When we think of irrational behavior, we naturally think of human beings first, of their ability to act based on belief rather than fact, to operate without regard to their own wellbeing or that of others they are charged with caring for or some other related behavioral anomaly.  However, what if there were an irrationality in the laws of physics and of nature, which allowed two percent of the world’s population to suddenly vanish, with the speed of throwing a light switch?  Babies from their carriers, drivers from their vehicles, shoppers pushing their carts, all of them gone without so much as a by-your-leave.  No, this isn’t the Rapture.  Scientists and logicians, tasked with finding some pattern, whether religious or otherwise in the disappearances, report to the US Congress that they can find NONE, to the disgust of at least one Congressman who would probably sooner accept some outlandish explanation than he would evidence for climate change.  One hundred forty million people, living their lives one instant, utterly absent the next, with no logic or discernable causation for the occurrence.  This is the premise behind the new HBO series, The Leftovers.

The microcosm meant to represent this global event is the fictional town of Mapleton, NY, three years after.  Its chief of police, one Kevin Garvey, seems a decent sort, who attempts to capture a stray dog on the street only to see it shot dead by a local resident, who then flees the scene.  His daughter Jill is somewhat less caring, throwing elbows and sticks about indiscriminately during field hockey practice and later attending a teen party/orgy which features random sex and drug use.  Lucy Warburton, Mapleton’s mayor, insists on calling the third anniversary of the “Sudden Departure” a “Heroes’ Day,” a feeble attempt to put a positive spin on what otherwise would be “We Don’t Know What the Fuck Happened Day.”  Three years removed and the residents of Mapleton are seemingly as rattled now as they were the day after.

That time has also seen the emergence of at least two cults.  One unnamed with a messianic leader named “Wayne,” he and his followers live in a secured, secret compound, visited occasionally by people of influence and power, including a congressman, who needed to be “unburdened,” though of what is not specified.  The other are the Guilty Remnants or GR, who dress in white, don’t speak, yet silently harass selected portions of Mapleton’s citizenry.  Their mute demonstration on “Heroes’ Day,” displaying the message:

STOP WASTING YOUR BREATH!

foments a full-scale riot at the town park.  However relaxed or bucolic Mapleton was before the disappearance, neither of those adjectives currently applies, nor does the future look particularly promising.

Leaving aside the fact that the “Sudden Departure” itself is about as likely as the realization of any other supernatural occurrence, biblical or otherwise, its intended purpose appears to be universalizing a “9/11” event, where the impact is so designed as to spare no one and all are wounded to one degree or another.  While this story wraps its foundational slap-in-the-face in what amounts to an insoluble mystery, I have a serious problem with the presumption that the people of Mapleton or those of the rest of this planet would be so wounded and traumatized that the pallor of distress would remain largely unshaken even after a substantial passage of time.  Certainly New York City and indeed the entire United States were deeply changed when those two planes plowed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania, and the results of that tragedy were not quick to recede or resolve.  Still, resolve they did, and by 2004 we can hardly say that the product of the attack was so devastating that it left entire populations disabled to the point of near paralysis.  Yet this is precisely what Leftovers author Tom Perrotta would have us believe: that such an incident would be so impactful and disabling as to permanently alter whole communities irrevocably.

I don’t buy it.  Certainly, I’m human and can be hurt.  I can also let go, both of the hurt and the conundrum behind its origin, given time.  Would I be puzzled as to how so many people could vanish without a trace and what manner of agency could cause that?  As a curious engineer, I’d be lying if I said no, yet at the same time, I would have no problem in relinquishing that question to someone more competent to explore and examine it, while attempting to repair and resume my own life.  It’s not in me to believe that others are any less capable.  My impression is that Mr. Perrotta wants to project a highly pessimistic attitude into the denizens of Mapleton, the better to sustain his unrealistic character and plot development.

Humankind is made of sterner stuff than that, or so I surmise, and while I may continue following The Leftovers, I shall do so with my skepticism well engaged.

Views: 223

Tags: HBO, The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta, irrationality

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Comment by JenkPac Shakur on July 8, 2014 at 11:05pm

Don't get me wrong though Loren as I fundamentally agree with you and Michael Penn that the show will likely end up dissapointing me due to the direction Lindelof and the book's author want to take the show in which is purely as a character study ie "How do people react to this certain unexpected out of this world type of event? and how will they react in it's immediate aftermath?? and over a long period of time???" etc. So already from the beginning they've let us know thats what they want to do with the series so its unfortunately highly likely that people like us who want to know the answer to what exactly caused the event will be left hanging. So even while I'm personally for some reason enjoying the episodes thus far I'm still fully holding out hope that somehow someway they will get around to explaining exactly what happened but from what I read of their interviews the writing is pretty much on the wall that I will end up very dissapointed once this series comes to an end as it is doubtful they will provide the answer which you, I and Michael Penn want. Its a pity as they could go all sorts of entertaining ways with it, whether its the rise of the AntiChrist angle or the sci fi aliens from Zeta Reticuli did it angle...or hell even a shadow government did it angle...which would appeal to conspiracy theorists. I mean talk about a wasted opportunity here if they just stick to the ol boring character study route.

Comment by k.h. ky on July 8, 2014 at 7:34pm
I love The Newsroom. I think it's being canceled because it actually has some excellent dialog. It seems most people prefer the dumbed down, shoot 'em up, exploding, type shows.
Comment by Michael Penn on July 8, 2014 at 6:36pm

You may be right, Loren. These shows have a great appeal but they don't satisfy because they don't tell anything. After a series like this has ened you don't know any more than when you first started watching. The "Sudden Departure" may never be explained. The fundy christian is happy though because he can say "goddidit."

Comment by Loren Miller on July 8, 2014 at 6:15pm

I dunno, Jenk.  I tried to watch the 2nd episode of The Leftovers, but it's just lost me.  I think what we have here is an overindulgence in drama, and whatever explanations we wind up getting about the "Sudden Departure" I get the feeling will be ill-conceived and inadequate.

That said, I'm okay hanging with Sookie and Co. on True Blood and look forward to the third and last season of The Newsroom.

Comment by JenkPac Shakur on July 8, 2014 at 6:09pm

I dunno. I can kind of see the writers/producers point of view being plausible here ie that humanity would remain traumatized for a very long time after an event like this, even moreso than a 9/11 event as at least with 9/11 it can be explained as having a human cause whether one believes that cause involved Muslims or even a treasonous US government cabal working with Israeli Mossad to carry out a false flag attack to ignite middle eastern wars for oil and future Israeli expansion goals.

In anycase one thing I thought of that they could do in The Leftovers is have scientist characters in the show try and explain the apparent rapture like event away as being similar to the Big Bang in that it was just some major act of physics and the natural world that we don't yet understand but eventually most likely will with enough study be it in the lifetime of the shows characters or beyond.

P.S: Its obvious the writer/producer has a profound ignorance of Christ insanity's teachings since if this type of thing really happened a Guilty Remnant styled cult would most definitely NOT be smoking as the act would be considered yet another blasphemy towards Yahweh (The Christian god) as the human body according to the Buy Bull is the temple of the Holy Spirit and as such is supposed to be treated well by the believers. Also the Buy Bull supposedly allows for people to still be saved by Boozus even if they weren't raptured and left behind. They just have to get their hearts right with Boozus and grovel appropriately and presto chango they are a new creature in Crust and will be awarded not only Heaven when they die but a free Playstation 4.

Thus sayith the Jenk.

Comment by Michael Penn on July 1, 2014 at 7:33am

Sorry! I made a mistake. Meant to say all over the Old Pesterment.

Comment by Michael Penn on July 1, 2014 at 7:24am

Dispite the fact that spirit animals are mentioned all over the writings in the New Pesterment, heaven remains a "no pets" deal. It's considered sacreligious to even wonder what you might be doing there, and no, you cannot take your guitar! From what I can make of the scriptures, I suppose the first few hundred thousand years everybody will just sing praises.

Comment by Loren Miller on July 1, 2014 at 6:36am

Oh, OF COURSE no pets in heaven, Luara!  We're the only ones with SOULS!  Didn't you get the memo? [he shakes his head and groans!]

Comment by Luara on July 1, 2014 at 3:37am

Apparently the animals know that "the holy spirit has been removed" because they all seem lost. The deer and the left behind dogs.

Is Heaven no-pets, then?

Comment by Sentient Biped on June 30, 2014 at 9:42pm

This reminds me of a "reverse 4,400" where people disappeared individually, but all reappeared in the same moment and place.  I liked the 4,400.  I think I missed the last few episodes.

I'll wait to hear about more of it.  I don't have HBO.

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