Friday, 21 December 2012

Neo-liberalism and 'The Killing'


So I've been glued to Danish TV's The Killing - the third and last series of which has just ended on BBC4 TV in the UK. I won't give away the ending for you, except to say that it challenged expectations - and it's got a lot of people pretty angry.

But what I will say is just how superb the show really was - tense, political, dynamic, characterful. It was feminist enough to challenge expectations of what a woman should be like, Sophie Grabol (above) as Sarah Lund refusing to be pigeonholed in any way whatsoever.

A no-nonsense, dynamic woman who refuses to dress in anything but jeans and a jumper? Taking on and beating men at their own (socially inept) games? Bravo.

But what really came home to me was the way in which the show evoked the crisis of the neo-liberal state, even in social democratic Denmark (where the Left is back in power after a long break). Denmark is often held up as the best place in the world to live, a paradigm for social democrats everywhere on how to combine social justice with economic dynamism.

But what did we find in The Killing? A Prime Minister desperate to keep a shipping firm, and manfuacturing jobs, in the country - and to stop those jobs migrating to China. A shipping boss faced with a crisis of profitability (and a restive board) if he stayed. Political corruption (and payoffs) across the spectrum of a very, very narrowly cast political elite. Public spending cuts undermining the police - and the pathology service. It was all a very bleak prospect indeed.

The Wire, probably the best crime series ever broadcast, took on just these themes - the decline of manufacturing jobs (in shipping, as it happens) in season two, political corruption in season three, and public sector spending cuts in season four. Exactly the same themes. Exactly the same sense of jobs and hope gurgling away down the plughole - leaving everyone wondering just how the hell to cope.

Drama reflecting reality? Charles Dickens, eat your heart out.

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