Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Allusions in BrainDead, a CBS Summer Treat

BrainDead is a summer entry for CBS. Part science fiction specializing in alien conquerors and part satire skewering the current divisive rhetoric heard from both sides of the aisle, BrainDead is a hoot. The series also snaps, crackles, and pops with allusions, those handy rhetorical devices that stitch a rich tapestry of background and detail in a single word or two.

Allusions are a short of shortcut to deeper meanings and references. For example, a liberal seeking help from the protagonist, Laurel Healy, approaches her with an ominous kitchen knife. When she’s frightened, he dismisses it as an instrument meant to harm by crying, “It’s from The Splendid Table,” a radio program about food and wine often heard on public stations--those media outlets with NPR programming often accessed by progressive and Democrats. The first layer of the joke is that the man is clueless about being threatening. The second layer of the joke is that a knife from The Splendid Table store wouldn’t figure in a crime. 

Those who’ve been infected by the alien ants speak other contemporary catch-phrases such as all lives matter, an allusion to groups opposed to consciousness-raising conversations resulting from the Black Lives Matter movement as if the two movements are somehow mutually exclusive. A minority asserts its right to live and live free of danger disproportionate to the majority while the majority feels threatened by the assertion and fights for its supremacy. This allusion represents the other side of the aisle known as conservatives who, in BrainDead, are busy shutting down the government, still one more allusion to the political divide affecting America this summer.

The joke is that balanced and/or nuanced arguments once voiced by some become unbalanced, either-or arguments once the ants have done their work on the human brain. Independents and liberals become evangelical conservatives overnight after the ants have done their work, suggesting the current political divide is the result of an insect apocalypse. And that’s pretty funny.

Reading Challenge:

Read BrainDead on CBS, Mondays at 9:00 p.m. CST.

Writing Challenge:

While watching BrainDead, make a list of allusions that characterize a character as left or right, two more words denoting liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, progressive or regressive.