Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Taboo Reformer

Warning: Contains spoilers for the TV show Banshee. So if you don't want it spoiled get the idea.

In the awesomely badass TV show Banshee they recently took the unprecedented step of making a guy covered in swastikas out to be sympathetic.

OK, maybe not unprecedented. After all, Edward Norton's movie American History X has him playing a skinhead who reforms his nasty Nazi ways. BUT... he's a badass and the price he pays for the life he once embraced is grief beyond measure at the film's climax.

Then there's the Maggie Q/ Dylan McDermott TV show Stalker, which had an episode where a former white supremacist made good and married a Mexican woman and had a kid....but was a badass fighter and courageous.

The stereotype I've seen so far when this issue is addressed in fictional media is that anyone who was once a Nazi or White Supremacist or Ku Klux Klan (sp?) member etc and then rejected that shameful life, should be big bodied, good looking, able to fight like a pro and be deeply ashamed of their former horrid ways.

In Banshee they recently brought in a character called Bunker, who is indeed a reformed Nazi but the thing that turned my head is that while he's good looking he's as frail and flawed as the other main players in the show and while aware that his tattoos and history are an issue, he will only apologise up to a point and then simply walk off.

In season 3, episode 5 he is asked by a black woman (whose father was beaten up badly by similar people years ago) why anyone should believe he's changed and what made him do it in the first place. He tells a tale of how his father beat him up systematically and how he was bullied badly by the local thugs. One day an older lad came up to him, put his arm around him and took him to a burger bar where he bought him a soda. This lad told him he didn't have to be weak any more and that he'd show him how to protect himself. The next time his father hurt him, the new friend went to his house and frightened the boy's dad so badly that he never struck him again. The boy then made new friends and found for the first time in his life that he didn't need to be afraid.

Only problem was that his new confidence had been instilled by fascists.

Something I've noticed is that people like this character are USUALLY portrayed as embracing that life solely because they hate foreigners, or gays or women in power or any number of other prejudices. Rarely is it suggested that these people felt weak and embraced a sub culture that allowed them to feel strong.

Jihadists or evil cunts who blow themselves up on trains, or cut civilians' heads off on camera are portrayed and perceived as a minority of something that in its entirety is harmless. Fundamentalist Islam is seen as wrong by nearly all in the Western world, yet Islam itself is not. Young men who convert to Islam and then fly to join ISIS are supposed to be deluded, corrupted and above all manipulated by evildoers who want them to spread a gospel of hate and misogyny around the world.

If such a young man then became a middle aged man and offered to go on TV and tell others not to follow his previous path, then he would be trusted and welcomed as someone who had seen the light and was now a "good guy". Someone who could be trusted as he was now seeing things our way.

On the flip side if a reformed Nazi, with swastikas tattooed on his face tried to reform young people from following his path he would be treated with caution and suspicion. His behaviour in the past would be considered irredeemable.

Bottom line is that Nazis are perceived to have gone into it willingly while Jihadists are thought to have been brain washed.

Banshee's character appears to be a nice guy (plot developments pending) and is trying to put right what he did BUT isn't prepared to simply sit there and be moaned at about it. Forget gazing at his shoes, while shuffling awkwardly and nervously picking at his fingernails. He will explain what he did and say he's reformed and try to prove that to you.

Ultimately what this shows is that we are intolerant to those who are themselves intolerant. Which in my book is fine.

However we are also intolerant to those who profess to have reformed. The reason that a debt will drop off your credit history in the UK after 6 years is because it would be unfair to assume you are a lifetime debtor just from one experience. Similarly offences committed as a juvenile are usually discounted when you reach the age of 18 (not all of them, but a lot). And criminal offences you commit as an adult stay for life and may bar you from certain jobs later in life BUT you are deemed to have paid your debt to society by incarceration.

Nazism is synonymous with evil. So those who associate with it, and permanently scar their bodies to support it in black ink, are deemed to be vile. Problem is that we do not allow Second Chances to those who followed this path and then decided it was wrong. Now in media the shift has started to say "You'd give anyone else a chance to prove they've changed. Why not this guy?"


  1. I read your every post and this was a good one. I actually commented on another one a few posts ago but you deleted it so I don't know if you thought I was being sarcastic or what (like my wife does with everything I say LOL) but I wasn't. I'm sure you don't expect anyone to agree with ALL your comments/musings but I can see how you use them, not only to inform others, but to exorcise your own demons. As I said before; keep up the good work.

    1. Actually I ddin't delete it intentionally. Put it back if you want. I only delete ones that just attack me personally. If you comment on the blog, positive or negative, I'm happy for it to be here.

    2. No need to put it back. As I said, I understand your blog is primarily for your own benefit and I also understand it helps you deal with the problems you have had in the past and how you see things now. As the old cheesy novels say: "I know - I WAS that boy." Keep writing and I will keep reading.


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