Seldom had I looked forward to a TV series with so much excitement as the sequel to Stephen King’s Under the Dome.
Alas, the second series turned out to be a damp squid.
In my mind, there are two Stephen Kings. There is the Stephen King who is a genius of horror fiction. But there is also Stephen King, the master of padding.
Unfortunately, the majority of Stephen King’s books fall into the “padding” category. The Shining, of course, was the one classic exception. And so was the first Under the Dome series.
In spite of its numerous obvious flaws and improbabilities, the plot worked, simply because the story obeyed the rules of good fiction. The action moved forward with perfect timing towards a crashing finale, which, until the very last moment, could have turned into a happy ending or a Greek tragedy.
Either one of these two options would have been okay. Instead, the producers and the author opted for a second series. And so they set about rehashing everything that had already happened, creating “new” scenarios that were merely a repetition, with slight alterations, of previous scenarios. Eventually, the story turned into just another haphazard collection of special effects, unbelievable coincidences and boring two-dimensional characters.
I still find the “dome” idea fascinating, though. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed that first series was because I was still under the mistaken impression, back then, that Stephen King had some prophetic vision, that he was doing more than spinning a good yarn. I believed he was creating a metaphor for the 21st century.
Inadvertently, that’s probably what he did.
In spite of the grand old American ideal of the creation of a global “melting pot” of cultures in which all earth-dwellers share the same values, carry the same credit cards, speak the same nasal English, and watch the same soapies on satellite TV, the opposite seems to be happening. Many diverse cultures of the world have begun to crystallise into communities which are ideologically isolated from one another, ruled by prejudice, each cut off from outside influences by invisible force fields of fixed ideas and unbendable ideologies.
Instead of a “glass ceiling”, separating the sexes, we now have glass walls, glass borders.
Even though some of these communities appear to mix and blend geographically, they are torn apart by schisms of the heart. Unfortunately, the glass is not strong enough to stop missiles and bombs.
When I compare the situation in South Africa to what is going on in so many other parts of the world, I cannot help thinking how lucky we are right now. Interestingly, this sentiment was recently shared by columnist Ranjeni Munusamy in an Afrikaans daily. Miraculously, Muslims, Christians and other groups rub shoulders over here without apparent animosity.
Oh, we have our disagreements of course, and as a country we have vast economic and social problems, we have points of view that seriously clash with one another, but at least we are still talking to one another. The radical groups may be a very loud and vocal minority, true enough, but they are a minority. We may have unacceptable levels of random violence, but we have not yet descended into an outright civil war.
The danger is lurking in the wings, though. The horrible truth is that if we take too many wrong turnings, exercise too many bad options, we could one day join the Ukraine, Iraq and the Middle East and other war-torn hell-holes to become yet another failed and hopelessly factionalised community, a place where civilisation has ceased to exist and where ordinary people are held captive by the rigid dictatorships of hatred, fear and paranoia.
I know, for instance, that the majority of people in my own tribe — the Afrikaners — are not as narrow-minded as the world may think they are. They might be slightly sentimental, and after a beer or two they might even burst into spontaneous singing whenever someone starts crooning Die Stem, but they don’t support the ideas of Front Nasionaal and they try to live in peace with everyone. Their only crime is probably the fact that they watch awful soapies like 7de Laan.
Then again, 7de Laan is probably better than the second series of Under the Dome.