December 1, 2016

On Flesh and Bone

An Amazon original series, and a fascinating contrast to another Amazon original, Mozart In The Jungle.

Mozart is supposed to be about music, but it’s really about life and the arts. At Web Science 2013, Cory Doctorow said that no one should work in the arts unless they must; that, pretty much, is the argument in Mozart. Mozart has a lot of empathy for people who don’t have that choice.

Flesh and Bone (I've seen only the first episodes) is supposed to be about dance, but it’s really about damage, about bodies and the way things go wrong. Its characters make sacrifices, but those sacrifices are to their compulsions and their fears, not to their art. Lots of the damage isn’t a choice or a sacrifice. Everyone, it seems, is more or less damaged.

It’s not exactly pleasant. The dramatic premise of the first season, apparently, places a vulnerable and sympathetic dancer into precisely the situation with which she cannot hope to cope, having been cast into a ballet about a subject she dreads under the direction of teachers who cannot fathom the difficulty. The teachers, in turn, are former dancers with physical and emotional scars accrued over decades; they cannot imagine what pain this girl could possibly possess that could equal theirs.

The whole thing balances precariously. Make this much less horrible and you're trivializing sexual trauma, abuse, and pain. Make it any more horrible and you’re appealing to sadists.