Drip into Drama

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One: Islamic extremism is the primary threat to society. And two: the national security apparatus is the mechanism by which society is protected. This leaves a very narrow crevice from which Muslim characters can escape untainted — and national security narratives make it their business to put Muslim characters on trial. Bodyguard bookends its first season with an Islamophobic set up and pay off.

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The British cop hero tells her she is brainwashed by a Muslim husband who wishes for her to die. I am a jihadi. All that was absent was the maniacal, evil genius cackle. This is the cultural benchmark.

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The pilot episode of Pine Gap climaxes with a dilemma about whether to drone-bomb suspected Islamic terrorists within a rocket launch-distance from the US president spoiler alert: they do. In the context of the Julian Assange arrest, this is a troubling reflection of our times. The investigation drip-feeds a corruption thriller that goes up the ranks of the AFP and ASIO, but these are treated as distortions of democracy rather than business as usual.

It is just assumed background detail. As the name implies, writers must find concepts that can continue to generate conflict and, hence, drama to feed a show. On top of that, the stakes need to be as high as possible. Drama executives from everywhere except Netflix know they are competing with Netflix, and Netflix executives know they are upholding the standards. National security dramas fill this prescription. They are inherent story engines. They engender a constant threat of attack, and a sense of national unity read: stakes that need to be defended.

Just like the machine that it is in life, national security narratives are seemingly endless. Aside from the political negligence these types of shows exhibit, they also neglect basic screenwriting craftsmanship — primarily the creation of a compelling, motivated antagonist. It makes it lazy. Rather, they can stream their preferred variant of that nightmare on whichever platform they choose. Diversity quotas are thankfully and slowly pushing the blinding whiteness of TV casting toward the history pile.

But this change is not solving the racism problem within Australian TV drama. But the issue of racial discrimination in casting is separate from the issue in question. Diversity on screen can be solved by casting.


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Islamophobia on screen cannot. The same liberalism that insists rightly on diversity quotas uses this political framework to weaponise Islamophobic diversity. The emerging Hollywood genre is the bourgeois feminist icon killing misogynistic Islamists. It can operate subtly. For example, in the earlier outlined bookended sequence of Bodyguard, another parallel emerges. The Muslim woman terrorist is surrounded by a diverse police support cast — the Special Operations leader pointing a semi-automatic at her head in the train is a black woman.

In episode six, when the terrorist reveals her Jihadi motives, the two detectives interrogating her are black women. They may give lip service to interpersonal racism experienced by individual characters. But ultimately, the characters are heroised in their criminalisation of Muslims. In the final episode, Gus, the US missions director, is skyping with his father. Gus, a black man, is finally an object of pride for his father. None of the same emotional complexity is applied to the question of drone warfare, never mind the nameless Muslims they target.

Patriotism becomes the set of values by which heroism is measured. Subtextually, the image assures us that the national security apparatus represents a vision of multiracial harmony that Islamic terrorism, not Islamophobia, threatens to destroy. Diversity becomes the self-defence mechanism.

East West SBS — is the most shocking example of this strategy. Instead of Malik separating this link, he reinforces it. The same applies to his multiracial chums in the force. They each exploit their community ties to uncover crime in migrant enclaves. It exhibits the full spectrum of allowable Muslims on screen and all are determined by their relationship to the Australian state.

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There can be no dissident Muslims. Nor can the legitimacy of state repression be questioned. But I want to do something first. I want to build that shed out in the garden" 54— Critics regard Aston's monologue, the longest of the play, as the "climax" of the plot. Davies and Mick discuss the flat. Mick relates " ruminatively " in great detail what he would do to redecorate it When asked who "would live there," Mick's response "My brother and me" leads Davies to complain about Aston's inability to be social and just about every other aspect of Aston's behaviour 61— Though initially invited to be a "caretaker," first by Aston and then by Mick, he begins to ingratiate himself with Mick, who acts as if he were an unwitting accomplice in Davies' eventual conspiracy to take over and fix up the flat without Aston's involvement 64 an outright betrayal of the brother who actually took him in and attempted to find his "belongings"; but just then Aston enters and gives Davies yet another pair of shoes which he grudgingly accepts, speaking of "going down to Sidcup" in order "to get" his "papers" again 65— Davies brings up his plan when talking to Aston, whom he insults by throwing back in his face the details of his treatment in the mental institution 66—67 , leading Aston, in a vast understatement, to respond: "I.

I think it's about time you found somewhere else. I don't think we're hitting it off" When finally threatened by Davies pointing a knife at him, Aston tells Davies to leave: "Get your stuff" Davies, outraged, claims that Mick will take his side and kick Aston out instead and leaves in a fury, concluding mistakenly : "Now I know who I can trust" Davies reenters with Mick explaining the fight that occurred earlier and complaining still more bitterly about Mick's brother, Aston 70— Eventually, Mick takes Aston's side, beginning with the observation "You get a bit out of your depth sometimes, don't you?

Mick forces Davies to disclose that his "real name" is Davies and his "assumed name" is "Jenkins" and, after Davies calls Aston "nutty", Mick appears to take offence at what he terms Davies' "impertinent thing to say," concludes, "I'm compelled to pay you off for your caretaking work. Here's half a dollar," and stresses his need to turn back to his own "business" affairs When Aston comes back into the apartment, the brothers face each other," " They look at each other.

Both are smiling, faintly " Using the excuse of having returned for his "pipe" given to him earlier through the generosity of Aston , Davies turns to beg Aston to let him stay 75— But Aston rebuffs each of Davies' rationalisations of his past complaints 75— The play ends with a " Long silence " as Aston, who " remains still, his back to him [Davies], at the window , apparently unrelenting as he gazes at his garden and makes no response at all to Davies' futile plea, which is sprinkled with many dots ".

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According to Pinter's biographer, Michael Billington , the playwright frequently discussed details about The Caretaker's origins in relation to images from his own life. Billington notes in his authorised biography that Pinter claims to have written the play while he and his first wife Vivien Merchant were living in Chiswick :.

There was a chap who owned the house: a builder, in fact, like Mick who had his own van and whom I hardly ever saw. The only image of him was of this swift mover up and down the stairs and of his van going. His brother lived in the house. He was a handyman. ECT , I think. Anyway, he did bring a tramp back one night. I call him a tramp, but he was just a homeless old man who stayed three or four weeks.

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According to Billington, Pinter described Mick as the most purely invented character of the three. For the tramp [Davies], however, he felt a certain kinship, writing "[The Pinters' life in Chiswick] was a very threadbare existence.

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I was totally out of work. So I was very close to this old derelict's world, in a way. Billington observes that "The idea that [Davies] can affirm his identity and recover his papers by journeying to Sidcup is perhaps the greatest delusion of all, although one with its source in reality"; as "Pinter's old Hackney friend Morris Wernick recalls, 'It is undoubtedly true that Harold, with a writer's ear, picked up words and phrases from each of us. He also picked up locales. The Sidcup in The Caretaker comes from the fact that the Royal Artillery HQ was there when I was a National Serviceman and its almost mythical quality as the fount of all permission and record was a source.

For Davies it is a Kentish Eldorado : the place that can solve all the problems about his unresolved identity and uncertain past, present and future" The trap with Harold's work, for performers and audiences, is to approach it too earnestly or portentously. I have always tried to interpret his plays with as much humour and humanity as possible. There is always mischief lurking in the darkest corners. The world of The Caretaker is a bleak one, its characters damaged and lonely. But they are all going to survive. And in their dance to that end they show a frenetic vitality and a wry sense of the ridiculous that balance heartache and laughter.

Funny, but not too funny. Beyond that point, it ceases to be funny, and it is because of that point that I wrote it. At the center of the drama is the horrifically indiscriminate use of shock therapy, which left one of the characters with brain damage; Matthew Rixon's disturbingly docile Aston is a brilliant portrait of the horrors inflicted by a supposedly civilised state. The climax comes in the harrowing monologue in which he recalls the moment the electrodes were attached.

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The lights close down on his traumatised features as he speaks, leaving us uncomfortably alone with his thoughts. I went into a room and saw one person standing up and one person sitting down, and few weeks later I wrote The Room. I went into another room and saw two people sitting down, and a few years later I wrote The Birthday Party.

I looked through a door into a third room and saw two people standing up and I wrote The Caretaker. In the Theatre of the Absurd language is used in a manner that heightens the audience's awareness of the language itself, often through repetition and circumventing dialogue. The play has often been compared to Waiting for Godot , by Samuel Beckett , and other absurdist plays because of its apparent lack of plot and action. The fluidity of the characters is explained by Ronald Knowles as follows: "Language, character, and being are here aspects of each other made manifest in speech and silence.

Character is no longer the clearly perceived entity underlying clarity of articulation the objectification of a social and moral entelechy but something amorphous and contingent One of the keys to understanding Pinter's language is not to rely on the words a character says but to look for the meaning behind the text. The Caretaker is filled with long rants and non-sequiturs, the language is either choppy dialogue full of interruptions or long speeches that are a vocalised train of thought.

Although the text is presented in a casual way, there is always a message behind its simplicity. Pinter is often concerned with "communication itself, or rather the deliberate evasion of communication" Knowles The play's staccato language and rhythms are musically balanced through strategically placed pauses. Pinter toys with silence, where it is used in the play and what emphasis it places on the words when they are at last spoken. The Caretaker is a drama of mixed modes; both tragic and comic, it is a tragicomedy.

MICK grabs it. ASTON takes it. MICK reaches for it. Davies' confusion, repetitions, and attempts to deceive both brothers and to play each one off against the other are also farcical. Davies has pretended to be someone else and using an assumed name, "Bernard Jenkins". But, in response to separate inquiries by Aston and Mick, it appears that Davies' real name is not really "Bernard Jenkins" but that it is "Mac Davies" as Pinter designates him "Davies" throughout and that he is actually Welsh and not English, a fact that he is attempting to conceal throughout the play and that motivates him to "get down to Sidcup ", the past location of a British Army Records Office, to get his identity "papers" 13— The elements of tragedy occur in Aston's climactic monologue about his shock treatments in "that place" and at the end of the play, though the ending is still somewhat ambiguous: at the very end, it appears that the brothers are turning Davies, an old homeless man, out of what may be his last chance for shelter, mainly because of his and their inabilities to adjust socially to one another, or their respective " anti-social " qualities.

In his book review of The Caretaker , fellow English playwright John Arden writes: "Taken purely at its face value this play is a study of the unexpected strength of family ties against an intruder. Another prevalent theme is the characters' inability to communicate productively with one another.


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  8. The theme of isolation appears to result from the characters' inability to communicate with one another, and the characters' own insularity seems to exacerbate their difficulty communicating with others. As the characters also engage in deceiving one another and themselves, deception and self-deception are motifs, and certain deceptive phrases and self-deceptive strategies recur as refrains throughout the dialogue. Davies uses an assumed name and has convinced himself that he is really going to resolve his problems relating to his lack of identity papers, even though he appears too lazy to take any such responsibility for his own actions and blames his inaction on everyone but himself.

    Aston believes that his dream of building a shed will eventually reach fruition, despite his mental disability. Mick believes that his ambitions for a successful career outweigh his responsibility to care for his mentally damaged brother. In the end however all three men are deceiving themselves. Their lives may continue on beyond the end of the play just as they are at the beginning and throughout it.


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