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Morning Sun
  • OKIE IN EXILE: Shooting stars

  • As a writer, you learn that in telling a story you have to make certain choices.  If you put in every detail, the story will become as long--or maybe even longer--than what you are writing about.  If people wanted to spend that much time they’d go out and live it themselves, not just read about it.

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  • As a writer, you learn that in telling a story you have to make certain choices.  If you put in every detail, the story will become as long--or maybe even longer--than what you are writing about.  If people wanted to spend that much time they’d go out and live it themselves, not just read about it.
    You might think that you don’t have to worry about this because you are not a writer, but the fact of the matter is that every time you meet other people you are telling a story about yourself.  It comes through in what you wear, how you comport yourself, and how you speak.
    Most people don’t worry about this too much.  They put on their clothes for the situation at hand, live their lives, and don’t give it a second thought.
    Bully for them.
    There are others who make a life out of it.  I am talking about celebrities.
    This all comes to mind, oddly enough, because I’ve been watching--not to say binging on--Deadwood.  For those of you who don’t know, Deadwood is an HBO series that ran 2004--2006.  It is set in the Deadwood mining camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota during the gold rush that began circa 1876.
    My brother owns the series on DVD and has loaned it to me.  He does things like this.  He’ll find something and if he likes it he will start hounding me about it.  As I am a busy person with a life of my own, I can’t take all of his suggestions up.  Many times in cases such as these, he will keep hounding me and eventually buy the thing for me.  This time he simply hijacked my TV.
    Before I go any further, let me warn you that like so many things HBO this features levels of foul language, explicit--oh how explicit--sex, and intense violence.  It’s not for everyone.  My wife can’t stand to be in the room when it’s on.
    It also features incredible writing.
    The opening episodes of the series feature Wild Bill Hickock, portrayed by Keith Carradine. Hickock is an iconic character of the old west.  He was the former lawman turned gunfighter/gambler.  When he comes to Deadwood, he has created that image.  It is an image that he finds at once useful and burdensome.
    This shouldn’t be a surprize because the very thing that makes an image useful is the same thing that makes it a burden.  An image brings a set of expectations along with it and everyone you meet brings them along.
    In Deadwood, Hickock is met by cowboys who simultaneously want to look up to him as a hero but are angered by him because he seem to believe he is better than they are.  Ultimately it is the interplay of these contradictory emotions in a sick mind that brings about Hickock’s assassination.
    Page 2 of 2 - Hickock dies before the end of the first season, but the series continues to explore the theme of image versus reality.  Much of this is done in the character of Al Swearengen.
    Swearengen, played by Ian McShane, is an extremely complex character. In much of the early part of the series, one might be tempted to write him off as a one-dimensional villain.  In the initial episodes, he is contrasted with the character Seth Bullock (played by Timothy Oliphant) who by all appearances is the classic western hero.
    Much of the rough behavior engaged in by Swearingen is done in order to maintain the sort of image that is required to prosper in a place like Deadwood.  Bullock’s hero image is much less self-conscious, but his thoughtless actions put it in danger.  The conflict between Swearingen and Bullock when it comes--and boy does it ever--is because Swearingen needs Bullock to have the hero’s image and Bullock, through his actions,  is endangering that image.
    For the narrow demographic that can handle language so vulgar it almost drifts into parody, near-pornographic sex, and blood-drenched violence, but had the ability to appreciate character-study, this series is a treasure.
    Most of you are carrying a Y-chromosome.
    Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University.  He blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com.

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