Recently, Craig's buddy lent us his copy of "The Prisoner" on dvd. It's the entire one season of what can be called a rather campy, British television series. The first two episodes left me perplexed and confused. A few episodes later I started to understand the series. Now, I can only say that it is a thought provoking show, with some interesting insights and really hokey, evil weather balloon that chases the hero every chance it gets.
The premise of the show rests on the idea that once a person enters society he or she becomes a number. We're all just faces in a crowd to everyone else. The protagonist is a man who resigns from his office -- we're not sure what the office was, but it's high security -- then is kidnapped and placed in a village where his identity becomes "Number Six." The village is simply called "The Village" the streets are not named, and there is no way to tell where in the world it is located. Number 6 spends his time in The Village attempting to escape. He protests his anonymity to no avail. Whenever he makes an escape attempt, Rover, the giant weather balloon hunts him down and brings him back. The weather balloon was a last resort when the original, high-tech robot vanished during it's first underwater shooting excursion. However, other than the balloon, the show makes an interesting commentary on the postmodern (don't you hate that word?) world. It is a place where anonymity is given, and yet not given. Where we are all faceless numbers who have chosen to allow ourselves to be integrated into that system of faceless numbers, yet inside we still reject the way things are.
Like Number 6 most people want to escape the confines of society and go on to bigger and better things. That is why we dream when we are kids and often still dream when we reach adulthood. But we also hem ourselves in to the paraemeters society has set for us. It is our own efforts that keep us in our place, so to speak. Just as Number 6 learns when he discovers that the whole time he has been trying to escape he has been having himself put back into The Village (confusing, I know). We accept the roles society tells us we must play and many of the lies it feeds us as well.
I'm not talking about being a social deviant in an offensive way. I'm just talking about the fact that we control our dreams with fear and often refuse to try to make our lives better. It takes a special type of person to work within society and better it for the rest of us. Most are afraid to be that person or afraid to trust others. They might mock us or laugh at our dreams. Looking for support can become an obsession that pushes away all visions of grandeur. The conventions of society, the fact that as humans we cannot open our hearts to others since they might hurt us or say something stupid. It is all in "The Prisoner."
Perhaps, those conventions and the manner in which they are ilustrated is the most intriguing and entertaining part of the show. The clothes that Number 6 is forced to wear, the stupid pin with his number on it that he continually tosses aside, his little house, the umbrellas that everyone carries, the fact that no one asks questions. All of these things represent examples of the strange requirements of society to which we all cling and ever will. For instance, to shake someone's hand, is, in itself a conformity with the way our society works. Even to look someone in the eye when we speak. No one ever stops to question the simple things like that. In fact, few pause to question larger things, like the meaning of life. Number 6 asks questions of everyone he meets and quickly learns that questions will get him nowhere but shunned. Why is it that people like that always bother us? The different ones, the ones who don't take to convention and tradition the way we do? Those types of people unsettle us: people who speak out and say things that we don't like to hear or phrase truths in such a way that we cannot ignore them.
But then, it's quite simple to go on and forget that the question was ever raised or the truth ever spoken. Quite easy.