Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Making a Break For It

Tonight marks the return of PRISON BREAK, and it’s about time. Scofield and his crew have been hanging out under the infirmary for months now, and that can’t be good. Someone’s got to notice that they haven’t been in their cells since before Jack Bauer started his new day.

PRISON BREAK is on my must see list, and not just because of the tense, well-plotted action, the great acting, and the marvelous writing (in full disclosure, I have a friend on the writing staff, but I don’t believe that has biased me. Too much).

Yeah, it is great quality, but I am also drawn irresistibly to the show because I love entertainments that have layers of meaning. Like LOST, where if you barely scratch at the surface, you unearth complex metaphors and layers of significance. PRISON BREAK, too, is larger than itself.

I had a revelation just the other night, while at a prayer meeting. One would expect that a revelation at a prayer meeting would be about something religious, but mine was about television – which has been accused of being the new opiate of the masses, so maybe my revelation isn’t so secular after all. But I was sitting across from the aforementioned friend, so I guess I was tuned towards thinking about Michael Scofield.

So here’s the revelation (probably more of a “no duh” to the rest of y’all): PRISON BREAK is a retelling of the Orpheus myth.

You may remember that Orpheus was the musician whose beloved wife died. The poet-singer decided to get her out of Hades, but the only way to do that was to enter into the land of death and lead her out, risking being trapped himself. His success turned out to be completely based on faith – he was allowed to lead Eurydice to the upper world, but only if he never doubted that she was behind him and turned to look.

Michael is an artist (architecture being his field) whose beloved brother is incarcerated. The tattooed man decides to get his brother out of Joliet, but the only way to do that was to enter into the prison and lead his brother out, risking being trapped himself. And, as we have seen in the first half of the harrowing journey, the plan is completely dependent on Michael never losing faith that his plan will succeed.

Nifty, huh? My fear, however, is in knowing the myth too much: Orpheus does doubt, and turns to see the disappointment/grief in his beloved’s eyes as she returns to the land of the dead.

Michael is cliff-hung in a moment that can only be the greatest test of his faith – will he handle it better than Orpheus? Or will he too realize that faith in oneself will never be enough…

(Hey, don’t be surprised. Most of the metaphors I see in entertainment and life lead me back to thinking about G-d. At least I didn’t go full out, and make you listen to my thoughts from the prayer meeting, about how we too have a beloved artist who literally descended into Hell to lead us out, if only we have the faith follow his lead – but then again, I just did make you listen. Sneaky…)

Just my thoughts,


PS Bonus points for the person who can tell me what popular movie in recent history intentionally set out to retell the Orpheus story – about an artist who descends into hell, nearly leads his beloved out – only to lose her when he doubts that she is really following him?


Chris Hansen said...

Moulin Rouge?

(I cheated -- I looked it up).

Gaffney said...

You research paid off, Chris.

In fact, Moulin originally wasn't envisioned as a musical -- they were going to make Christian a poet. But they got stuck trying to write poems that they knew the audience would agree were so moving and compelling that the doors of Hades themselves would open. That's when Baz got the idea of using poetry that has already proven to be popular and to survive the passage of time -- hit pop songs.

And voila -- the way was paved for Chicago to win an Oscar.


Chris Hansen said...

LOL re: Chicago.

I guess I should call internet searching "research" instead of "cheating", eh?

Moulin Rouge would have been such a different film with Christian as a poet (big 'duh' there, i guess).

I just can't imagine it working with poetry instead of music. And of course, the whole idea of the SHOW wouldn't have been possible -- unless the show was a poetry recitation!

I suppose they still could have had a show -- a drama written in poetry. But again, it's such a dynamic film, I can't imagine it without the music.