Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Prelude to an Idea: An Idiot Abroad, Seasons 1 & 2

So, I've now seen the first two seasons of An Idiot Abroad, on Netflix.

Season 1 is Karl's exposure to the world. He learns much, but is stubborn and resistant. The whole time he does try, but he does act squeamish at the wrong times. The climax and end of the season: Karl makes the nearly fourteen hour trek deep into the Peruvian jungles and mountains to find Macchu Picchu. He is almost there. He has gone through the usual muchness of reality, the bugs and smells and starvation diets and really misshapen humans, to get to this extremely remote place where humans once worshiped with conviction. But he gives it up, and run a simulation through voice-over of ironic triumph.

Season 2 is Karl's exposure to the dreams and fantasies about the world. He is forced to do all the things people believe will bring them meaning to their lives through adventure. The whole time, he is exposed to the mundane, disgusting, obnoxious, alien, shitty, messy muchness of reality that surrounds the lying kernel of those Western dreamers. And he loves it, while Ricky reveals himself to be the real idiot. Karl is actually warming up and dancing with everyone. He won't cuddle total strangers; he definitely won't intermix with the leather daddies' skins. But he does climb and push and overcome his own self, without any pretension at all in doing it. He climbs to the top of Mount Fuji in the land of self-annihilation, self-overcoming, self-discipline, self-definition. At the top, he sees a wonderful thing while feeling like shit. That is life.

The show begins with Karl refusing to push himself to plunge. It ends with Karl refusing to pull himself to the ground. One dares to die accidentally in the jump, fighting against the inevitable—this Karl refuses. One dares to die gracefully and enduring, effortless against the inevitable—this Karl embraces. The spirit of zen is pushing one's self to death through time and age. We cheer on the old ones, for they've been the ones putting up with shit the longest. It's an endurance challenge. The jump is pushing one's self into death by regulated stupidity, flirting with disaster. It's the risky control, the insecurity, the cover-up, the harness, the lies. Sky-diving isn't really falling to one's death. Flying a motorcycle across fifteen buses isn't really leaping into one's death. Stunts and fast living are a young one's skill challenge. Karl is getting older, but he endures now. He has learned how to climb the mountain, see the beautiful thing in the midst of the shit the true way and not the tourist's way.

Ricky Gervais, being the true idiot of the show, is incapable of seeing any subtlety to this, but instead mocks Karl for having an epiphany, a mocking commensurate with his vanity. As a comedian, he is taking a very big risk always playing the prick, but in this show, he is completely awful. None of the wonders he sends Karl to turn out the stuff of dreams. He intends on Karl having a shit time of it, all the while extolling the virtues and wonders. But he lacks any wonder about the world, and his bullshit commentary on how great and exciting things are in people's eyes reflects the truth behind the audience who dreams. Ricky is the true idiot abroad, away from the scenes we are seeing, because he is completely oblivious to the fact that he is the one who is oblivious. Karl knows he is uncultured and crude, but the show reinforces how, when the tourist civility is down, people are crude and weird and misshapen and smelly and eat disgusting things with unhygienic attitudes. All the things Ricy Gervais mocks Karl for being.

Of course, if we the audience don't get this, even laugh at Karl's stupidity, then . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment

Is this wise?
Is this yours?
Is this love?

Real Time Web Analytics