What the TV show “Castle” teaches us about America, and ourselves

Summary:  Let’s start our series about the TV show “Castle”, mining it for insights about ourselves (America), with an easy parallel. Fans of “Castle” tend to see the show as fan fiction, which requires amnesia about its actual history. Much as Americans have amnesia about much of our history. That’s fun for fans and 4th of July celebrations. It has horrific effects on citizens running a nation. Spoilers!

Stana Katic
Stana Katic, co-star of “Castle”.

 

Contents

  1. About fans & patriots
  2. Forgetting the contradictions in “Castle”
  3. Forgetting the contradictions in US history
  4. Other posts in this series about “Castle”
  5. For More Information
  6. Stana Katic reading the FM website

 

(1) About fans and patriots

Each successful TV show is in effect a collective fan fiction by the audience. We see a storyline and characters beyond that show on the screen, and a plot arc to the series.

That’s true of patriots as well. We see a the national history as a story. The high points are exaggerated (the Civil War freed African-Americans! We defeated the NAZIs!) and superimpose a Whig narrative on the story (our past is a progression towards greater liberty and enlightenment).

Both of these require serious amnesia.

(2)  Forgetting the contradictions in “Castle”

For a TV show the fans have foes. The showrunners have a different needs, writing two-dozen interesting stories per year while keeping (growing) their audience. Hence the TV Trope The Status Quo Is God., the easiest and well-proven method to managing these conflicts (which eventually tend to eventually destroy the show).  There are weird new back-stories, improbably plot developments, uncharacteristic actions by the leads.

Contradictions accumulate between the fans’ vision of the characters and the actual show history, causing cognitive dissonance in fans. Creative amnesia minimizes this. For example, in the season 6 finale “For Better or Worse” we learn that Beckett was married in college (15 years ago). She explains this by saying she didn’t believe the marriage was real. On the websites for Castle fans they devise convoluted explanations to spin this to make Beckett look good. Occam’s Razor gives us a simple answer.

Backstory: Beckett has lied twice to Castle about big things: her memory was not lost after being shot, and a lie of omission about her trip to DC. It’s a pattern. She might have found it difficult to fess up to Castle about her marriage, and more difficult as time went on. She might have liked the sound of saying “one and done” (matching her self-image), but then found this made the truth more difficult to say. As did her teasing Castle about his two divorces.

It’s human nature. This doesn’t make her a bad person. But the fan-favored scenarios explaining this incident are absurd. Amnesia and fantasy about the back story allows their imaginations to run wild:

Stana Katic as Kate Beckett
Yes, we’re talking about you

Did Beckett forget the marriage? The women I consulted about this were dismissive of this, as in “no women forgets going to city hall, getting a license, going to a chapel, and having a ceremony.” (Drive-thru chapels do NOT issue licenses, and they will not marry you without a license)

Did Beckett have temporary alcohol-induced amnesia, recalling the marriage only when reminded by the clerk? This also assumes Rogan never mentioned the marriage — not the next morning, or anytime during the following two weeks. The first is improbable (amnesia doesn’t work that way), as is the second, IMO. The combo more so.

Did Beckett believe that the marriage license from Las Vegas City Hall was not valid? This is too silly to discuss. She gave better excuses for the first two lies. But then, this was the best she could think of on the spot.

The harsh plot developments of the show are muted by a combination of amnesia and imagination. It’s entertainment, so creating our own myths is part of the game.

(3)  Forgetting the contradictions in US history

It’s fun but more dangerous to do so with our history. To prosper, perhaps even to survive, our past and self-image should closely tie to reality. It doesn’t for Americans, and the connect appears to be growing weaker.

Some of our delusions are benign, if silly. For example, the Russians defeated the NAZIs — with an assist from the US and UK.

Some of our delusions prevent us from learning vital lessons. Look at our 19th century history, a horror show on many levels.

  • Terrorism shaped the American West. Violence against Indians. Against blacks. Against workers (early unions). Against small ranchers.  Terrorism by armed men, directed for political purposes, directed at Americans, in an early America still riven to an extent difficult for us to imagine today by fissures of race, ethnicity, class, and geography — before the homogenizing effect of the world wars and civil right struggles.
  • Southern whites, with the acquiescence of the North, used terrorism for one of the most successful insurgencies in western history. They rolled back much of the accomplishments of the Civil War, oppressing Blacks and regaining control of the State and local governments.
  • The 1% of that age used a wide spectrum of political, economic, and terrorist methods to concentrate wealth and income. One aspect of that was tight money (aka hard money), inflicting repeated, deep, and long depressions on our otherwise rapidly growing economy. These destroyed the craftsman, small merchant, and small farmer classes which were the foundation for the Republic’s political system — the people of independent spirit and means who Jefferson considered the key to its survival.

We have erased most of this from our minds, and so can learn nothing from this painful history — and the equally painful collective action that eventually built what we consider “America”. The America culminating in the mid-1960s. Rapid growth and broadening prosperity. Our glorious revolution, the peaceful passage of the great civil rights bills. The successful and largely peaceful containment of communism.

We retain this image despite the slow decay of the actual America. Our amnesia might force us to repeat those lessons. Probably at equal or greater cost.

America must be more than fan fiction. Or it will become a tale of the past, told to children.

(4) This series about “Castle”

  1. Spoilers for “Castle”: explaining the finale & season 7. It’s a metaphor for America.
  2. What we do here. Why it’s unpopular. And our new theme.
  3. What the TV show “Castle” teaches us about America, and ourselves, — About our myths
  4. The TV show “Castle” challenges us to see our changing values. Most fans decline, horrified.
  5. “Castle” shows us marriage in America, a fault line between our past & future
  6. “Castle” shows us a dark vision of Romance in America
  7. Richard Castle shows us the dark reality of justice in 21st C America
  8. “Castle” shows that many of us don’t defend New America because we don’t like it
  9. The bitter fruits of our alienation from America — more lessons from “Castle”.

(5) For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts women and gender issuesall posts about history here, and especially these…

  1. American faux history: could we have avoided the Civil War?
  2. Why did the South leave the Union?
  3. Are Europe’s rulers copying the policies of Herbert Hoover in 1929, or the French Monarchy in 1789?
  4. We’re drifting towards tyranny, again. Jefferson describes our first brush with tyranny.
  5. This day in history – looking at the road America didn’t take.
  6. Voices from the past describe the coming New America.
  7. On this important date let’s remember the past and look forward to our future.

(6) Kate Beckett reading the FM website

Stana Katic
Stana Katic reading the collected posts of the FM website
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