Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm hooked on Under the Dome, but I wish it had something a bit more positive to say about people

I watched Under the Dome last night right after I watched the Blackhawks clinch the Stanley Cup on national television (for the record, this Blackhawks fan never had any doubt). It'll be nice though next season to see the guys clean-shaven again. I know it's superstition, but not a fan of the Grizzly Adams look.

So here's my confession regarding Under the Dome. I haven't read it. I've only read a handful of Stephen King books. They are Needful Things, The Shining, Dark Tower, and Eyes of the Dragon. I never went "nutso" over Stephen King. He was just one of those authors that I enjoyed every once in a while, but not more so than most any other author that writes speculative fiction these days.

So I go into the pilot episode of Under the Dome without any preconceptions of what's going on or what to expect, and I find myself asking: are people really crazy like this? I realize it's just a fiction, but Mr. King is a profound observer of human nature, and I think he provides us with a "boiled down" reflection on an ugly truth: a lot of us are only civil toward one another because the law makes us behave. All you have to do is check the Yahoo Finance page articles for comments left by people, and you'll see more hate speech and ugliness than you can probably stomach. Just an example: people referring to democrats as "libtards", which is not only a terrible insult but shows the depth of how people 1) are always looking to blame someone else for a problem and 2) how much people hate others that do not share their political views. On a recent article, there were several comments calling for civil war (this basically spurned by the recent drops in the stock market due to panic and fear over the notion that the Federal Reserve may seek to taper its bond-buying program if the economy shows it can stand on its own--a thing that should be welcomed as good news).

In a science fiction setting, it's easy to lose track of the message that people are scum, but it's there if you look for it. Take Berk in Aliens when he screws over everyone with his plan to get the alien xenomorph impregnated in Ripley and Newt and then, he gets caught. Well do people really screw over other people for money? Yes, yes they do. Just this weekend a man was killed over a pair of Lebron James basketball shoes. Let me repeat that because it's a sad sad thing in our country: A MAN WAS KILLED FOR A PAIR OF SHOES. Like WTH?

Of course the news tells us of the Adam Lanza's who murder a school full of children, they tell us of the mad men who drive planes into skyscrapers for the promise of an afterlife that fulfills every one of their desires, they tell us of the Ponzi schemer who bilks people out of their money to live high on the hog, and the list goes on and on and on.

There are so many horrible things that people do to others out of jealousy, anger, hatred, contempt, greed, and fear that I suppose the veil of civilized society is a more delicate thing than I could have imagined. Maybe I've lived under a dome all my life having come from a small town. Now living in a big city, the blindfold over my eyes has been removed. That and I'm in that stage in my life where I absorb a ton of information every day on things that I previously ignored.

So in Under the Dome is it any surprise that the boy athlete from college in love with his girlfriend decides to imprison her in an underground bunker so that she'll realize she loves him (and probably to make sure her vajayjay doesn't go wandering)?

Am I shocked that we are introduced to a drifter named Barbie who kills a man for money, disposes his body in the woods seemingly without guilt and then drives into town only to turn around and save a few people? How can someone demonstrate compassion and be a killer in the same day? I've heard stories of the Juarez Cartel employees in Mexico. Apparently they can behead people that the cartel wants killed and go home and have dinner with their families and children and go to church the next day.

Am I surprised that a reporter whose husband is missing instantly leaps to the conclusion that her husband is having an affair instead of saying, "Oh this is unusual that he's missing"?

Or what about the council man who hints at something illegal that he's been doing while the Sheriff has been looking the other way? I guess we should just expect that corruption in politics goes all the way to the roots. If you run for any kind of public office, you are corrupt. Let's add ambition to the list of things that motivate people to screw over and hurt other people.
Is the Earth just one huge Dome? Are we all trapped?
I'm hooked by Under the Dome, but I wish it had something a bit more positive (naive of me I know especially given that King is a horror writer) to say about Americans or maybe people in general (I only say Americans because it takes place in a fictional America). But it makes me question if the Earth is a dome. As it becomes increasingly more crowded with people, and resources shrink, are we all going to be able to get along with each other? There's going to be fewer and fewer places for people to run to in order to escape other people. I just hope the legitimately good people in the world don't all end up like the poor fat kid with the glasses in The Lord of the Flies.

28 comments:

Ted Cross said...

Barbie didn't do that in the book (he had killed someone long ago but not just for money). I don't think it's a small town vs big city thing--I think people get along anywhere only because of society's rules and laws. Without them, there would be chaos and warlords and mass death...survival of the fittest essentially. Katrina showed us just a tiny taste of it. Even if most people would wish to continue being civil should something disastrous happen, it only takes a tiny percentage of villains to ruin it for everyone, and they certainly would. And reading the comment sections online is a path to the dark side, showing just how terrible (and stupid) many of our fellow human beings are.

It's funny that the list of books you have read by King is pretty much the list of my least favorites. You should try Salem's Lot (the movie was horrible, the mini-series was decent, but the book is terrific) or The Dark Half (very scary though).

Mark Koopmans said...

Michael,

You may - or not :) know we are political opposites, but this was a great post - and I agree with you here.

PS. The book is fantastic - as is IT and THE STAND.

Brinda said...

Have I told you lately how good you are at this? I mean...writing. Very introspective post on King's writing and darker, weirder, uglier truth of human nature. I write a lot of fluff on my blog and your posts always make me sigh.

Anyway. I think you can watch the news and see how twisted human nature can be. Of course, in the microcosm of the Dome, you see the amplified versions.

I love King's writing and listened to Joyland a couple of weeks ago. It's one of my favorites now. I tried to read Under the Dome and quit not far into it. Maybe it was me or maybe the story. Can't say. Of course, I'm not watching the show. I'm working frantically to finish edits by a deadline.

Em-Musing said...

I'm giggling as I read this. I hate when details in a show make me go, hmm? when I'm watching something that I hope will transcend me for an hour of sheer entertainment.

Yolanda Renee said...

We live in a world that rewards the crudest, loudest, most rude with fame. We love the 'bad' guy, kindness is boring. Talentless skanks are the top 'news' story, and royalty is the new social goal.
Talking heads sit in judgement of the world, while the critical state of our world is ignored to sell 'stuff.'
While evil gets the press, I believe that enough good exists to defeat it. But I've always worn rose colored glasses.
Great post!

Pat Dilloway said...

I was so bummed I missed those two goals the Blackhawks scored. I turned it on and it was 2-1 with two minutes left and the next time I check it's 3-2 with a minute left and I was like WTF? I got to watch the replay of it this morning. Just unbelievable choke job by Boston.

mshatch said...

I'm so glad I'm not watching since they totally changed Barbie's character by having him do that (and why, might I ask you stupid effing writers who always have to ruin everything SK writes?)and the football player (I can't remember if he played football in the book) didn't imprison his gf either, he just killed her. Stupid hack television writers ruining a perfectly good book. Grrr!

Michael Offutt, "Johnny on the Spot" said...

@Mark: :) Of course I know we are political opposites. But if the both of us were in a room trying to make a policy decision, I think we would both have extremely valuable things to say, and I would hope that we would be able to compromise with each other. I am encouraged to see the bipartisan efforts for immigration reform that are taking place in Congress. I think we need more of that.

Elise Fallson said...

I never read Under The Dome, but I want to now. I am very pessimistic when it comes to the future of our society. I always have been. Maybe it's due to my personal experiences. But I do hope, for the sake of my kids and their kids, and so on, that things won't get worse. But each time I think that way, I feel as if I'm building castles out of cards.

Andrew Leon said...

People are, at heart, completely self-centered and selfish. It's the lack of empathy, which is something more than 80% of the population do not have. So, yeah, people "behave" because we have laws and they don't want to be punished.

DEZMOND said...

just Torrented the first episode and will watch it with THE WHITE QUEEN second episode next weekend :) I've decided to ditch dreadfully boring DEFIANCE and switch it with DOME :)

Sarah Ahiers said...

"a lot of us are only civil toward one another because the law makes us behave"

This is a major theme in the book, which is good, but full of anxiety.

Interestingly enough, all the points you mentioned in your post are either points where they changed something from the book (Barbie doesn't kill anyone) or the lack of King's depth of explanation is missing to really expand on the why.

(ie, in the book Junior, the crazy guy, is much, much, much crazier, but the reason he's so crazy is explained and even though he does monstrous things, he's largely sympathetic. Vs. the people that do monstrous things (and beware, there will be a lot) because they are, in fact, monsters)

Prepare for a lot of anxiety and strife and don't look for many high points for the characters because there aren't many in Under the Dome.

I think you'd like IT. And obvs The Stand is one of my top 5 fav books evah! so i always suggest people give that a shot as well.

Stephen Hayes said...

I DID read the book and had my usual complaint about King's work: this story would have made an interesting 400 page story but in typical Stephen King fashion he dithered on for over a thousand pages until I thought I'd scream. Not watching the mini series.

Alyson Burdette said...

I had never even hear of Under the Dome until yesterday. People really do a lot of awful things to each other. It's kind of depressing.

T said...

Like another poster said, your short list of King books that you've read contains some of my least favorite works. Under The Dome is very near the bottom of my list of favorite books of all time... it had one of the most anti-climatic endings after a bunch of wasted character development that I'd ever read. It started off strong and then flopped. The pilot has already deviated from the book enough to guarantee that the series will veer far away from the original story, which might actually be a good thing since I disliked the novel so much. However, being a bit of a King connoisseur and follower of your blog, I have some personal recommendations just for you that I think you'd truly enjoy by King:

1. 11/22/63 - I loved it. It's got a totally new take on time travel that I think you'd really enjoy, too. I'm not exactly a history buff, so I was worried the JFK story line would be the whole book, but it wasn't... and I was delightfully surprised. There's an overall message sure to tug at your heart strings.

2. Skeleton Crew - A fantastic collection of short stories that you can delve in and out of, time permitting. Hands down, some of my favorite work by King is in here. I would especially love to read your review of the story called "The Jaunt" in a future post.

3. Insomnia - This one is not your average King book. It's a whole lot more sci-fi than horror and has an unusual protagonist and setting. I never thought the elderly could be interesting subject material until I read this book. As a writer, I think you'd find some creative inspiration here, too.

Good luck with the UTD series... I watched the pilot last night, too, but I can't say that I'm hooked. I liked the story better when it was called Lord of the Flies... the supernatural element added to this story made everything a little hokey for me and I can only imagine that the TV execs will want to drag out the story lines much longer than the approximate 2 week span contained in the book. I suppose time will tell, but if you take any of my recommendations at all, I think you might wonder why they chose UTD instead of some of these other stories that are far more compelling. I'd love to see what you think! :-)

Sheena-kay Graham said...

It's sad but often the worst of human nature gets show cased. I watch Teen Wolf so Under the Dome got axed from my watching list. Might check it out online.

Michael Offutt, "Johnny on the Spot" said...

@T: Thanks for the recommendations! I will check them out :)

Lexa Cain said...

You have to read those Yahoo comments with a grain of salt. People will act like mean bullies from the safety of their couches, hiding behind their avatars.

As for King, yeah. His premises are fascinating, and he creates memorable characters, but his characters are always dark; they're studies of shades of gray and no one's ever a "hero." That's why I prefer Koontz. His books may be formulaic, but his characters are truly "good" people and he always makes me care about them.

laughingwolf said...

mike, it's not just in yahoo financials where folk show who they really are... as you know

M Pax said...

I didn't see it. We watched Defiance and Warehouse 13. Both which took moves to the better.

Morgan said...

Hubby and I have been mocking the previews for months, LOL! But we recorded it and will watch it tonight. We'll probably end up loving it... ;-)

Lydia Kang said...

You've made me more curious about this story. I haven't read it myself, but maybe...
:)

David P. King said...

Looks like another show I need to watch out for. Hopefully they'll throw it on Netflix streaming. It's pretty much the only way I can watch TV these days.

And I know what you mean about folks in comment sections bashing on each other. It's ugly on both spectrums. So glad this community isn't so totally like that (or is it? I don't know ... better check for a bubble). :)

Helena said...

I like Stephen King but was out when the first episode of The Dome was on, so I'm going to try to catch it in reruns.

Personally I think most people can be decent and civil, or maybe I just hold to that view to keep from going crazy or getting depressed about humanity. That said, I do believe there are genuinely evil individuals among us, and what is especially disturbing is that doctors are now recognizing the medical fact that some people are born as sociopaths, meaning they have no conscience. There is no treatment and no cure.

Did you ever see the old 1950's movie The Bad Seed? The one about the little girl who was a born murderer. Well, that corny B flick turns out to have been prophetic. On the other hand, doctors also say most people (something like 95% or so) do have a conscience, so maybe there's hope for us.

Michael Offutt, "Johnny on the Spot" said...

@Helena: I have seen that movie. Sociopaths managing money...that's all we need. Ugh.

Mel Chesley said...

I used to read Stephen King religiously. I even went to high school with a kid named Steven King. 'Pet Semetary' scared the bejeesus out of me when it came out.
I have yet to see 'Under the Dome', but in answer to your questions about people. Sadly, yes. I live in a small town and some of the people here are just unbelievable. Working with kids, you should hear the way they speak to their parents... and vice versa. Pathetic.

Laura Eno said...

I've read a lot of King's earlier books but not his later ones. He got to be too much for me.
Under the Dome sounds like a good premise. I'm interested now.
At your age I still believed society was basically decent. Sadly, my attitude has shifted somewhat. I don't think there are as many willing to bond together in a time of crisis as there once were.

Liz said...

I have more faith in humanity. I may not be right, but I believe there are more good people than the other. Sure, selfishness is there. But it doesn't always have to destroy.

RE: born sociopaths. Just because someone is born sociopathic doesn't mean they'll end up doing bad things. Much more goes into that than just how the brain is wired. At least, according to Through the Wormhole that's the case.