create his own self-identity, a freedom which is now foreign to the villagers. And so, our dark hero is all alone in a world that appears upside down, a world where, through his eyes, everyone else has gone mad. Notice, however, that Number 6's steadfast recognition of himself as a free man, and his subsequent isolation...

The Carceral Archipelago and the Panoptical Regime

It would be difficult to name a television show that appeared before The X-Files and Millennium in which a greater number of governmental departments, agencies, projects, and entities were either directly represented on screen or alluded to in the course of the action. I confess to never having had the patience to compile a comprehensive list of them, but even a cursory review of a few episodes of The X-Files and Millennium provides a prolific number of encounters with or references to the FBI,...

Carnivale and Religious Film Noir

One example of a noir protagonist struggling with religious conceptions of good and evil is Robert Mitchum's haunting portrayal of Reverend Harry Powell in Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter 1955 . In truth, there is not much struggle going on he is pure evil. From the outset, before we ever meet Reverend Powell, we are reminded that the Book of Matthew cautions us, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves 7 15 . We soon realize...

The Corrupt City and CSI Storylines

CSI is set in Las Vegas, a city represented as catering to extremes of self-interest and desire. Las Vegas instantiates the noir trope of the corrupt city. It is the sort of place where even some of those charged with upholding the law have selfish motives. For instance, the sheriff is concerned only about the optics of a crime and how they might affect his career, not about justice Table Stakes . CSI makes it appear as though Las Vegas is a city where everything is possible and, nearly...

Jason Holt

Any fan of Twin Peaks who encounters Goya's lithograph The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters 1803 cannot help but see an obvious connection to the landmark TV series whether series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost had this connection in mind is of little importance. The lithograph depicts a sleeping figure slumped over a desk. From behind, almost out of view, the somnolent head, emerging from an indeterminate place that seems not quite real, are the so-called monsters identified, together...

Amphetamine Theatre

Greater Miami is an unexpected setting for a TV noir series. In the early episodes of Miami Vice, which are shot in a glossy array of pinks, whites, turquoises, and mint greens, the stylish location photography reflects a warm, sunny, and opulent atmosphere, hardly what one would expect to find in noir. In fact, Miami Vice's use of color is one of the most striking breaks with TV noir of the Dragnet, Naked City, and Fugitive variety. As Nicholas Christopher observes in connection with color...

He Walked by Night

Because of its influence through Dragnet on the development and subsequent history of American television in the 1950s, the most important noir semi-documentary is He Walked by Night, which is based on an actual case the killing of two policemen by a fellow member of their own Pasadena, California, department who worked in the fingerprint records division. In the hands of screenwriters John C. Higgins and Crane Wilbur, this rather mundane criminal becomes a self-taught and sociopathic genius,...

Its All a Big Nothing

Nihilism's life-negating orientation is evident in season 2 as well. Here, Anthony Jr. Robert Iler becomes acquainted with the teachings of existentialism through his new high school English teacher. On the eve of his Catholic confirmation, A.J infuriates his parents by spouting nihilistic paraphrases of ideas from Nietzsche Nitch, as A.J. calls him and Albert Camus. His recent homework assignment is Camus' The Stranger, a novel that deals with a nihilist who no longer cares about anything...

Nihilism and Film Noir

The immensely popular and award-winning HBO series The Sopranos is rooted in a nihilistic vision that reflects a general moral decline in contemporary American culture.1 Nihilism is most generally defined as the belief in nothing at all, the conviction that nothing matters, not even oneself. It is an overall attitude toward the value of life, one evidenced by the words and actions of many of the characters in the series but most especially by those of its morally ambiguous protagonist, Tony...

Eric Bronson

In the first season of HBO's Carnivale, a vagabond, not quite as dirty as the others, sits around a campfire, largely keeping to himself. As the liquor gets passed around, and stories told, the runaway Methodist minister loosens up enough to speak. What has brought him so low, he is asked. Did he lose his girlfriend His job After taking a hearty swig, Brother Justin despairingly replies, I lost my God. In many ways, Brother Justin's response is vintage noir. As has been well documented, film...

The Logic of Abductionthe Other Abduction

What Mulder is doing, however, is using a logic that all detectives use, and which is called the logic of abduction which is meant in a logical, different sense than aliens stealing bodies .11 Perhaps we should not blame Mulder for not knowing what he is doing, because really no detectives brilliant as they appear to be have the slightest clue what they are doing. Even the best of them, Sherlock Holmes, mistakenly identifies his logic as deduction. The logic of abduction was pioneered by...

Deborah Knight and George McKnight

We analyze CSI as an example of TV noir, but before turning to the series, it is worth asking Just what sorts of narratives count as noir, and why We find examples of noir in literature, film, and television, but wherever such examples are found, noir is a hybrid of elements. Film scholars have persuasively argued that noir is not and has never been a genre in its own right. Silver and Ward, for example, suggest that the relationship of film noir to genre is a tenuous one at best and conclude...

Jack Bauer Existential Hero

Having enumerated the features of Camus' man of revolt, it should already be clear that there are striking similarities between 24's Jack Bauer and Camus' existential hero. Indeed, Jack displays all of the characteristics discussed. Most notably, he exhibits the principal traits of the man of revolt, namely lucidity and courage. Whether it is natural to him or an ability born of experience, 24's Jack Bauer displays remarkable insight. He is astute. He displays real acumen. Where those who...

Graham Greenes Whiskey Priest

As Graham Greene writes It would be enough to scare us God's love. It set fire to a bush in the desert, didn't it, and smashed open graves and set the dead walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away if he felt that love around.3 Powerful words, especially when one has warmed to the speaker, the last hard-drinking priest in a fictional Mexican region, the night before he is shot by the state for attempting to administer last rites to an unrepentant American bank robber....

Mulder and Scully as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

The Mulder-Scully relationship is modeled on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's characters of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. And both Mulder and Scully are quite aware of the similarity. For example, Scully says, So Sherlock, is the game afoot And Mulder responds I'm afraid so, Watson Fire . This line comes from Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Abbey Grange, in which Holmes says, 'Come, Watson, come ' . . . 'The game is afoot.'5 Scully's right Mulder is Holmes. He even looks like Holmes well-dressed,...

Relativism of Morality and Normality

It also permeated the relativism of the anthropologist Ruth Benedict, among the first to argue explicitly for the relativism of both normality and morality. In a classic statement of the relativistic position, Benedict maintained No one civilization can possibly utilize in its mores the whole potential range of human behavior. . . . The possibility of organized behavior of every sort, from the fashions of local dress and houses to the dicta of a people's ethics and religion, depends upon a...

Individual Relativism

Individual relativism maintains that the rightness or wrongness of an action depends exclusively on the standards of the actor. The major difference, then, between individual and cultural relativism is that cultural relativism takes the standards of the culture as the only foundation of morality, whereas individual relativism considers cultural standards per se to be irrelevant only the standards of the individual actor determine the morality of his or her behavior. Each individual has his or...

Cultural Relativism

Today, the primary advocates of cultural relativism are many but certainly not all anthropologists, sociologists, social-work theorists, educators, and various government officials. Often under the heading of multiculturalism or cultural pluralism, we are told or at least led to believe that no one culture is better or worse than another, that they are just different, and that we have to be accepting of all cultural differences. Most important, it is emphasized, we cannot use the moral...

Historial Cycle Of Film Noir

Sanders and Aeon J. Skoble for their enthusiasm and hard work in reading and providing insightful and helpful comments on previous drafts of this essay. 1. Some identify film noir with a historical cycle, specifically 1941-1958. For us, however, noir is not a historical claim but an essential one it is essentially characterized by a certain style and a certain content. In this sense, we have neo-noir, which extends beyond the historical period of classic noir...

Be Seeing

When we first take up the question of selfhood that is, what it is to be a self it may be tempting to confine our attention to the physical dimension. This dimension concerns the physical, corporeal features of individuals. It deals with the things about our nature that make us palpable creatures driven by needs, urges, and inclinations and that give us particular constitutions or temperaments, for instance, more or less energetic, lethargic, passionate, or apathetic. Our selves on this level,...

Steven M sanders and Aeon J skoble

Publication of this volume was made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. An Introduction to the Philosophy of TV Noir copyright 2008 by Steven M. Sanders Action and Integrity in The Fugitive copyright 2008 by Aeon J. Skoble Noir et Blanc in Color Existentialism and Miami Vice copyright 2008 by Steven M. Copyright 2008 by The University Press of Kentucky Scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth, serving Bellarmine University, Berea College, Centre College...