Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dog the Bounty Hunter--Our New Fiction

An exhausted populace has little appetite for a book and we are an exhausted populace. As E.M Forester observed long ago--art is for a man with a full belly. In our time people come home to spent usually to do much more than flop on the couch for a little R and R before snooze land. Such is the life of the modern middle class coal miner. We are all paying for our sins now and work has become once again work and not much beyond subsistence.

So what is the fare dished up by cable networks for the masses? One show is Dog the Bounty Hunter. Beautiful concept. Cost is very crew and that is about it. Throw in some computer graphics at the beginning and end and you are done. Since we are a people largely without fiction it is understandable we take our characters from television. Reality television occasionally can dish up a character with all the characteristics of good fiction. In the case of Dog: A reformed convict who goes to the other side and becomes a bounty hunter bringing other malcontents to the Terra firma of the law if not the Lord.

In fact Dog the character prays before his busts. Joined by his moll wife (Beth) with the battleship body not unlike the fleshy barmaid of old with a heart of gold, these people of the earth go out to do good in the evangelical sense of the word. Dog is a man on a mission and with his sons and daughters and wife in tow he goes to spread the word of the reformed sinner who has seen the light and will shine it into the darkness of the drug dealer, convict, burglar who he tracks down using good old fashioned gumshoe tactics and without guns. He is truly Robin Hood of the Hawaiian order.

Once the perpetrator is captured in some made for television drama then the moral lesson is imparted and we see Dog the man who clearly has a higher purpose than just catching bad guys. Don't all good fictional characters have a higher purpose? He may have a superhero suit...body armor and tattoos and head dress and dangling ear rings--eternally tan and rather swashbuckling in his boots--dropping out from his monster SUV in pursuit of another randy criminal--but he is just a man purporting to right a little wrong in our fallen world.

This then is our fiction. It is low budget, yes, but it borrows from it's more highbrow brother the novel. It is supremely accessible requiring little effort on the part of the viewer and winds up in thirty minutes with a moral epigram at the end. We could ask little more from such entertainment and it doesn't matter if Dog is truly who he says he is--he is flawed and has had his scrapes where racial slurs and dubious tactics have almost ended the reign of Dog. But he has rebounded and even hit Larry King when someone took an errant shot at the Dog and his wife.

So we do care about our character and when the television goes to black and Dog retires on his earnings we will probably not remember him. Like any good pulp fiction the character ceases to live once the book is finished or the Dog is finally bumped off. But for now I say with little derision--GO DOG GO!

Books by William Hazelgrove