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DIDGE - The View From Down Under

An Aussie’s ridgy-didge view of world affairs and popular culture.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A night of terror for character as well as viewers

Last week’s episode of US cable drama Six Feet Under was definitely the most powerful thirty minutes of scripted drama I have ever seen.

The episode started off normal enough (well, normal for Six Feet Under!). David Fisher was saying his goodbyes to his boyfriend Keith, who was leaving to do bodyguard work on a music tour. If you have never seen the show I should point out that each episode begins with a death. And so about fifteen minutes into the episode we cut to David driving the corpse of the lady who died at the start of the show back to the funeral parlour when he spotted a young man on the side of the road. The man said he had run out of gas and just wanted a lift to a gas station. David was only too happy to give the man a lift, however his kindness was not going to be repaid. At a liquor store the young man attacked David, sending him to the ground. Then David had a gun pointed at him and was forced to withdraw all the money from his account. Then the horrible situation turned into a confusing mess as the young man reverted back to his friendly persona. Indeed, for the rest of the horrific night the man would change back and forth between seeming friend and psychotic torturer.

For David it was the most harrowing experience of his life, a night he thought was going to be his last. But it wasn’t just David who went through hell. For me, and many others, it was the most tense and upsetting ride I have ever witnessed on a fictional program.

After the episode had finished I walked outside and stood in the cold, thinking about what I had just witnessed. Well, not so much thinking about it but rather trying to absorb it, make sense of it. After about fifteen minutes I returned inside, sat down and continued the contemplation. At several points I felt like crying. It was odd. It was as if a family member had been abused, or even myself. An hour after the episode had finished I was finally able to speak again.

There are several reasons why this episode affected me so heavily. I’ve been a fan of the show, and David since the beginning. These characters have entered my living room so many times over the past few years that they almost feel like family. In every medium – film, television, literature – I have never come across a character that I could relate to, until Six Feet Under. I can see so much of myself in David Fisher. Little things he says, thinks and does, a lot of the time I can totally relate. Many of the issues he has battled with have mirrored my own life. I could also see myself getting into the situation David got into, and that’s a very scary thought. During the episode I imagined myself in David’s shoes and wondered what I would do. Though really, you could have never seen the show before and be a total opposite to David, yet I believe most people would still find the episode harrowing.

At one point during the night David asked his abuser how he could be so completely disconnected from another human being. Indeed, the program might be fictional, however it holds more reality about the world in one line than most other programs manage to say in a whole season.

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