Wednesday 23 February 2011

You Don't Own My Soul

La Femme Nikita ultimately pushes the dilemma straight at the audience. Rather than leaving this discussion of US moral bankruptcy in global affairs a lingering resonance [...] that ‘surprises’ us with the obvious fact that corporations don’t care about human lives, and then ends limply there, Nikita has all the power and is left to make an actual choice within the debate: either she destroys Section (refusing to accepts its ruthless destruction, self-interest and moral bankruptcy, risking her life and visions of global security), or continues to let it run (accepting that such compromises are necessary for global security and securing her own status).
This is tougher than it may seem. It’s not simply the dilemma itself, but the positioning of an ongoing mainstream character within it: a character who still needs to hold audiences for another season or three. A fantasy character is forced make a decision that resonates directly with real-world politics – one that may conflict with the beliefs of many fans – and not a decision that’s merely abstracted or idealised. In front of a potentially polarised audience, Nikita essentially has to finally choose between Fox News and the PBS Newshour once and for all.

One of the reasons why I keep returning to La Femme Nikita even though it is a terribly uneven show that would have considerably profited from a Dollhouse-like economic storytelling is its complex ideology, or rather, the fact that it is impossible to pinpoint what the ideology of the show or the people behind it is. The characters are constantly changing, adapting and growing, the role that Section plays shifts in the course of the seasons (one of the most interesting questions of the show is whether Section is an instrument that can be used to serve any point on the scale between good and bad, or if it is inherently flawed and corrupts those who run it, regardless of their intentions), there is a multitude of different voices and while the sympathy of the viewer always tends to lie with Nikita herself, Nikita is constantly in flux too (as her relationships to other characters, most importantly Michael, change, as she collects more but hardly ever reliable information, or even as Section finally really turns into an early-stage Dollhouse with the ability to shape its agents like Actives). She doesn't actually finally choose between the two and the show doesn't provide a comfortable choice between the obvious good and the potentially more effective evil - and this is also what makes La Femme Nikita a far superior show to Nikita, which isn't interested in such complexity.

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