Among all the theories without support or purpose that I spend my time developing, I had one that ended up falling down: people who like politics like politics. game of Thrones, we like political philosophy we like The West Wing. My theory fell due to the number of counterexamples to one side and the other (above all, due to the number of people I know who work in politics and love The West Wing), but the arguments that supported it still say some things that interest me about the fictions that tell politics. Like it or not, any series that portrays the world of power is in some sense a series of theses. Whether it’s a simplistic and tacky slogan or an idea loaded with dense and unfinished questions, it contains a thesis about what politics is all about. The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin’s series that in the ’90s followed a charismatic Democratic president and his equally charming cabinet in the United States, is a fiction of very sharp dialogues but that has at its base a very simple thesis: the people who are on the right side they can be understood, and when they are understood and also overcome the obstacles posed by the wrong side, wonderful things can happen. I remember once a teacher wanted to explain Donald Davidson’s theory of language in class and said that it was a theory of agreement: deep down, people could understand each other about the most important things. In short, Davidson says something like this: for two people to maintain a rational dialogue, they have to share so many assumptions, that the mere fact of understanding each other when we speak reveals a number of consensuses that should be very encouraging to us. Even with people with whom we seem to share very little, Davidson says, we share a world.
Probably to put a bit of swing in an analytic metaphysics class, I remember that the professor contrasted Davidson’s theory with Marx’s. He said that for Marx the world is conflict rather than agreement; the workers and the bourgeoisie live in different conceptual worlds. I appropriated some of this explanation, and although it sounds like a simplification, at some point I believe that theories of political conflict fall into these two categories: those that fundamentally believe in the possibility of consensus, and those that fundamentally believe in its consensus. impossibility. At one extreme, the deliberativists, for whom all or almost all differences can be resolved in a sufficiently regulated debate; in another, the realists, for whom the vast majority of the agreements would only be pragmatic arrangements that the parties reach to pursue their own interests. I used to think that The West Wing it could only be liked by the former, despite the fact that some characters, like the chief of staff Leo McGarry, are ‘almost’ realistic; later I realized that, in reality, The West Wing we like those of us who like to read and write. The West Wing it is a kind of magical world where almost everything is fixed with words: good speeches, good arguments, well-written laws. It gives us deeply politically inept people the feeling that we could be great politicians because we speak more or less well.
Just as every fiction on politics that I have ever seen has a thesis, I think it also represents a fantasy: yes The West Wing represented the fantasy that everything can be arranged by talking, House of Cards It was a kind of thriller that represented the fantasy that nothing could be fixed and that people who dedicate themselves to politics form a gang of psychopaths willing to do anything. Of the three series that I already mentioned, I think, this has to be the one that politicians I know like the least, and with good reason: I gave it a chance until Frank Underwood personally pushed a girl to step on the subway. Someone could say that this was a representation of the thesis of realism, but I think not; precisely, that’s what it’s for game of Thrones, and I think that’s why Cristina liked him so much. In game of Thrones the reasons for the characters could be difficult for the viewer to share, and that’s appealing: unlike the well-meaning Democrats of The West Wing, it is unlikely that we care “ really ” what happens with one crown or another, but this is the case with royal politics: much more things happen guided by purposes that are quite uninteresting for the general public (to get an office of more, win the internal bid to a colleague or get a little visibility for two weeks) than for noble or terrible purposes, and as in game of Thrones, many things stop happening for reasons more arbitrary than dramatic (a bureaucracy that is too slow, a debate that is not lost but rather shuts down). There is much more chance and caprice than perversion, much more petty than evil, much more simplicity than heroism.
I thought about all these fictions trying to understand where it came in The kingdom, the new Netflix series that tells an Argentina dominated by evangelism, and also what it meant to start watching it these days; I was thinking about that lottery, too, of premiering a series on politics and knowing that it will inevitably dialogue with a context that not even the best of producers could twist. The first thing that struck me is that, unlike all the gringo series that I have seen on these same topics (the ones I mentioned here, and several more as well), the parties of real Argentine political life do not appear in history. There are no Peronists or radicals, and it is not so easy to decide which would be which among the fictional parties. I find that decision interesting: it is clear that naming real parties would be chaos and a failure with the audience, and perhaps what surprises me is that in the United States it is not, when the crack in which they live does not seem to be less great than ours. The rift that the series chooses to cut, on the other hand, is another: a religious rift, easier to define, in which there are still complexities and differences (not all of the group of evangelicals are bad; not all of the anti are good; the excellent performances and the sober realization, I think, help a lot to add nuances here), but that at least is easier to understand than ours in real life. Above all: although in The kingdom From time to time it seems that politicians are “all bad,” I think it is a series that is more Davidsonian than Marxist, to put it in my teacher’s terms, or more deliberative than realistic, to put it in the terms I usually think of. : the good ones, here, can be understood. Sometimes it is easier to think about the big differences than the small differences: as an Argentine spectator in August 2021, perhaps I prefer to distract myself imagining a Bolsonarist fantasy that I still imagine distant rather than wondering what went through the head of a president who, I suppose, he would agree with me on a lot of things and he decided to take a picture of himself on a birthday in full quarantine. It is not just because it is fiction, it is something more atavistic, almost from fairy tales: there is something comforting, beyond the narrative and dramatic subtleties that are always appreciated, in that the good ones are good and the bad ones are bad.