Last night my wife and I finished watching the series “Weeds“. This is of course the tale of a widow from the suburbs whose husband died leaving her with nothing, thereby forcing her to take up a life as a marijuana dealer. There’s a famous quote from the Great Gatsby, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” That’s what the series is about.
I’ve been trying to figure out why this show is so popular. Yes, even I liked it; although every single action carried out by the Botwin family is reprehensible. Abhorrent. An aberration. Not at all that which is conducive to prosperous living in a free society – despite that their lives might be considered a “libertarian dream”. Alas, morality does exist; inconvenient though it might be for those seeking to live without a God.
So why is it that a series about folks engaged in such awful, self-destructive behavior could gain such a following? My mind sought out the easy answer – something about the natural depravity of man, etc. etc. Unoriginal. Boring. Besides, it’s not really true – is it?
So what could it be? What does this show convey – what is the message, besides the debauchery?
I think I figured it out. This is a show about brokenness – and in that, it strikes a nerve. We are all broken – aren’t we? In some way, we are all vulnerable people struggling in an unforgiving time. Like the Botwins, we fight to carve out a place for ourselves – to build a life with some security and safety. We are all damaged; some more than others – and we as inhabitants of a hard world are forced to deal with the darkness occasionally. But intercourse with evil leaves a fetid stain on our souls; hard to wash off. A blemish that is not easily covered over. And so we all adjust, in our own way. Some of us become hard. Others implode; while still others just smile less, stop writing, stop caring. Stop living.
I think that it is stories about real people – told without judgement – to which a hurting world turns for comfort. I think this is why people watch these shows; to know they are not alone, that others suffer too, that others fight, that others make bad decisions – and they are not destroyed, at least not totally. Hope; misery does love company after all.
Our world is a difficult place. Exacting, unforgiving, brutal, intolerant and unjust. Unkind. Tales about the humanity of others highlight our own humanity – reminding us that it’s ok to be flesh and bone in a broken world. In that, we should allow ourselves to be a little vulnerable too. We are not perfect. In embracing our own weakness, we remind people that there is restoration after a long journey; and that there are others who care. It’s hard not to feel alone. So far from home, for so long, struggling against such immeasurable suffering, against such odds – these stories become our friends as they bind us back to our people and make common cause with our own stories – those of people who are not “other” or “foreign” but who are in fact part of our own worlds.
This all should be a lesson to us – those who care. Too many times those of us who come from certain backgrounds or beliefs have allowed ourselves to become hard – insensitive. We pretend we are not ourselves flawed – our cerebral, calculating conservatism does not allow for weakness. It is instead corporate – productive. Cold. It does not embrace those who suffer and are looking for an ear; a heart – and for this reason it has no appeal. It need not be so. If those who are good people spend their time seeking out only the strong and the steadfast – Dagny Taggert and Hank Rearden if you will – convinced that only they will save our republic; we will have lost. If only because we will have abandoned those in need. Because it is for those who have been broken that redemption is the sweetest; and they are the most grateful.
We ought to remember this, we who say we care – so that our beliefs lead us to compassion; lest we are proven wrong and those who need us go elsewhere for solace and find only a deeper night.