Monday, November 14, 2011

The Scarlet Letter - Rick Hauser

Not so long ago, Americans understood that taxes were necessary for the functioning of a society. It was possible to run on the promise of raising taxes to provide better public services for all, and people supported projects like PBS or NPR. But suddenly, selfishness installed itself in the U.S., and the idea that not depending on anybody else is good became trendy.

One series that deserves to be remembered from the golden years of PBS is The Scarlet Letter, produced in 1979. At that time, PBS was trying to compete with the BBC, which had issued a series called Fall of Eagles, a fictionalization of the lives of the members of Europe's royal families. When you look at the role of the BBC in the UK and PBS in the US, you start to understand what public goods are, and what idiocy means.

I haven't read Hawhtorne's original novel, but this adaptation is fantastic in and by itself. The dialogues are deep, and the production mixes theatrical techniques with the technological resources offered by television in a fascinating way.

Life changes and so do politics. It would therefore be unfair to look at The Scarlet Letter with the standards of today. On the one hand, Hester Prynne decided to have her child, so that would make her pro-choice. On the other hand, she's a single mother who asserts her position and her child's in society, so that would make her an advocate of women's empowerment. I guess her position, if she has any at all, would be "pro-autonomy", in the Kantian sense of the word. Hawthorne (or at least this adaptation; again, I still have to read the novel) also decided to take Puritanism until its last consequences, and as a result all the characters are guilty in the end.

In short, The Scarlet Letter offers a nice moral conundrum for the Manichean predominant view of today. Highly recommended.

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