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A Head Full of Ghosts(3)
Paul Tremblay

I say, “My Marjorie—” And then I pause because I don’t know how to explain to her that my older sister hasn’t aged at all in fifteen-plus years and there never was a before everything happened.

CHAPTER 2

THE LAST FINAL GIRL

Yeah, it’s just a BLOG! (How retro!) Or is THE LAST FINAL GIRL the greatest blog ever!?!? Exploring all things horror and horrific. Books! Comics! Video games! TV! Movies! High school! From the gooey gory midnight show cheese to the highfalutin art-house highbrow. Beware of spoilers. I WILL SPOIL YOU!!!!!

BIO: Karen Brissette

Monday, November, 14, 20 _ _

The Possession, Fifteen Years Later: Episode 1 (Part 1)

Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe that everyone’s favorite (well, my favorite) reality TV crash ’n burn The Possession originally aired fifteen years ago. Damn, fifteen years ago, right? Oh those heady days of NSA surveillance, torrent, crowdfunding, and pre-collapse economy!

You’re going to need a bigger boat for my grand deconstruction of the six-episode series. There’s so much to talk about. I could write a dissertation on the pilot alone. I can’t stand it anymore! You can’t stand it anymore! Karen, stop teasing usssssss!!!!

Insert authorial voice here: As late as the mid-2000s a midseason replacement in the fall/holiday season meant the show was being dumped. But with the success of Duck Dynasty and many other cable networks’ so-called “redneck reality” TV shows, any time slot could be the time for a surprise hit reality show.

(aside: these “redneck reality”—a bourgeois term if there ever was one—shows filled the lack of blue-collar sitcoms or dramas . . . remember Green Acres or The Dukes of Hazzard, nah, me either)

The Discovery Channel bet big on The Possession, though at first glance it didn’t exactly fit the redneck mold. The show was set (yes, I’m using the word set as I’m treating the show like fiction, and that’s because it was, like all the other reality TV, fiction. Duh.) in the well-to-do suburb Beverly, Massachusetts. Too bad the Barrett family didn’t conveniently live in the town next door, Salem, where, you know, they burned all them witches back in ye olde days. I hereby request the sequel be made and set in Salem, please! I kid, but they might as well have set The Possession in a town that infamously tortured “improper” young women to death, right? But I digress . . . So, yeah, at first glance, the show had no rednecks, no backwaters, no ponds with snapping turtles, no down-home, folksy wisdom, or dudes in giant beards and overalls. The Barretts were a stereotypically middle-class family at a time when the middle class was rapidly disappearing. Their fading middle-classness was a huge part of the show’s appeal to blue-collar folks and the down-and-outers. So many Americans thought and continue to think they’re middle class even when they’re not, and they are desperate to believe in the middle class and the values of bourgeois capitalism.

So here came this 1980s sitcom-esque family (think Family Ties, Who’s the Boss?, Growing Pains) who were under siege from outside forces (both real and fictional), and where The Possession nailed that blue-collar sweet spot was with John Barrett, an unemployed father in his early forties. The family’s financial situation, like so many other folks, was in the shitter, shall we say. Barrett had worked for the toy manufacturer Barter Brothers for nineteen years but was laid off after Hasbro bought out the company and closed down the eighty-year-old factory in Salem. (Salem again! Where are all the witches at?) John wasn’t college educated and had worked at the factory since he was nineteen, starting out on the assembly lines, then working his way up through the place, climbing that toy ladder until he was finally in charge of the mail room. He’d received thirty-eight weeks of severance pay for his double-decade of servitude, which he’d managed to stretch out into a year and a half of living wage. There was only so much stretching the Barretts could do to maintain two daughters and a big house and real estate tax bill and all the hope and promise and yearning that comes with the middle-class lifestyle.

The pilot episode opens with John’s tale of woe. What a brilliant choice by the writers/producers/show-sters! Opening with one of the many supposed possession-reenactments would’ve been too cliché, and frankly, too goofy. Instead they gave us grainy black-and-white photos of John’s old factory in its days of prosperity, photos of the workers inside happily making their foam and rubber toys. Then they cut to a montage with the images flickering by almost subliminally quick: DC politicians, angry Occupy Wall Street protestors, Tea-Party rallies, unemployment charts and graphs, chaotic courtrooms, ranting talking heads, crying people filing out of the Barter Brothers factory. Within the first minute of the series, we’d already witnessed the new and all-too-familiar American economic tragedy. The show established a sense of gravity, along with an air of unease by using only realism and by first introducing John Barrett: the new and neutered postmillennial male; a living symbol of the patriarchal breakdown of society and, gosh darn it, he symbolized it well, didn’t he?

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