Political Farce – 5 stars (JB)


julianabjornsdottir_dlOnce a month I write a film review for Iceland Review Online. As a lover of the arts, I enjoy writing my monthly review as it gives me the chance to watch a film of my choosing, whether recent or old.

But there is one TV drama I never get to cover in my film review because this particular TV drama does not fall under the category of being a cinematic product in the artistic sense.

I’ll give you a few hints.

It’s a soap opera. It runs all day long and every single night the local media gets involved in the dramatic events of the day. I think my last clue will clarify the confusion if you haven’t worked it out yet... It’s reality TV and it’s as real as the beating heart keeping you alive day after day.

I know you already worked out that I am talking about Alþingi og Bessastaðir, known to the English speaking population as Parliament and the President.

althingi-backyard_pkAlþingi. Photo by Páll Kjartansson.bessastadir_psBessastaðir. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

The actors and actresses are real people. Their monthly salary is pretty damn decent and some of them even have a driver to take them to work and back home. In fact, the guy who plays the president, he is so good he’s been called the Dalai Lama of the North. Their employer is the State, and between you and me, they are the State.

They get to make a lot of important decisions that directly affect the audience; a reality theater at its best is definitely the kind that directly affects the viewer. Physically, financially and emotionally, the audience shivers before the awesome power of the cast – sometimes in rage and sometimes in rare gratitude for the cast’s attentiveness to the viewer’s needs – and the consequences of each decision.

As employers of the State, one would think they should be neutral and inactive in business and professional affairs their decisions may affect. But no, one of the hottest plotline is when a cast member is discovered to be an affiliated party in scandalous affairs, affairs that sometimes even offend the sensitive nerves of the already-too-sensitive-from-the-direct-exposure-to-the-show audience.

Man, it’s hard to recall all the pivotal points during which the naive viewer was absolutely certain this and that cast member would get the boot. Affiliations with business transactions in the gray area; delayed resignation for financial gain; convicted criminal activities; former affiliated friend of villains turned hero returns to save the poor viewer from the corrupt cast and crew but only as long as he wants to.

You can see why we’re hooked on the drama. It never ends.

Last night, I watched a dramatic episode of the soap. Man, the dialogue. As a writer I wanted to be one of the scriptwriters (let’s face it, reality TV is scripted) whose intellect clearly is at a level far superior to mine.

For a while, I lost track. I couldn’t work out what point half the cast was trying to make. My soaring head was bewildered by all the confusion in this urgent matter.

The episode was called Eagle’s Silver and the pivotal subject was a Script of Propositions produced by this council called Stjórnlagaráð or the Constitutional Council, a script the cast and crew has decided we the audience can vote on, at least a clause or two.

Alas, the vote of confidence in the meager audience!

Anyway, to get on with my story, I should introduce the four stars and the interviewing guest star, the Holy son of the Eagle.

How he battled for words against the seasoned players of Alþingi; the snide laughter of the right-wing Villain in the Back Seat; the Fair and Just Mediator; the Python in Disguise (who like the villain, wants to get a minister role, preferably the role of the Prime Minister); and the only female in the group, the Good Witch in the Front Seat who just happens to be in with the gang in power. They call themselves the Government.

I was their captive at sea.

The Villain fought the Good Witch for the metaphorical front seat, after all, since his gang lost the popularity contest in the 2009 drama, he has been barking up walls, one after another.

The Good Witch used lewd left-wing logic to shoot down the snide interruptions slipping out of the never-lost-for words Villain in the Back Seat. The Holy Son of Eagle tried to calm down the heated fight between the two while the Python played the he’s-sort-of-right-but-my-deliverance-of-party-politics-is-super-polite-so-I-am-right card.

The Fair and Just Mediator offered soothing words to soothe the rising anger of the polar oppositions.

If you didn’t see this episode you missed out. The mockery, the offense taken, the taste of blood, it was all almost tangible in the weekly news program.

It’s a pity that I can’t review Parliament and the President in my monthly review. The material is pure gold and the excitement never goes away. To feel the weight of reality TV on your very shoulder is a rare TV experience. But I can’t review reality, can I?

When the party-to-party bickering is all too real, when important issues are delayed with long speeches from the opposing party for reasons of political antipathy to perhaps much needed bills to be passed, something is really wrong in society of men.

And the worst bit of news is that as an individual dependent on Parliament and the President to make good decisions – or one would think they’d want to for the salary we pay them – my opinion means nothing.

Whether I am a grad-student with an overdraft every single semester I borrow from the student loan funds, have a double mortgage to my name, lost my car to a company that in the dark of night took possession of it with everything I might have left in it, or a senior citizen who paid my dues to pension funds for half a century and get naught but a slice of the pie, I don’t count.

My vote doesn’t even count because no matter whom I choose, I don’t have a saying in who is going to be in the party leadership once elected.

I bet the cast and crew at Alþingi, Iceland’s millennium old parliament, would find snide remarks in response to my criticism, if I dared raise my voice and ask to know what role the president I choose to give my vote in June is expected to serve during his or her four years in office.

After all, they expect me to vote a president the same day I am to vote in favor or not in favor of constitutional clauses concerning the presidential office.

The political farce continues…

Júlíana Björnsdóttir [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.