Tag Archives: castle

Lessons for us from the TV show “Castle”

Summary: For eight years the TV show Castle explored the nature of romance in 21st century America. Now that it ends soon, in its present form, we can review the lessons it taught us. TV and film tell our myths, and can help us better understand ourselves.

“Oh, wow. You’re engaged to a douche.”
— Rogan O’Leary (Beckett’s husband), speaking to her about Castle.

Stana Katic

Stana Katic, co-star of Castle.

After 9 seasons ABC decided to reduce the cost of producing the TV show Castle by firing its co-star, Stana Katic (playing Kate Beckett). They plan to reboot the show, presumably reverting Richard Castle back from beta sidekick he has become to the alpha of the early seasons — paired with another action girl. This break in the show will end a story that powerfully reflects trends in American society. Let’s take a few minutes to review what we’ve learned from Castle.

Romance in America

“Castle” helps us adjust to a new America, with women on top.

The show began with Beckett and Castle as equal partners with romantic overtones — an example of classic second-wave feminism. As the second wave evolved into the more aggressive third, so the delicate balance of Castle tipped into something different.

Beckett (like Rey in The Force Awakens) is a trendy female version of the Doc Savage 1930’s action hero (“the pinnacle of human physical and mental achievement”). She was top in her NYPD Academy class, youngest ever female NYPD detective, marksman, master of unarmed combat, fluent in Russian, former model, and has the highest case closure rate in the NYPD (i.e., she’s an ace investigator and interrogator). See the ABC publicity tweet at the end showing the result.

The grrl-power plots — driven by Stana Katic’s acting skills — gave Castle a largely female fan base (i.e., most guys tuned out). Maintaining faith and allegiance to the series requires amnesia about its contradictions — much as Americans require amnesia to retain belief that we’re a city on the hill in world affairs.

Perhaps naturally, Beckett slowly took the leading role in the show. To maintain its balance, Castle became her beta sidekick and occasional butt monkey — receiving physical abuse, mockery, and humiliation. He becomes a pudgy contrast to svelte Beckett, often submissive to her (and to his mother and daughter).

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“Castle” shows a future of strong women & weak men. As for marriage…

Summary: The TV show “Castle” gives us a mirror in which we can see ourselves, our hopes and fears — skillfully constructed by the best producers, actors, and technicians in Hollywood. Among other things it shows us a vision of the changing nature of relations between men and women — and its effects on marriage. It’s how the arts help us prepare for the future.  Spoilers for Episode 2 and thereafter of Season 8!

“People need stories, more than bread, itself. They teach us how to live, and why. … Stories show us how to win.”
— The Master Storyteller in HBO’s “The Arabian Nights”. Stories also warn us, showing us how to lose.

Beckett ropes Castle in S07E07

She caught him, but later threw him back. From Castle S07E07 – “Once Upon A Time in the West”.

Sometimes, rarely, a TV show clearly shows us America in motion — evolving into something new. “Castle”, staring Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, does so for one of the greatest events of our era: the adoption of gender roles without precedent in history. Wonderful for Alphas, bad for Betas, hellish for omegas. We see the consequences of the eponymous hero’s decay from bold strong alpha to beta orbiter. From leader to butt monkey (he’s the humorous contrast with the omnicompetent Beckett).

It’s a vision of America’s future as women become better-educated and often more fit than men (see the graduation numbers by degree). It’s a slow-mo evolution, taking years for women to transform the workplace and climb the ladders. But eventually they’ll reach critical mass and break through the glass ceiling in large numbers.

Previous posts have chronicled this as seen in the Castle – Beckett relationship. In season 6 she chooses wisely & agrees to marry Castle (rich, mild, family man), but probably dreams at night of her alpha ex-boyfriend. In the finale to the season Beckett’s husband mocks Castle, who finally sees his decay. He fakes his death to start a new life elsewhere (it was too bleak for viewers, so in mid-season they did a sloppy and incoherent explanation).

Of course it doesn’t work. Castle eventually marries Beckett. But Beckett, now a lithe hot NYPD Captain, feels revulsion for this overweight beta in her bed, and dumps him to seek adventure fighting evil at night as a Lone Ranger. We see the result in episode 3 of season 8. The show begins by drawing portraits of Rick Castle and his wife, Kate Beckett. First we see a lonely beta orbiter, sulking alone with his iPhone (transcript here)…

  • “Hello. I am your new home-operating system. My name is Lucy. What’s yours?”
  • “Uh, my name is Rick Castle, and my wife just left me.”
  • “Yikes. Sucks to be you, Rick.”

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The Castle season opener shows our divorce from our police

Summary: The TV show “Castle” shows how the police have become a strange tribe that TV explores, like National Geographic used to write about central Africa.  The season 8 premier episode shows how far TV has evolved from the 1950’s idealized portrayals of Dragnet and Highway Patrol to today’s dark fantasies.  Spoilers!

Castle

Warning: spoilers to the first episode of “Castle” season 8

Today’s police procedurals show how we’ve become accustomed to our New America, and disconnected from the government and its security services. Police procedurals tend to idealize police, but modern ones tend to accept their corruption and see police as Lone Rangers fighting evil despite their organization. While immersed in correct details, overall they make early procedurals — like Dragnet (1951 – 1959) — look like documentaries (there are exceptions to this, of course).

Who knew in 1971 that Dirty Harry would become the model for 21st century policing in US fiction?

The law-breaking cop Danny Reagan (co-star of “Blue Bloods” (especially criminal in the first 2 season) is one example; we should root for Internal Affairs to get him fired. The Gestapo-like agents of “NCIS Los Angeles” are another. Last week we saw an extreme version of this problem in “XY”, the Season 8 opener of “Castle”. Like the film Independence Day, every scene was bizarre in its own way — but unlike that great film, it was not funny.

Toks Olagundoye.

Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is a licensed Private Investigator (PI), consultant to the NYPD, and the husband of a Captain in the New York Police Department. Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye) is a PI with whom he partners in season 8, although she freely admits she is a criminal — and immediately demonstrates it.

Castle: “Hayley, we can just walk through the front door. There’s no bolt cutters required.”
Hayley: “Oh, you’ve been playing at being a cop too long, Rick. As a P.I., you don’t have a badge, don’t have search warrants. You’ve got to get creative. Lie, cheat.”
Castle: “And the occasional B&E {breaking & entering}, apparently?”
Hayley: “Yeah, if that’s what it takes.”

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Beckett shows our future: she marries Castle, but dreams at night of her alpha lovers

Summary:  Feminism is the big revolution of our time, over-turning our ideals of romance and marriage. The TV show “Castle” is a mirror in which we can see 21st century America, especially the relations between men and women. Today we look at the dark side of marriage masked by the light comedy of the Beckett-Castle romance, and what it reveals about our future. It’s one of the most shocking (& darkest) posts of the 3,900 on the FM website. Post your reactions in the comments.

Wild West Beckett

Beckett & Castle in “Once upon the time in the west”.

Contents

  1. TV helps us see ourselves.
  2. Beckett’s boyfriends.
  3. Why she choose Castle.
  4. Life imitates fiction.
  5. About the revolution.
  6. Other posts about “Castle”.
  7. For More Information.
  8. Beckett lassos her man.

 

(1) Stories help us see ourselves

“People need stories, more than bread, itself. They teach us how to live, and why. …Stories show us how to win.”
— The Master Storyteller in the BBC’s “Arabian Nights“.

We watch dramas not just for entertainment, but to see our society from different perspectives, and so better understand our lives and those around us. The characters are fiction, but the situations and emotions are those of our moment in time and space. With the rapid change in gender roles during the past several generations — now accelerating — the ability of film and TV to show us different paths becomes especially valuable.

The TV show “Castle” does this well. As described in the previous chapter of this series, here we see a world in which the war of the sexes has begun to swing in women’s favor (e.g., women’s superior performance in grade school, college, and graduate programs) — and the traditional gender roles begin to invert. Kate Beckett shows one way for women to adapt their relationships to this new world. We’ll look at what the show-runners plausibly provide as her boyfriends, speculate why she choose Castle as her husband, and conclude with a real-life illustration of these dynamics.

(2)  Beckett’s boyfriends

Beckett dated several alphas before marrying Castle.

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson, played by Victor Webster.

Josh Davidson

Dr. Davidson, Beckett’s boyfriend in season 3, has it all. He’s a cardiac surgeon. He rides a motorcycle. He travels to Third World nations, providing free surgical care. See his series bio. In S04E04 he saves her life after she was shot in the heart.

We never learn how Dr. Davidson’s relationship with Beckett ended. In season 5 we learn he went to the Amazon to build free clinics. As an alpha, he expects Beckett to follow him or get left behind. It would take him a few days (max) to find a new girlfriend. Beckett would dream of him during her marriage to a rich nice-guy family man beta (like Castle).

 

Will Sorenson

Will Sorenson (Bailey Chase).

 

Will Sorenson

Sorenson is an FBI Special Agent, he was Beckett’s boyfriend in season 1. See his series bio.  As the lead agent on kidnappings, he probably has a hot hand at the FBI. He was Beckett’s boyfriend sometime in the past, before she meets Castle.

He’s another alpha. Like Davidson, he expected Beckett to follow him when the FBI rotated him to a new city. That’s not something he will compromise on, and so they went their separate ways before the series begins — and again in season one. It might take him a month to get a new girlfriend.

 

Tom Demming

Tom Demming (Michael Trucco).

Tom Demming

Demming is a NYPD detective working robberies (series bio).  He was Beckett’s boyfriend in season 2. She dumps him in the season finale, explaining that “was not what she was looking for.”

As a New York City cop, TV tropes require that Demming be an alpha. And so he is, with a softer side (much like Ryan and Esposito).

 

(3)  Why Beckett choose Castle

We can easily imagine why Beckett married Castle. As an attractive, intelligent, strong-willed, aggressive, and high-spirited women, she it’s no surprise she has four good choices to choose from. Davidson has a good income, charisma, and good looks. He’s the alpha of the group. But he might not marry her.

Sorenson and Demming are good-looking, stable nice guys with good careers. They will make nice family men. And then there is Castle. …

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“Castle” helps us adjust to a new America, with women on top

Summary: The tv show “Castle” prepares us for a New America, as Kate Beckett grows larger and Richard Castle becomes smaller. As women’s education levels increasingly surpass men’s, incomes and status of women will follow. Gender roles will have to adjust, radically. This is the essence of Feminism. Hollywood helps us adapt by showing possible futures, which we can discuss — and prepare for — like the long decay of Castle from alpha to beta, and his failed attempt to reverse it. We’ll see more such stories in the future, on screen and in real life. Post your thoughts in the comments.  Warning: season 7 spoilers galore!

“Oh, wow. You’re engaged to a douche.”
— Rogan O’Leary (Beckett’s husband),  speaking to her about Castle

Beckett abuses Castle in "Flowers for your grave"

Sensing his weakness, Beckett’s abuses Castle in S01E01

Contents

  1. The mystery resolved!
  2. From the start Beckett saw weakness
  3. Over time Castle grew smaller
  4. Other posts about “Castle”
  5. Other posts about women

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(1)  The mystery resolved!

At the end of season 6 Castle had an epiphany. Beckett’s serial deceits (details here) culminated with her “forgetting” that she was married (exquisite from the woman who mocked Castle’s two divorces by saying “I’m a one and done girl”). He saw his evolution from the ruggedly handsome, rebellious, action hero of Season One into a beta. Castle realizes that he shares Rogan’s contempt at what he’s become.

The show ends with a cliff-hanger: Castle kidnapped while driving to his wedding. In the opener of season 7 Castle has amnesia, but the NYPD detectives discover who arranged the kidnapping. The answer is exactly as I predicted. {Transcript from Series Monitor}

  • TORY: {the video plays} This is in the time window when the {money} drop should have taken place. …
  • RYAN: We get eyes on Cardano’s client we can get a real lead on who took Castle. … That’s him. That’s the client dropping off the cash. …
  • BECKETT:  Wait. Freeze that. Zoom in.
  • ESPOSITO: That’s Castle. He’s the one who dropped off the cash. … Castle’s in on this. He planned the whole thing.

In S07E02 Castle tracks down a man who knows what happened, and so learns the source of his amnesia: “… you were the one who asked to forget.” The mystery for season 7: what did he want to forget, and why?

Here’s my guess. Each of us has the capacity for self renewal. Castle has forged new versions of himself, from high school prankster to millionaire novelist to A-team detective.  At the end of season 6 he decided to make a clean break with his old life, using his incredible Rolodex of contacts to arrange the faking of his death — and a rebirth. But he lost his nerve, asked for the memory of all this to be erased, and then blindly fled to await his return to Beckett. Renewal is difficult, and painful — too much for the man he’d become.

Let’s review why Castle decided to bail on his life, and what happened after he returned to it. Reminder: spoilers!

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How you can start the campaign to reform America

Summary: Today we finish the series using hit TV show “Castle” as a mirror for America. We gained insights from it about our society: about romance, marriage, justice, our myths, and values. The tentative conclusion drawn in these posts was that we have become alienated: we no longer see America as us, or ours. Today we end the series with a proposed solution, a way to help start the political reform process.

Patrick Henry

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How can we re-kindle American’s willingness to fight for the Republic? Such a campaign should have several characteristics.

  1. A simple message.
  2. A message tapping into people’s existing beliefs and values.
  3. A message a wide range of groups will adopt and promulgate.
  4. A message that encourages people to become more politically involved.
  5. A message that overcomes our alienation.

Here’s my guess: we feel alienated not because of what America has become. It’s imperfections provide our excuses for passivity.

We’re alienated because we no longer believe we own or control America. It’s a natural reaction to the rise of the 1%.

We need reawaken a belief that we are strong, that America belongs to us, and that we can retake control of it from the 1%.  We need a call to action.The 1% powerful, but we have greater strength in our numbers — and even (collectively) far greater money.

This asks to to get involved in politics, contributing time and effort. The specific things that each person does depends on his or her individual values and beliefs. We need to have faith in each other, faith that no matter how great our differences together we’ll find a path to rebuild America.

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“Castle” shows that many of us don’t defend New America because we don’t like it

Summary:  We conclude our examination of the hit TV show “Castle” by adding up what we’ve learned from it about America. We might have become alienated from 21st C America because we no longer see ourselves as part of it. Hence our unwillingness to defend it.  Spoilers!

Karl Marx

Karl Marx smiles, having predicted our alienation

 

Contents

  1. “Castle” shows us 21st C America
  2. Back to the future for our love of the State
  3. Why should we worry about alienation?
  4. No worries! Others will rule us.
  5. A closing note about America
  6. Other posts in this series about “Castle”
  7. For More Information
  8. The flip side of alienation is irresponsibility

 

(1)  “Castle” shows us 21st C America

We’ve used the hit TV show “Castle” as a mirror in which we can see unpleasant aspects of 21st century America which otherwise remain invisible. Attention to them benefits neither party of the 1% (“Left” or “Right”), and so remains outside the narratives told us by journalists and intelligentsia.

The 19th C was a horror show: slavery, the Civil War, the failure of Reconstruction, the oppression of Indians and workers, the 1%-engineered deflation and depressions of the Gilded Age. But in the first 60 years of the 20th C our forefathers rebuilt both America at the world. The resulting America of the mid-1960s is what we (speaking broadly) think of as America. Neither utopia or Heaven, but an accomplishment seldom equaled in history.

The sixty years since then have seen rapid and great changes to America. Changes in our society, from gender and racial roles to ethnic composition. Changes in our economy. Changes in our role in the world. In a sense it was natural evolution of society driven by our national ideologies.

The result is a New America. After a long time portraying America essentially as it was in mid-1960s, TV shows now show us — in a soft focus — America as it is today. Which we see in “Castle” (and also described in 16 other similar other posts; links in 7d below)

It’s better in many ways than the America that Once Was. Worse in other ways. Perhaps most important for many people, it’s different than what they think of as America. So much so that many of us no longer see themselves in the mirror when they look at America. They’re alienated.

Alienation shines through the actions of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. Alienation drives middle class people to use Pirate Bay. It’s obvious in a thousand other ways.

(2)  It’s back to the future for our love of the State

The most serious effect of alienation might be on our relationship to the Republic.

As Martin van Creveld showed in The Rise and Decline of the State (1999), patriotism only recently arose in the West. Without love of the State, rulers dare not burden their subjects too heavily. They recruited foreigners for the core of their military (as King David did). The revolutions that created the modern era changed the State from an scourge into something for which people would gladly sacrifice not just their goods but also their lives — and those of their children.

As van Creveld explained:

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