Friday, December 2, 2022


View from our Paris apartment

The last few weeks have been like a breath of fresh air. I can look up at the blue autumn sky and feel relief and some hope. For now, I don't feel the anxiety caused by our cultural and political wars. I am still cautious about being in big crowds. For now, instead of theaters or other large venues, we continue to turn to Netflix and other streaming channels for escape.

Before COVID sent us into sequestering, Bill and I watched TV every evening, usually to catch up on the news with a few Masterpiece Theater episodes thrown in. We didn't catch the popular game or contest shows that permeate TV land, and we had a hard time caring about the new Bachelorette. 

When 24 was in its prime years ago, a few friends binged on it. They would make a day of it with popcorn and propped pillows as they watched the suspenseful events that occurred in a 24-hour period. We watched it after the first season was over, but we didn't hunker down for hours. Instead, we watched one episode at a time and then turned off the TV. 

When we lived in Japan, we missed Seinfeld and Friends and instead followed Samurai soap operas with their view of old Japanese culture.  We learned how important cultural moments can be. When friends in California mentioned events in Seinfeld or Friends, we didn't have a clue what they were talking about.

Yet, during the height of the pandemic and for the last several months, we haven't focused on American shows, preferring other worlds than ours. We watched European and Asian series including Babylon Berlin, Occupied, Midnight Diner, Borgen, and Call My Agent to name a few. They provided an escape from American news and culture wars. None of them hooked us enough to binge on them. We could be satisfied with one episode and turn off the TV and go to bed.

Mick LaSalle, the movie critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote a column about superhero movies and why they are so popular. He explained that many of us are watching these movies because they offer a release from our feelings of helplessness and dread resulting from the chaos in our political system and the aftermath of sequestering.

Character from Japanese Kabuki theater

As we watched the foreign language TV series, we noticed one common theme in many of them: the outsider who becomes the vigilante hero by using methods outside the norm to solve problems for ordinary people. I think of American movies and TV shows such as High Noon, Batman, Watchman, and the recent Marvel and DC Comic movies that have the same characteristic. We have found that the superhero is flourishing in other countries' stories too.

Dragon monster on the roof edge of a temple in Japan

The theme of a silent, solitary hero to the rescue appears in a 2021 Korean TV drama series, Vincenzo, that we consumed (all 20 episodes).  Just as in real life, the characters in Vincenzo seek justice in the face of governmental corruption where rich and powerful people can circumvent the law.

The main character in Vincenzo is a Mafia consigliere, a true "bad guy," a Korean man adopted by an Italian family, who comes back to Korea to recover a ton of gold bars hidden in a basement of a slum building that he owns in Seoul. Preposterous plot? Yes, but in the process, Vincenzo comes to know the hard-luck tenants of the building. With his help and inspiration, the tenants uncover their own buried talents, including computer expertise, martial arts, and special effects training, that become important in the story. The tenants, who thought they were powerless, come to the gradual realization that by joining together as a community they can overcome adversity.

The idea of forming a community to work together reminded me of a postcard produced by Syracuse Cultural Workers which lists ideas for building communities. The last item on the list reads:

"Know that no one is silent though many are not heard. Work to change this."

Festival float made by a neighborhood group in Japan

Quilt made by a group of
Nishimachi International School moms
The quote on the quilt says,
"Let There Be Peace on Earth,
and Let It Begin With Me."

Check out the Syracuse Cultural Workers website here:



  1. I enjoy reading your posts every week, Martha, but I don't always take the time to comment and let you know how much I enjoy them. I, too, have been taking some distraction in foreign TV shows. I particularly liked the French TV shows Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent) and Lupin. I recently watched the Canadian film, Monsieur Lazhar. I think that you would like it very much. Joyeux Noël Et Bonne Année Sara

  2. Dear Martha, Hi there. I thought I had commented on this post. I know I typed something out awhile back but perhaps I forgot to hit the send (publish) button. Anyway, I always enjoy reading your posts. I look forward to them every week. I too, have been distracting myself with foreign (mostly French) TV shows. I enjoyed Dix Per Cent (Call My Agent) and Lupin. I recently watch a Canadian film, Monsieur Lahzar. I think that you would like it very much. Joyeux Noël. Peace, Sara

  3. Hi Sara, thank you for continuing to read my blog posts. It's not always easy to leave comments so I appreciate when you take the time. I agree with you that Dix Per Cent and Lupin are great shows. I'll have to look for the Canadian film. Joyeux Noel to you and your family!

  4. et Bonne et heureuse année à vous tous !


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