Tag Archives: nathan fillion

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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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” 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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Richard Castle shows us the dark reality of justice in 21st C America

Summary:  We continue our examination of the hit TV show “Castle”, today mining for insights about justice in 21st C America. Castle is a romantic comedy; an accurate depiction of our criminal justice system would be a horror show. As in the previous chapters of this series, this suggests that we might no longer defend America because we’ve lost confidence in it.  Spoilers!

We should fear Justice. If she weighs America in her scales, she might use that sword on us.

Lady Justice
.
Contents

  1. “Castle” shows us 21st C American justice
  2. The collapse of our criminal justice system
  3. Feudal justice
  4. Other posts in this series about “Castle”
  5. For More Information
  6. They’ll have to carve these words off the Court’s building

.

(1)  “Castle” shows us 21st C American justice

From the first episode of Castle.

BECKETT:  You have quite a rap sheet for a best-selling author: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest.
CASTLE:  Boys will be boys.
BECKETT:  It says here that you stole a police horse?
CASTLE:  Borrowed.
BECKETT:  And you were nude at the time.
CASTLE:  It was spring.
BECKETT:  And every time the charges were dropped.
CASTLE:  What can I say? The mayor is a fan.

BECKETT
Mr. Castle. You’ve got quite a rap sheet for a best-selling author: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest.

CASTLE
Boys will be boys.

BECKETT
It says here that you stole a police horse?

CASTLE
Borrowed.

BECKETT
Ah. And you were nude at the time.

CASTLE
It was spring.

BECKETT
And every time the charges were dropped.

CASTLE
What can I say? The mayor is a fan,

– See more at: http://seriesmonitor.com/castle/transcripts/season1/01.html#sthash.atyJdJrh.dpuf

BECKETT
Mr. Castle. You’ve got quite a rap sheet for a best-selling author: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest.

CASTLE
Boys will be boys.

BECKETT
It says here that you stole a police horse?

CASTLE
Borrowed.

BECKETT
Ah. And you were nude at the time.

CASTLE
It was spring.

BECKETT
And every time the charges were dropped.

CASTLE
What can I say? The mayor is a fan,

– See more at: http://seriesmonitor.com/castle/transcripts/season1/01.html#sthash.atyJdJrh.dpuf

BECKETT
Mr. Castle. You’ve got quite a rap sheet for a best-selling author: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest.

CASTLE
Boys will be boys.

BECKETT
It says here that you stole a police horse?

CASTLE
Borrowed.

BECKETT
Ah. And you were nude at the time.

CASTLE
It was spring.

BECKETT
And every time the charges were dropped.

CASTLE
What can I say? The mayor is a fan,

– See more at: http://seriesmonitor.com/castle/transcripts/season1/01.html#sthash.atyJdJrh.dpuf

BECKETT
Mr. Castle. You’ve got quite a rap sheet for a best-selling author: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest.

CASTLE
Boys will be boys.

BECKETT
It says here that you stole a police horse?

CASTLE
Borrowed.

BECKETT
Ah. And you were nude at the time.

CASTLE
It was spring.

BECKETT
And every time the charges were dropped.

CASTLE
What can I say? The mayor is a fan,

– See more at: http://seriesmonitor.com/castle/transcripts/season1/01.html#sthash.atyJdJrh.dpuf

This is a realistic description of High Justice in America, the criminal justice system for the rich. Drug use? Disorderly conduct? Sexual assault, rapeEven murder? Erased by money and power.

A young man of the middle class who commits crimes like Castle’s gets Middle Justice:  a criminal record, with punishment mitigated only if the relatives fund crippling legal fees. Disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, and resisting arrest are misdemeanors, usually punished by fines and probation — with possible “collateral consequences” such as loss of professional licenses and bonds.  Theft of the police horse is a felony, with punishment depending on the degree of anger felt by the police.

A young man of the lower classes commits such crimes gets Low Justice: a criminal record, with all of the above plus the possibility of jail time.

(2)  The collapse of our criminal justice system

The “Castle” TV show frankly if lightly describes some dark aspects of our criminal justice system, such as prison rape. But overall it is accurate as a “police procedural” in the same sense that Lord of the Rings describes warfare. Fun fantasy.

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“Castle” shows us a dark vision of Romance in America

Summary:  We continue our examination of the hit TV show “Castle”, today mining for insights about romance in 21st C America. It’s an ugly picture, suggesting (as did previous chapters) that perhaps we no longer defend America because we no longer like it. America has always been an ideological project. It might have evolved into a form that we no longer recognize as us or ours. Post your thoughts in the comments!  Spoilers!

Here we see one slice of romance among boys and girls in America, as shown on “Castle”. See 0:10 to 0:24.

Castle proposes to Beckett

Yes, I will. I also promise to stop abusing you.

Contents

  1. “Castle” shows us 21st C American romance
  2. Video evidence of an ugly trend
  3. Gender bending marking the rise of women to equality, or beyond
  4. Long-term effects on men?
  5. Other posts about “Castle”
  6. For More Information

(1)  “Castle” shows us 21st C American romance

Gender bending is one of the largest, most important, and least visible trends of our age, and perhaps one of the major sources of cultural stress. We are redefining our core cultural features, an social experiment on a scale with few — perhaps no — precedents in history.

This redefinition of gender roles provides many of the distinctive features of “Castle”. It shows the normalization of what in the past were extraordinary character traits.

  1. From the script alone how often could you tell the gender of Castle or Beckett? From reading just the police procedural scenes (solving the mystery)? From reading the romance scenes? Very few.
  2. Women as leaders: Beckett as senior detective, Captain Gates as head of the unit. Beckett as the aggressive leader; Castle as the metrosexual follower.
  3. Beckett is an example of  “action girl” (see TV Tropes) or women warrior.  Master of weapons, able to defeat men in hand-t0-hand fights.

“Castle” often takes these now-common tropes to a new level. Castle often screams like a little girl, and occasionally displays outright cowardice (e.g., leaving Beckett to run out of the damaged building in the season 6 episode “Under Fire”). He often portrays the opposite of Beckett’s consistent calm but aggressive reaction to danger.

Even more extreme, in the first few seasons Castle meekly submits to physical abuse by Beckett (e.g., episodes 1 & 3 in season 1; episode 1 of season 3). See the flashbacks in the video at the top of this post. He cannot hit back; that would be wrong. Complaining would look weak. Castle shows the essence of beta: he can neither cope with her nor walk away. The writers and audience show no empathy for him; we mock the clown.

Castle’s passive acceptance of this humiliation foreshadows the events in the following seasons.

  1. His decay from flashes of alpha to full-beta in the later seasons (he loses all self-respect after accepting this abuse).
  2. This in turn explains Beckett’s actions. How many alpha women (Beckett was a wild girl even in high school) would respect such a man? She friend-zones him while hooking up with alphas like Josh Davidson (cardiac surgeon) and detective Tom Demming. Castle follows Beckett like a puppy while Davidson ignores Beckett’s complaints about his life as a world-traveling surgeon, as did her previous love (FBI agent Will Sorenson).
  3. Beckett hears her biological clock ticking at the end of season 4, signalling Time to find a nice stable rich guy.

As mentioned in the second chapter, only with the help of amnesia can fans see this as a romantic saga.  It’s an ugly perspective on the complex drama of relationships in 21st C America.

(2)  Video evidence of an ugly trend

Let’s consider this last point in more detail, as it highlights our radical new gender roles.

(a)  Grrrl Power in the cinema

We watch and cheer Hermione Granger hitting Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The clip does not show what follows: Draco and his team running away, looking back at Hermione in fear. What else can Draco do? Video:

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“Castle” shows us marriage in America, a fault line between our past & future

Summary:  The TV show “Castle” shows us the mad nature of marriage in 21st C America, and suggests why we no longer work the machinery that drives our vital institutions (this the alienation that social scientists warn of). We no longer believe reforming America requires understanding what’s happening and clearly seeing how we want to live. This leads to folly. Society must be built on rock, not sand.

“… a world-without-end bargain.”
— William Shakespeare describes marriage in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (c. 1595).

Beckett's bridal gown

Contents

  1. In her marriages, Beckett is everygirl.
  2. In their divorces Castle is everyman, Beckett everygirl.
  3. A useful conclusion about marriage.
  4. History of marriage.
  5. Other posts in this series about “Castle”.
  6. For More Information.
  7. Tom Tomorrow gives us A Brief History of Marriage.

&mnsp;

(1)  In her marriages, Beckett is everygirl

We watch hit TV shows because they speak to our dreams, fears, goals, and conflicts. Romantic comedies like “Castle” focus on marriage, one of our foundational institutions. It’s a major theme of the series “Castle”, both of the main characters’ arcs and the individual episode.  How people select partners, the ceremony, marriage, divorce, and post-marriage life.

Richard Castle has married twice, a conventional middle-aged American practicing serial monogamy, hoping that the third time is the charm.

Beckett has more interesting history, illustrating the several irrational elements to our social system. Married in a drunken fling while in college, she could not cope with the resulting cognitive dissonance between her logical decision to divorce and her self-image as one who marries for life (“I’m a one and done sort of girl”). In this she is everygirl.

She resolves this is an all-too-human way: she just ignores the marriage. That’s not an obvious FAIL, since there are no central records for marriages in the US (as there are in all other First World nations). The Centers for Disease Control explains why

Information on the total numbers and rates of marriages and divorces at the national and State levels are published in the NCHS National Vital Statistics Reports. The collection of detailed data was suspended beginning in January 1996. Limitations in the information collected by the States as well as budgetary considerations necessitated this action.

A 15-year old Vegas marriage might easily remain secret. Background checks, even by the FBI, don’t query the marriage records of every State — and seldom investigate more than 10 years of history (except the basics, such as birth and education).

But Beckett points us to a deeper conflict in our system of marriage. One we all see, but consider too horrific too mention.

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