Grimm – beyond appearances

The action is bad, the romance cringing, and the acting is … well, I guess they are good looking. The only real reason to watch Grimm is Silas Weir Mitchell, who plays Monroe, a good lycanthrope. Yet, the series has actually improved over the years and developed enough of a story to sustain an audience, especially one that is disillusioned with one’s everyday life and sees all hope for the future fade away … that would be me.

Set in Portland, Grimm is centred around Nick Burkhardt, a cop who has the ability to see creatures (Wesen) that appear human but can transform themselves into other beings, such lycanthropes. Nick discovers his ‘talent’ while working on a case and learns from his aunt that those with such ability are Grimm and have fought Wesen for centuries. There are two things of ‘sociological note’: the emphasis on diversity/racial equality and the aspect of multiple layers of reality.

Taking his first steps into his new reality, Nick learns about Wesen through a Wesen, Monroe, a lycanthrope or Blutbad. From the beginning, the series suggests that what makes Wesen-human relationships fraught is ignorance. Nick and Monroe learn to trust each other. The not-so-subtle racial subtext includes relationships between different types of Wesen. So Blutbad Monroe falls in love with Rosalee, who is Fuchsbau (fox-like creature), making it awkward to get Monroe’s parents to accept the situation and an opportunity to rehearse Guess who’s coming to dinner. The series thus avoids casting Wesen as evil and humans (and Grimm) as good, although the evil always comes in the form of a Wesen rather than a human. That’s partly because of the focus of the show, but it would have been interesting to get bad humans in alliance with bad Wesen.

The ability of Wesen to look completely human but also to transform themselves allows a not so deep exploration of who people really are behind the appearances. Fantasy shows tend to be concerned with a ‘deeper’ layer of reality, who we ‘really’ are behind our social mask. I thoroughly approve as it’s all very Pirandellian, Simmelian and, to an extent, Goffmanesque. However, Grimm, unlike the first season of Once Upon a Time, never really delves a deep enough preferring instead to present Grimms and Wesen as more a metaphor for being special. It reflects American society’s individualism, rather than a more existentialist view of life, let alone a critique of reality as a whole as it is in Pirandello. Grimm is light entertainment, but I feel it would be a mistake to think that the themes and ideas in Pirandello, Simmel and Goffman require a different format and serious thinking and writing. The Matrix attempted exactly that in a very simplistic and entertaining way (not that entertaining though). Although the directors of The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers, apparently had the cast read Baudrillard and stuff about cybernetics and evolutionary psychology, the idea of reality as an intricate matrix is much older. A version is Georg Simmel’s Wechselwirkung, where reality is a matrix of relationships, which was inspired by Kant and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

This entry was posted in Erving Goffman, fantasy/supernatural, Georg Simmel, Grimm, Luigi Pirandello, race/diversity, reality, TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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