The TV show “Castle” challenges us to see our changing values. Most fans decline, horrified.

Summary:  Today we look at the collision of values between our hero, Richard Castle, and the lovable rogue Rogan. Fans express outrage at the thought that Rogan might be right. For good reason, because this illustrates in miniature the evolution of American society in a direction we prefer not to see. This is the fourth in a series about the TV show “Castle”, mining it for insights about ourselves. Spoilers!

Stana Katic
Beckett, detective.



  1. Has Castle lost faith in suburban values?
  2. Long roots to the love of outlaws
  3. The insights from the fringe carry weight
  4. The ghetto drives American culture
  5. Nietzsche gets the last word
  6. Other posts in this series about “Castle”
  7. For More Information


(1)  Has Castle lost faith in our values?

Castle sees himself in another man’s eyes, those of Rogan O’Leary: an alpha, attractive to women, living a life of adventure as a petty criminal. Rogan sees an over-weight beta humbly following his fiancée to beg her husband for a divorce. His rail-thin, ultra-hot fiancée who — after 5 years of spurning him — heard her biological clock ticking, and decided to settle down with a rich famous nice guy. Naturally Rogan treats Castle with contempt, derisively calling him “man parts”, telling Beckett

“Oh, wow. You’re engaged to a douche.”

This analysis outraged many “Castle” fans. A common rebuttal (link to original):

{B}asing this predicted “spoiler” on Rogan, a drug/alchi/felon/con man/thief/pathological liar/ADHD candidate. … Rogan is stupid and hysterical, with a long series of crime/swindle failures. … My police friends remind me that they have yet to met such a “smart” criminal.

This is American myopia on full display. First, the description of Rogan is fantasy, beyond anything in the episode, probably exaggeration of Rogan’s flaws to minimize the truth of his words.

Rogan is a common small crook. He has led an adventurous life as an outlaw on the fringes of society. Not everybody wants to be an accountant. It’s a different kind of life.  And one which, unsurprisingly to anyone familiar with life outside the suburbs, has gained him the devoted love of a beautiful women (and probably many).

Such people have an attraction to those in the dull mainstream, often romanticized. As in this episode of “Castle”: when given $25,000 in cash, Rogan hands it to his girlfriend (she needs it to save her business).

(2)  Long roots to the love of outlaws

The admiration and even idealization of outlaws has deep and mysterious roots in our history, described in Popular Admiration of Great Thieves, a chapter in Charles Mackay’s great work Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841):


Mel & Inara
An outlaw & his partner. From “Firefly”.

Whether it be that the multitude, feeling the pangs of poverty, sympathise with the daring and ingenious depredators who take away the rich man’s superfluity, or whether it be the interest that mankind in general feel for the records of perilous adventures, it is certain that the populace of all countries look with admiration upon great and successful thieves. Perhaps both these causes combine to invest their career with charms in the popular eye. Almost every country in Europe has its traditional thief, whose exploits are recorded with all the graces of poetry …

Those travellers who have made national manners and characteristics their peculiar study, have often ond remarked upon this feeling. The learned Abbe le Blanc, who resided for some time in England at the commencement of the 18th century, says, in his amusing letters on the English and French nations, that he continually met with Englishmen who were not less vain in boasting of the success of their highwaymen than of the bravery of their troops. Tales of their address, their cunning, or their generosity, were in the mouths of everybody, and a noted thief was a kind of hero in high repute.

(3)  The insights from the fringe carry weight

Life on the fringes of society differs greatly from that in the core, with a range of people unable to find homes in the comfortable routines of bureaucracies and businesses. People who never mastered the skills of sucking up to superiors, scoring well on multiple-choice tests, memorizing socially-valued trivia, and coloring inside the lines

Criminals, rogues, artists, street philosophers, madmen. In exchange for insecure, often dangerous lives — condemned as stupid and foolish by the respectable — they sometimes gain perspectives on society unknown to us inside it. Sometimes in hindsight their opinions are considered more valid than those of the straight and narrow mainstream.

With the relationship of Castle and Rogan we deal with something even more subjective: measuring manliness (aka alphaness, or a dozen other names). The judgement of a Rogan — or an outlaw biker, a starving artist, or a South Sea beachcomber — might be as or more valid to someone like Castle (or to a young hottie, or a mature hottie like Beckett) than that of a respectable boring salaryman.

Perhaps that should not be so. But it often is, but perhaps with reason. There are different kinds of knowledge and values. How foolish is the belief that the same calculus can solve planetary orbits, compute Machiavelli’s math of political effectiveness, Alexander’s battlefield leadership, the policies that govern a great nation, and the dynamics of personal charisma?

(4)  The ghetto drives American culture

This reflexive denial that values from the fringe is especially pitiful when said in modern America. Language, music and the other arts come from the streets of the fringe, and increasingly from our ghettos (which have bred an almost alien culture).

Even more weighty, our values increasingly come from the edge. Single motherhood defines the family for some part of most children’s lives. Serial monogamy as the new marriage (“one and done” a comforting lie to mask this still too-harsh to admit truth).

Equally important is another lifestyle from the fringe moving to the middle classes: loyalty increasingly goes not to the established institutions of family, nation, church, political parties, and employer — but to the new tribes of cultural or ideological affinity.

These changes in ourselves remain mysterious in their causes and effects, and so frightening. In rebuttal we deny them to ourselves, and express outrage when seen on the screen. It shakes our confidence in ourselves to imagine that our hero, Richard Castle, might lose interest in his wonderful life of fame, fortune, and Beckett — see seek a new life elsewhere (as described in the first post of this series).

Perhaps we see here an answer to the great question asked on the FM website: why have Americans given up on the Republic, no longer making the effort to work its machinery? Have we lost confidence in our values, in our society, in ourselves?

(5)  Nietzsche gets the last word

Much that passed for good with one people was regarded with scorn and contempt by another: thus I found it. Much found I here called bad, which was there decked with purple honours.

… A thousand paths are there which have never yet been trodden; a thousand salubrities and hidden islands of life. Unexhausted and undiscovered is still man and man’s world.

Awake and hearken, ye lonesome ones! From the future come winds with stealthy pinions, and to fine ears good tidings are proclaimed.

— From Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883)

(6) Other posts in this series about “Castle”

  1. Spoilers for “Castle”: explaining the finale & season 7. It’s a metaphor for America.
  2. The TV show “Castle” challenges us to see our changing values. Most fans decline, horrified.
  3. “Castle” shows us marriage in America, a fault line between our past & future
  4. “Castle” shows us a dark vision of Romance in America
  5. “Castle” helps us adjust to a new America, with women on top
  6. Beckett shows our future. She chooses wisely & marries Castle, but dreams at night of her alpha ex-boyfriend.
  7. “Castle” shows a future of strong women & weak men. As for marriage…

(7)  For More Information

See all posts about art, myth and literature, especially these…

  1. Symptoms of a fever afflicting America’s culture, 5 November 2008 — Hollywood’s hero deficit
  2. Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal, 23 April 2009 — The Law of Equivalent Exchange
  3. Their Martyrs and Our Heroes, an essay by John Feffer, 8 August 2009
  4. Hollywood’s dream machine gives us the Leader we yearn for, 30 June 2013
  5. Loki helps us to see our true selves, 15 May 2013




1 thought on “The TV show “Castle” challenges us to see our changing values. Most fans decline, horrified.”

  1. Don’t be to hard on your own people. I am not, I have a lot of confidence in them … in the long run, post the collapse that is. I will say it again, the depths of talent and creativity of the US is amazing. As is the high proportion of people that really are moral and ethical.

    When you do your ‘USSR’ collapse thing (hopefully without blowing up the world in the process) the rebuilding will be slow and agonising, but there are probably enough talented and ethical people in your society to rebuild better than before (though not everywhere in the US sadly, some parts will be lost for a much longer time, maybe forever).

    But they have been hit endlessly by many decades of promoting stupidity and pushing propaganda. The crushing, of what used to be, an excellent school system. The destruction of your Universities The endless Govt and Corporate propaganda. And the endless ‘criminalisation’ of the elites.

    But (just like in Brunner’s book Shockwave Rider, who also flagged that the US Govt and elites would live hand in hand with the Mafia as they do now) there are huge numbers of people that have, to a large extent, broken free from that now.

    Look at the polls before the (well 2 days before) the Syrian attack was going to happen and the pressure on Congress (by write ins, etc) was so much that many of them actually disobeyed APAC (that was a first) …So even Obama blinked (though there was also a lot of US military resistance too).

    Don’t write off your people, they are capable of doing great things. They will have to get rid of their parasitic, corrupt, violent and horrible elites… and it will be bloody doing so…but in the end they will come though.

    The Second American Revolution will be a hard and horribly bloody thing, but it will happen. Not everywhere in the US at the same time, I frankly expect it to break up into 3-4 regions. And some of those regions will still be horrible for a longer time (ie the Texas and New York regions), but the others will thrive and eventually those ‘horrible ones’ will also go under, just take a bit longer.

    So if you are a patriotic military person, there are several things you have to do… start thinking about which side you are on (the people vs corporations and the Mafia), think about the society you want after the current one ends and for the higher levels how to control all the nukes so some nut job can’t grab some (which was something the collapse of the USSR managed to do).

    Up to you.

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