Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Damien, Season 1, Episode 5: Seven Curses

So, this episode does something meaningful and very powerful about a very important issue and then kind of throws that all out and promptly shifts the focus in a really crinegworthy way.

While looking for a doctor to try and get some help for his PTSD which involves lots of waiting at an underfunded VA hospital---

----actually, an aside. Like last week I have to call shenanigans and bullshit here. Damien is a very wealthy, immensely connected man. He has so much wealth, influence and power, not only does he not have to wait in an underfunded hospital to get help, but he SHOULDN’T be putting further pressure on an already under-supported system.

So, while in this hospital and pretending, yet again, that he’s desperate and poor when he realluy really really isn’t, Damien happens to run into Claudia, the woman whose child (Tiago) he saved last week from the train tracks. She’s here visiting her veteran husband who is going through a painful and difficult rehabilitation

Damien is introduced and decides to document Alex’s time and struggles in the hospital – as a war photographer he considers this part of his remit and it’s an excellent point. With other great points about how utterly financially unsupported they are, how much pain Alex is in, how much he is struggling and the massive stress his family is under.

It’s an excellent depiction of Alex’s struggle, his attempt to put a strong face on things and his painful realisation that, due to lack of support, his family may have a better life if he died. It’s powerful and a very real experience for a lot of completely neglected veterans, including mentioning their high suicide rate. But it’s also overwhelmingly negative which can be a toxic trope of disabled people as people who suffer, have to rise above and/or are a burden on others. I’m not saying it should be bright and happy, but more scenes of, say, Alex and Claudia and/or Tiago would have presented that there’s more to Alex than endless suffering and despair.

But it was a powerful depiction. Which is why it was quite sad for us then to have a long scene of Damien running around the very spooky and grim hospital basement full of ominousness, creepiness, brain surgery, probably a whole lot of symbolism for more spooky ominousness that this show loves and I’ve taken to kind of skipping. He’s the antichrist. We get it. More galling is that a lot of the props in this spookiness are disabled, often heavily scarred veterans, often POC, used to basically be scary tools to be ominous. It’s hard to keep enjoying the powerful depiction of Alex’s suffering when we then have disabled then used as an emotional tool, a prop.

Especially when, on top of that, Alex does commit suicide with Damien document it as he asks. And it is important to mention veteran suicide, it is also important that many of the veterans are POC and disabled. It is not important to focus on Damien’s very sad face while he does this.

This focus on Damien rather than Alex continues when Damien goes home and tries to commit suicide himself. Obviously saved by the demon dogs. Alex’s story is basically more emotional grist for Damien’s life – and, if anything, the power of that story and the pain of it makes it even more gross when you consider it is then used more as Damien angst than to actually examine his story.

And I would consider Damien a depiction of a disabled man dealing with deep trauma – but I’m not sure it even applies since as much as he’s dealing with all the horrors he’s seen, it seems to be far more dealing with the supernatural horror and being the antichrist. That’s not depression and PTSD that’s… not wanting to be the antichrist with dubious scalp tattoos and surprisingly cute canine demons.

Over to the other characters – Ann is feeling all rejected by Damien last week. She is sad and angsty as she clearly considers herself a mother figure to Damien. Which seems to upset Paula, her presumably actual daughter since she regards Damien as a brother (but not in a friendly way) as we see her continue to get closer to Amani (Damien’s chief lacky). Whether this is her own doing or more plotting… well I suspect the latter. But for once Amani doesn’t just follow Damien

Simone is not a Damien lacky, but she seems to be very quick to believe that Damien is evil and demonic – especially when she hears that Damien has lots of pictures of odd latin spouting woman in all his past photos. Amani, reasonably, thinks Damien has photoshopped it because of his low mental health. Simone thinks evil magic. Because this show is very willing to make random characters super credulous. She even breaks into Damien’s house to get the pictures – which means she’s there when Ann sends her goons to break Damien’s things to bring him back on side.