Castle on TV: Hyper-reality blurs with reality a little bit more

First off, I must apologize for not having posted anything for such a long time.  It’s not what I would have liked, but certain family problems and occurrences beyond any of our control have made it very difficult for me to do any writing the last few months, both logistically and emotionally.  We aren’t out of the woods yet, but hopefully I can start posting with more regularity soon, especially since I have a couple dozen review subjects backlogged, from books, anime shows, to a few pen and paper rpgs, especially the unfinished review of Unhallowed Metropolis and Unhallowed Necropolis that I have not forgotten about.

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Castle is an ABC crime show, in the more humorous vein of shows like the Mentalist and Psych.  The shows titular lead, Richard Castle, (Nathan Fillion of Firefly and Dr. Horrible fame) is a mystery writer on par with Patterson or Cannell, fresh off killing his main character out of boredom.  Meanwhile Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic, The Spirit) is looking at two seemingly unrelated murders with one odd thing in common: Both were killed almost exactly like murders out of Castle’s books.  She brings him in for questioning, leading to him volunteering to help with the case because of his familiarity with the crimes.  Really though, he offers to help because a copycat is the “Red Badge of Honor” for a writer like him, to the point that he asks for copies of the crime scene photos to take to his poker game with Patterson and Cannell. (Who make a splendid appearance as themselves in the episode)

Beckett doesn’t like Castle at all of course; He’s a womanizing man-child who doesn’t take anything seriously, lacks empathy, and gets away with everything (including, apparently, stealing a police horse naked) because of his close friendship with the mayor.  By the end of the pilot they’ve solved the mystery and Castle has found his new inspiration, Detective Beckett. Again thanks to the mayor he get himself made Beckett’s unofficial partner so he can write the first novel on Nikki Heat, as much because he simply enjoys the novelty of solving real crimes as writing inspiration.  The cast is rounded out by Castle’s crazy(er) mother, his 15 year old daughter who is rebelling from her family by being totally grounded and responsible, Beckett’s captain, Lanie Parish, her medical examiner friend, and Esposito and Ryan, the other partnership of detectives.  All of the characters are charming and funny in their own ways, and very believable.  Castle is actually in its second season, the first ten episodes airing last spring as a mid-season replacement show.

Now, why am I plugging a fairly normal (if extremely fun) crime show on a Geek blog?

Part of it, of course, is the presence of the amazing Nathan Fillion, who has somehow missed becoming a big star so far despite outstanding performances, including that of Mal Reynolds in Firefly and Serenity.  Most sci-fi buffs I know love the guy, who is extremely affable for a movie star and very expressive in his work.

The main reason though is one extremely hyper-real thing to come out of the show.  First though, I suppose I should explain what I mean by hyper-real.  This gets me back to certain core theories of virtuality and simulacra (simulations) that are becoming much more prevalent now thanks to the internet.  Basically there are several orders of simulation.  The first is something like a reflection, a good and faithful representation of something else, but clearly nothing more than a representation.  Second order simulacra involves things such as mass-production copies, even photo-copies themselves, where the distinction between the original and the copy is blurred, even hidden completely.  Third order simulacra actually precede the original, so that it is in fact a simulation of nothing.  A bit hard to understand, I know, and harder to point to in real life.  The Matrix could be considered third order or high second order (the actual construct, not the whole film) because what the matrix copies doesn’t exist anymore.  In anime the idea of Stand Alone Complexes (the Ghost in the Shell television series) is much the same thing, dealing with copycat crimes and behavior when no original exists.

The inevitable question is how can a mystery show deal with such post-modern ideas, beyond the level any television show does as a fictional representation of life?  Well, remember I said that Castle officially follows Beckett around so he can write a book based on her?  Well, as of last week’s episode it had been published and released in their fictional world, getting rave reviews and great sales.  Here’s the thing though.  In the real world the book, Heat Wave, was released to good reviews and an instant spot on the New York Times bestseller list a couple of weeks before that episode aired.  It’s listed as written by Richard Castle, with glowing blurbs on the cover.

“Castle hasn’t lost it, Heat Wave looks like another bestseller for the thrillmaster.  It’s Hot!” –James Patterson, New York Times bestselling author

“Rick Castle must have been doing his research because Nikki Heat has the unmistakable ring of truth.  This book is gold.  Couldn’t put it down!  I’m getting jealous.” –Stephen J. Cannell, New York Times bestselling author

I’m sure the book started out as a marketing ploy, another way to promote the show, but without (probably) realizing it the produces of the show and the book’s ghost writers (Who I am guessing are named Tom and Andrew based on the post script where “Castle” called them his Sherpas) have breached the hyper-real, a simulacra of something that doesn’t exist.  Luckily the book isn’t bad at all, better in fact than a lot of mysteries I have read recently.  I even liked it better than the last Alex Cross novel I read (sorry Patterson) though that one was certainly well written.

It seems with every passing year “reality” becomes more distorted, less secure.  Is a romance any less real because it happens entirely on a server of WoW?  What about Facebook or Myspace?  We are on the verge of true robotic prosthetics, (BTW, the Bruce Willis Movie Surrogates was excellent from a cyber-punk viewpoint, most of the negative reviews are because the reviewer simply didn’t get the point of the movie) exoskeletons of an Iron Man bent, (without the flying of course) and connecting computers to people’s brains so they can ‘talk’ for the first time in decades in some cases.  Reality ain’t safe or secure.  Enjoy the ride.

P.S.

Tonight is the Halloween Episode of Castle, and from what I can tell in the previews, Castle’s costume is that of himself, sort of.  In the episode Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is dressed as Mal Reynolds. (Nathan Fillion) Nothing major (though undoubtedly good for a few laughs on our end) but still another indicator of how fluid reality had become.

[tags]Nathan Fillion, Richard Castle, Stana Katic, Hyper-Reality, Simulacra, mystery[/tags]

4 thoughts on “Castle on TV: Hyper-reality blurs with reality a little bit more

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  1. Actually, the book was written by Dan Brown. Someone who I dislike reading, his wife does ALL of his research for him, he merely writes it all out. The sad part is that he’s so fricking famous, and most of his novels are all the same template with a different cover on top.

    Truly I would have preferred that Nathan had actually written the book. Had that been the case I would have bought it in an instant. AS it stands I have no desire nor will I ever purchase the current book.

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  2. I’m sorry, I have to ask. Where exactly did you find information revealing Dan Brown as the ghost writer? I found one blog saying the same thing, but with no evidence to back it up. I just find it a tad hard to believe that such a busy and famous author (note I didn’t say good, I enjoy his work, just think it a tad overrated) would do something like this with no guarantee of a good selling and no recognition.

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  3. Actually someone on the abc.com/Castle website figured out who the author is -and it’s not Dan Brown. It was done with some pretty nice sleuthing skills I might add.

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