15 September 2017

The Book of Strange New Things

As an illustration of my point that ‘trash’ can be entertaining, so long as it doesn’t have ideas above its station, consider another product from the Amazon stable, Preacher. This is based on a graphic novel series from the 1990s, and has been cleverly adapted for the small screen. Provided one’s expectations are low — as mine usually are these days — it is an enjoyable romp and doesn’t leave too much collateral brain damage in its wake.

There are two main problems with most movie and TV products currently coming out of the Anglophone world.
(1) They are dumb, and suffer from cartoonisation. (By this I mean the process by which something that starts out not being a cartoon is transformed into something that has most of the qualities of one.) Watching them is liable to make one’s IQ level drop several points, at least temporarily.
(2) They contain ideological subtext at an intensity level that is irritating.

The pilot episode of Oasis, another Amazon product which I recently had the chance to see, is significantly lacking in both these flaws. It’s visually sharp but without the style-over-substance characteristic which usually goes with that, i.e. camera and cutting work that is distractingly jazzy. This gives it a relatively cool and relaxed feel — unusual for a sci-fi product.

Oasis is based on The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, author of The Crimson Petal and the White. The latter was turned into a BBC television series in 2011 which, while relatively low on defect (1), collapsed under the weight of the other problem. The viewer was made more aware of the currently fashionable model of Victorian society (dark, hypocritical, perverted, etc) than of the psychology of the characters.