Wednesday, July 10, 2013

There's always help in The Good Book

I was watching a marathon of "The Walking Dead" this past weekend. Yeah, I've seen eery episode but it's one of those shows where if it's on, I'm probably going to watch. Anyway, as often happens when you see something more than once, I noticed stuff I hadn't noticed before. One of the things I noticed happens in season three with the character or Merle, played by Michael Rooker. The character has been portrayed from the beginning as an opportunistic, selfish, mean, dirty, redneck. Among the ways his redneck-edness has been established is a backstory that highlights his ability to survive in the wilderness, where he is an expert tracker and hunter, living in the woods and eating squirrels.
In one scene, Merle and his brother Daryl disagree about what body of water they're near. It turns out that Darryl is correct. During this same scene, Merle also misidentifies a baby crying as raccoons having sex. Shortly after, in another scene, the character of Herschel is talking to Merle and starts quoting a bible passage. Merle finishes it and correctly cites the chapter and verse.

Okay, so we're supposed to believe that the scumbag survivalist, expert outdoorsman can't correctly identify what coon love sounds like or a major terrain feature but has memorized the bible? I guess so.

I see this happen often, with tv and movie characters suddenly whipping out bible knowledge, and I'm always a little disappointed. It's a cheap trick. It's similar to decorating a set with sports memorabilia to establish a location. "Gee, this police precinct has Mets, Yankees and Knicks pennants all over the place and the lead character is wearing a Jets jersey, I guess this show takes place in New York".It's a lazy way for writers to add depth, an unexpected layer of spirituality that gives the character an interesting new dimension. Probably the most well-known example is Jules from "Pulp Fiction...
But at least he freely admits he only memorized the one passage, and only uses it on certain, special occasions. Not like he committed the entire bible, both testaments, to memory like I've seen other characters do and like never happens in real life.

Oh well. I still like the show and will continue to watch it. At least it's slightly less obvious and heavy-handed than sticking a gospel choir into a pop song and accompanying music video...

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