RESPONSE: "DARK TOURIST" A NETFLIX TRAVELOGUE (2018)
I watched the Netfliix series Dark Tourist. It was mostly enjoyable and certainly interesting. I made some notes on the show which may as well see the light of day here.
Segment on war reenactment and the presenter couldn't get his head around the fact the people there we taking a break from their humdrum lives and playing around Hollywood, all in uniform, with their friends. Mocked the fact they all ate together, Germans and Americans.
The presenter spent the whole time chasing down the "Nazi" subtext and looking to find out if they were all closet fascists. Despite the entire experience being simply people doing silly but communal things, with the war and the tossing about in uniform, without any sinister politics... the commentary throughout treated anything said as if it was suspect, questioning "should this be allowed?" re: World War II reenactment where you have Germans in Nazi insignia uniform. It's not a big leap from this, to censorship - the sort of SJW bullshit that deplatformed everyone.
"And this is, like, your holiday?" asks the Dark Tourist to the mildly autistic ninnies playing war-games in uniform (Nazis included). Last episode, let’s not forget, the Dark Tourist was going on a Jeffrey Dahmer tour, participating in a vigil trying to summon up his serial killer ghost. Hypocrite! The reenactment soldier-actors are all outrage culture savvy though and the technique fails to resonate so we can almost feel the disappointment as the Dark Tourist motions “cut!” to the crew and moves onto the black history museum instead.
Again the same angle, the same presumption of shared values and sensitivities giving the Dark Tourist license to behave like a rude bastard, e.g. questioning the weird curator's motives in running such a macabre museum, insinuating there’s surely something criminal in the acquisition of fascist/racist collectibles. “Isn’t it a proof of something evil? And therefore collectors - let alone those who display them - are revealing themselves as evil sympathisers? SURELY?”
Not only is all this fatuous bullshit but it’s also a hypocritical double-standard that pervades a lot of SJW and now coopted ‘official’ liberal thinking. You see: it's alright to mock and judge-condemn white folks in England or Russia, but if it’s a brown hitman in Colombia he’s a charmer or a Mexican death-cult mistress in Mexico City is treated with reverence, narrated as likeable and enigmatic.
There's a funny blend in Australian (and New Zealander) liberal lefty graduates that's a strident mashup of American idealism and dynamic curiosity and English erudition and quiet complex judgment. Masked by a faux self-effacing attitude that’s alert for triggers that might break out and occupy a moral highground that’ll serve as an injection of confident confrontation. This is a blend that works a lot of the time, while it remains mild and humane and genuinely non-egomaniac, e.g. the soft humanitarian liberalism of a Tim Minchin. When it doesn't work, as sometimes with the Dark Tourist, it becomes an entitled white privilege made palatable to the advocate by a dose of saccharine super-tolerance. See, this tolerance is selective and self-serving. Self-serving as it’s a conceit, a justification for those aggressive moral highground judge and punish indulgences. Selective as it’s a tolerance ‘downward’ (which is itself a conceit) and hostile ‘upward’ not least because the conceit is incompatible with the challenge of facing anyone who’s a cultural “peer”.
All this adds up to something a bit offensive: a cake and eat it syndrome, bleeding lifecontent from weirdos and obsessive compulsives and daft thrill seekers, all the while unconsciously driven by a need to fill a strange void in their own volitions.
I think this is a common complaint among a certain flavour of educated middle class Anglo-white liberals. It’s not entirely about conceit or morality. It’s partly a consequence of the relentless rootless realism - athiesm versus faith is a microcosm. So much hocum has been dispensed with, so much bullshit debunked, it doesn't leave enough that’s compelling (even if that’s a mindscape of neuroses) to make a sufficiently compelling life. Nothing fun or explosive about reductive understanding. Seeing the Emperor is naked and his new clothes are no clothes at all: it’s good and progressive but it’s still a rather bland imperfect nudity in place of rich beautiful diversity of colour!
Titillation, the Dark Tourist reluctantly concludes, when it comes to a lot of the white weirdness. This is quite perceptive "Maybe that's reason enough," he comments to the camera and that's about the sum of it. Vampire fangs for lonely Louisiana misfits, war-games for bored Carphone Warehouse managers, voyeur 'forbidden' collections in Wisconsin and Wiltshire, radiation chasers in Japan, weekender husbands staying off the scag in Kazakhstan: the details don't matter. It’s all titillation and, sure, that’s rather pathetic, but perhaps it’s better than sneering at the world in search of triggers for manufactured outrage.
There was one standout episode in this series though the show didn't mention how the Dark Tourist managed to get into the rocket launch site at Baikonur. But get there he did and though the piece begins with the boring familiar routine - in this case wanting to poke fun at the wealthy American gammons who pay a fortune to merely watch the launch in Russia-leased Kazakhstan or, failing that, gently mock the old Russian space program legacy Soyuz rockets or the weird am-dram of the cosmonauts doing their final press conference. Indeed in this conference the Dark Tourist gets up and asks "what is the point of space?". This is a key point in the show as the astronaut answers with words that - to a cynic - would be taken as platitudes. But here is a guy who is about to risk his life doing something amazing. The Dark Tourist is disarmed, not because of what was said but the contrast of his own agenda - the empty cynicism of a risk-averse middle class tourist - and the brave single-minded practical “child-like” focus of the cosmonauts.
Then the lesson comes to life. The rocket for the astronauts is wheeled out of its warehouse and it is enormous. And then the cosmonauts walk to the launchpad, saying goodbye to their families through the goldfish bowl helmets, pressing handprints together. This is too basic human and 'good' to be mocked. Finally the rocket launches and it's a magnificent brilliant spectacle - just three human beings being sent into space, sitting on top of a million pounds of rocket fuel burning a bright trail into the night sky, passing out of sight into the mesosphere. You know, just three humans trying their best.
It's bricks and mortar (or kelvar and rocket fuel) human endeavour. At the cutting edge, in this case. A dangerous edge, too. It's impossible not to be inspired. Or to find an answer, cutting through the bullshit, to the question "why do we go into space?"