What the … Flix?

“Another Life” (Netflix series)On July 25, 2019, a new science fiction television series, Another Life, was released on the Netflix streaming video service.  As Netflix often does with their own productions, the entire series was released at once, as opposed to one episode per week as on broadcast television.  I get most of my news about events in science fiction from Twitter, where I follow a collection of independent science fiction authors and fans whose opinions I have come to respect.  There have been relatively few comments about the new series, but they have been curiously bimodal: some people like it and others hate it, with very few in the middle.  A couple of nights ago I had a pile of tedious system administration tasks to do which took a lot of time but relatively little concentration, so I put it on to have a look for myself.  I was astonished by what I saw…or rather heard.

The story is, from what I’ve seen, banal, and although they seem to have science advisors on tap which keep them from tripping over pesky things like confusing planetary systems with galaxies and the like, there are other inanities such as instantaneous communication over light-year distances and the need for suspended animation on a faster than light ship.  Almost every male (including a computer-emulated hologram) with the exception of one political twit seems to have a dumbeard™, and nobody on this ship sent for first contact with mysterious aliens seems to have a rank or title.

But that isn’t what struck me—it’s the language.  I grew up when there were three television networks and programming at all hours was suitable for the whole family.  I actually used to watch Howdy Doody on Saturday mornings.  I had already abandoned watching television series by the time it started to become gritty and racy in the 1970s, with the mid-70s controvery over the Family Viewing Hour.  Before long, independent cable programming started to appear (Home Box Office started operation in 1972), and it was established that content regulation that applied to broadcast stations did not apply to pay cable channels.

Still, the fare remained reasonably wholesome.  Even Breaking Bad, which ran from 2008 through 2013, and was known for its violence and mature themes, imposed a quota of one F-bomb per season (although fans say this wasn’t strictly adhered to).

Another Life is another thing entirely.  When I watched the first episode, the F-bombs seemed to be dropping like the closing scene in Doctor Strangelove.  I decided to count them when I watched the second episode, just to see if the first one might have been an outlier.  It wasn’t.  In the first two minutes of the second episode, there are ten, or an average of one every twelve seconds.  The pace slows down as the episode progresses, with “only” 24 in the 42 minute episode, or more than one every two minutes.  This is sustained in the third episode, which will probably be the last one I watch, which squeezes 27 into its 45 minutes, or an average of one every 100 seconds.

Now, I can understand that in, say, a war movie, in the interest of authenticity there’s an argument that soldiers and sailors speak like they do in real life.  But here, the expletives are not reserved for moments of great stress—they are everywhere.  In episode 2, one character is rummaging through the ship’s pantry looking for a tasty snack when she is startled by  sound from another crew member she didn’t see when walking into the room.  This elicits the following timeless dialogue:

Michelle: Like, f***ing Jesus f***ing Christ!  F***.  What the f***?
Sasha: Well, it’s great to see you too.
Michelle: God.
Sasha: Why can’t I breathe?
Michelle: Why can’t I find any triple chocolate f***in’ protein bars?  Bernie, that greedy f***, I bet he’s had all the good s***.

I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish here.  It is just to show that on streaming they can?  Is to be edgy (which the plot seems not to be)?  Is it because that’s how their target audience speaks today and they assume this will appeal to them?

It all reminds me of the passage in Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons where the narrator dilates at length on the many applications of the F-bomb in the vocabulary of the students of Dupont University.

For this viewer, it is an absorbing state.  I’m done.

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

14 thoughts on “What the … Flix?”

  1. While exaggerated, the liberal use of expletives reflects modern sensibilities. Like it or not, there has been a dramatic increase in their use over the last few decades. It may be a passing fancy or a permanent change. Either way, it’s authentic, at least in some quarters.

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  2. Words matter and it bothers me when they lose their meaning. Do people actually think excrement, genitalia, and screwing any noun in sight add to their arguments? When asked to explain it seems this is how they get mad. Or look at me I pissed in the pool because that’s what cool kids do.

    DocLor brings up a good point that this is the new norm. The question is should it be accepted for if it is the newer norm will make things now look quaint.

    I think society runs better when there are standards. Public discourse should be different than private discourse. A living room should be different than a toilet or a bedroom. To get along people have to compromise for things to flow smoothly. The analogy is in traffic cutting people off or sudden lane changes can lead to accidents and injuries.

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  3. I wonder if now using Christ or God in a reverential way would be considered evil. It would be interjecting religion into the story and maybe being patriarchal but used as interjections seems to be okay.

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  4. It was in the news some time ago that the Obamas had been engaged as artistic advisors to Netflix.

    Now we have dialogue like this, and the names of the characters are Michelle and Sasha.

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  5. I few years back I saw the remake of the Bionic Woman. In the remake Jamie Summers was using her strength to dominate a guy in a love scene. Our tax dollars at work!

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  6. The Left have always celebrated the transgressive, even after it has become so commonplace as to be tedious.

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  7. MJBubba:
    The Left have always celebrated the transgressive, even after it has become so commonplace as to be tedious.

    The good has become “transgressive”.

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  8. 10 Cents:

    MJBubba:
    The Left have always celebrated the transgressive, even after it has become so commonplace as to be tedious.

    The good has become “transgressive”.

    Yes.   I am no longer surprised at the push-back I get from saying Christian things.

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  9. On top of all that, it’s a lousy series that exists solely to push the SJW/woke/globohomo agenda. And the lead character is played by Katee Sackoff, who also starred in the aforementioned failed Bionic Woman remake.

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  10. Mike LaRoche:
    On top of all that, it’s a lousy series that exists solely to push the SJW/woke/globohomo agenda. And the lead character is played by Katee Sackoff, who also starred in the aforementioned failed Bionic Woman remake.

    Michelle Ryan was the star, Mike.

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  11. I dropped cable TV about 8 years ago, then dropped Netflix when the Obamas and Susan Rice came aboard. Have not even plugged in my TV yet in this apt. I depend on Ratburger and Ricochet to keep me informed, plus a few trusted websites.

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