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Imagination Connoisseur, Jonny Stewart, explains how shows like The Prisoner helped push the cultural dialog forward in a time of tumult and how today, David Lynch, produces entertainment that serves the same purpose.
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I have aimed to keep this terse.
Let me start by reminding us all of the known – that the internet and connectivity is our most unfathomable evolutionary taken-for-granted gamechanger to date in human history.
I would put it up against relativity and rocket science and anything else. You can say that those came before but I tend to think that the microchip came from somewhere else.
Modern computing and the internet has of course allowed us all to consume, explore, participate, connect, get laid, and evolve in ways we never could have imagined. And it has forever changed us. I am a product of that age.
As a kid who came of age in the late 80s and early Nirvana 90s, I explored Cassettes and VHS tapes until quickly thereafter moving into CDs and soon then to Napster and then to DVDs and later into YouTube, all of which have molded my life. My grandma of course had 8 Tracks and Vinyl which I consumed as a very near novelty and now collect. There were some LaserDiscs in there somewhere.
That is my generation. You could call us early millennials but we were really on that edge between Gen X and ourselves, whatever we were. If you asked me the first song I ever downloaded on Napster it was probably quite ironically a Metallica song.
I remember when our family got its first computer in 1995, an IBM Aptiva that cost the family over $5,000. Thanks Dad. He worked tirelessly in the military. We were software kids. Soon after we had a modem that could run 28.8k and as one does I googled “Heidi Klum Topless”.
Of course kits were included to expand our software understanding, such things as The Human Body and Encyclopedia Britannica. But I was quick to search out and find early games such as Wolfenstein 3D and Duke Nukem, which my friends and I traded like commodities on 3/quarter floppies. Soon after, the release and exploration of such games as LucasArts “The Dig” would mold us forever. If you don’t know it, you gotta play it.
The Dig explores elements of humanity and first contact rarely explored at that time, outside of Whitley Strieber’s groundbreaking book “Communion”, which details not only the UFO phenomenon but dare I say abduction.
Now to The Prisoner. My parents were both born in 1950 and came of age in the mid to late 60s, both impacted by the society of the time. My father, while in his senior year of college, while of course watching The Prisoner, received a letter from then president Richard Nixon informing him he had been drafted into the failed war. My father soon after got news that his best friend at the time was killed in Nam. RIP Benny Parker – forever in our hearts, on the wall.
As we all know, the late 60s were a time of change and temult like we rarely see. Assassinations, war, political upheaval, magic mushrooms. The folks comparing today’s problems and walk-a-thon protests to the late 60s uprisings clearly have no understanding of the reality then. I mention this only to shine a light on The Prisoner.
The Prisoner was a perfect psychological product of its age, and has thus become timeless. Many at the time felt like they were for certain prisoners, within their own cultures, within their meaningless jobs, within the war. You had the anarchists, you had the hippies, the beats of course – Hi Kerouac , and of course you had The Beatles, which not only summed it up over again but then took it all to the next level with Abbey Road and Sgt Peppers – that is The Prisoner.
At that time, The Prisoner was the TV equivalent of The Beatles – and of course you have Beatles songs late in the series.
The Prisoner, much as it may have helped those that lived at those times, has helped me to understand those times even more, and subsequently now my times. It is not simply a revolutionary series from the perspective of today’s TV nerds, it was revolutionary TO THE PEOPLE AT THAT TIME. It had a point of view which explored story themes and psychology and allegory and structure none had ever really seen, challenging them to the idea that the theme of the individual was the most important commodity.
The need for the individual was the most important thing. The Prisoner was there to explore, remind, and reinforce the thought that not only was there someone out to get you but that it was in fact YOU, YOURSELF that could entirely determine YOUR FUTURE and SAVE YOURSELF. You alone. That was the ticket in 1968.
Many now tend to think that some collective thought or some political action or some corrupt member of DC will be their saving grace, but nay, it will be they themselves that will save them, such as The Prisoner said.
It has become aware to me that the only real thing out there now in commercial entertainment that helps push these ideas terrifically are those of David Lynch – O Captain My Captain.
I feel as though Lynch may be the only one that survived the terrific war on humanity that has been waged, the only man that has forged his own path, making his own unique and weird representation of not only what society is today, but daresay the guide to escape it.
His psychological horror has clearly been inspired by such things as The Prisoner, probably very greatly, and his incantations have not merely been made to enetertain us, but to help guide us to where we should go, as did The Prisoner many moons ago.
Alas I can only say so much – yet I try.