January 14, 2009

Death of a Role Model

Sometimes, I have to admit....my timing really sucks.

Had I known that Patrick McGoohan would pass shortly after posting some videos in his name, I never would have done it.

I'll let others eulogize Ricardo Montalban - they can do it better than I - but McGoohan's passing hits particularly close to home for me.

When I was a lad, like many of my generation, I watched television. A lot. And so when, scanning the channels for some piece of entertainment, I came across The Prisoner, I began watching. At times, my father and I - who never really had a cozy relationship - would watch together, and talk about the show. It was kind of a bonding thing...but in many ways, I took on McGoohan as a kind of pop culture role model.

Perhaps, in fighting my father's more autocratic, I took on the philosophy of "I am not a number - I am a free man!" (Both my parents came of age in the 1960s, so some of that defiant stance runs through my veins). Even in high school, when a (now) recently deceased theology teacher decided to condescend to me, claiming my hair was 'mousy' and asking if he could call me Draco (don't ask), I asked him if I could call him "baldy".

Best damn detention I ever served.

When it was reshown on Channel 50 back in the 1980s, I began watching it again, staying up late until the wee hours of Sunday morning (since they wisely showed it after Channel 11 showed Doctor Who. I reconnected with its themes - a man who made a decision, who took charge of his life...and who bristled at authority. Tweaking it when needed, never backing down from a fight. Exiled to a isolated village (or, in my case, seven years in St. Louis), trying to fight conformity, to introduce new ideas...and always feeling like it was returning to the beginning.

But I've always come back - in fact, while adjusting to life in Chicago after moving back, I liveblogged the show. Even though there were some memories that didn't quite hold up, many of them...did. I remembered why I loved the show, even though I haven't watched it since then. (I not only think I will...but I also will write about it for February's TV Party column in Comic Related)

But now, it's hard to believe McGoohan has passed - mostly because The Prisoner, in the end, is one of the more life affirming shows. Despite its reputation as being a dense philosophical treatise...in the end, it's about a man who defiantly declares his existence, who takes on the establishment, who asserts his identity...and finds freedom in that. Who helps us all realize that we should not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered.

Our lives are our own.


Pj Perez said...

I know I'm a bad geek for admitting this, but until yesterday, I'd never even heard of The Prisoner.

I know, I know. For shame.

But now, I definitely want to check out some of McGoohan's work, especially that show. Sad it took his death to prompt that, but maybe there will be a Prisoner renaissance!

Oh, and thanks for the linky link!

Roger Owen Green said...

The Prisoner was most excellent; "I am not a free man, I'm a NUMBER!" No, that's not it. I also remember Patrick from Columbo.

I wrote about Ricardo three months ago here: http://rogerowengreen.blogspot.com/2008/10/m-is-for-montalban.html

Siskoid said...

My sports jersey number is 6 and yes, it's because of The Prisoner. Be seeing you, Mr. McGoohan.