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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rich's Transgressor Mother & AMC's The Killing

NOTE: Spoiler Alert.

     Some friends of mine recently granted me a book on loan: What is Found There, Notebooks On Poetry and Politics by Adrienne Rich. I've been skipping around, tackling each essay as my interests sway in different directions. The Transgressor Mother opens with commentary on Costa-Gravas's film Missing which stars Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon and leads into a slightly comparative discussion on the political feminist discourse between film and a collection of poetry: "...a woman's life vaguely unfolding until shocked out of innocence into politics, much as Costa-Gravas's straight American father is shocked out of innocence into politics..." (146-147. The poet in reference is Minnie Bruce Pratt and her prize-winning collection Crime against Nature. Now my point is not to necessarily continue this discussion, but this statement in Rich's essay took me elsewhere: "When an undomesticated woman refuses to hide her sexuality, abnegate her maternity, silence her hungers and angers in her poetry, she creates... a force field of extraordinary energy" (158). Rich is talking about the political nature in which poetry evolves into a stream of a woman's truth-telling; there is no hide-out because the voice is strong, vapid. This idea is not only present in poetical works, but in the portrayal of a televised female character.

     AMC's The Killing has one of the most interesting female characters on television: Sarah Linden. She is a single mother, a working mother. Her position is homicide detective for the Seattle Police Department. At the beginning of season one we see a woman in love, engaged, preparing to leave the job and move her life and her son Jack to Sonoma, California. Slowly but surely Sarah gets sucked deeper into the Rosie Larsen murder case and becomes completely engendered by every aspect of Rosie. Somewhere in the background, in the life of Sarah Linden is a secret that reveals an unknown breakdown or attachment to finding dead girls. Her sympathy, possibly love, and absolute desire to find Rosie's killer overrides even the love and attention her son needs.  Her engagement eventually falls apart, and her complex relationship with Jack becomes even more so. But Sarah cannot escape herself; she is a survivor of the foster care system, knows the ins-and-outs incredibly well as if she is still living that life. She makes emotional connections with broken children and on-the-job situations that take her mind back to her past. In a recent season two episode, "Ghosts of the Past," Sarah interviews Monica, a woman who supposedly lost her husband at the hands of Stan Larsen, but also gave up her son, Alexi, after her husband was murdered. After Sarah recognizes a cereal bowl near the kitchen sink she joins Monica at the table: "I have a son too. And I worry about the ways I've let him down. Times I wasn't there for him. I know what it feels like to... to think you've failed your child." Sarah is using her experience to not only manipulate the emotional charge, but also relives the fact that she almost lost her own son once, and here Sarah is, obsessed with her work while her son is not feeling well and needs her attention. She denies the love of her own child in order to pursue the discovery of another child's death. Later in this same episode Sarah interrogates Alexi again, relating her experiences this time as a child to Alexi, but then brings mothering back into the dialogue: Child Protective Services, Larkspur, King County Juvenile Detention... you get around Alexi. [Pause] The worse food's at county. Those  bologna sandwiches- forever cheese." And here Alexi straightens himself with discomfort at her knowledge. Sarah continues: "Case number 78-203. Funny how it never leaves you like a nickname." Sarah continues, bringing up Stan Larsen and what he did to Alexi's father eventually leading to his statement: "Left you with that emotional cripple, your mother. She gave you up, Alexi. And the second time it wasn't that hard for her. There's no way she had your back, ever. My mom too. CPS must have come five or six times, I tried to cover it up, knew the foster house was going to be worse and it was right right? Kids aren't fools we know. Must have run away half a dozen times but in the end she gave me up that's what they do." While all of this is going on Sarah knows that once again she is at risk of losing her son for the second time, but the silence of her hunger is work, specifically solving this case. Whatever happened to her as a child is a constant bridge between herself and the survivors and victims of abuse.

     At the end of last week's episode, "Openings," Sarah discovers that someone has been in their apartment. The haunting illustration of trees that we've observed since season one is hanging on the refrigerator door. Sarah and her son Jack, at this point, feeling better, flee the hotel room they've been staying in (since the engagement ended they never moved into an apartment or permanent residence) and stay overnight at Holder's apartment. Here, Jack has moments of stability: a Monopoly game with Holder, laughter, a sit-down meal. Sarah's obsession, her undomesticated life does not allow Jack to finish his breakfast.  She tries to keep Jack safe, take care of him, but political and emotional state is re-focused. No sooner do they settle into the next hotel (tonight's episode, "Keylela") she is out the door following the next clue. Is Sarah a bad mother? No. Does she love Jack? Yes. Is she willing to risk losing him again because of her job? Possibly.  When Child Protective Services arrives at their hotel to inspect their place of residency and interview Jack regarding reports of neglect, Sarah tries to shut them out. She is all too aware of what this means. She knew they had to keep moving for the sake of safety; to stay together.  "I need you to stay on this side of the room, and not talk to your son."  A few moments later Jack says with emphasis that he needs to use the bathroom.  Earlier in the episode when they arrived at the hotel Sarah points out that if there's a fire he should exit through the bathroom window. At the onset of the CPSs' interview, he does just that; Sarah fakes a phone call and they both meet at her car and flee the scene. This is ultimate risk. Her son is in complete emotional pain slumped over, crying; pulls away from her attempt at comfort, which for her always appears minimal. Sarah has never been  portrayed as a 'loving' character except in the arms of her fiancee in season one. But it is not that she doesn't love her son. Her experience as a child is replicated in her own mothering: a sad, untouchable life that remains unknown to us.

For Dinner: Room service for one along with one pay-per-view movie.

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