I think I explained this already: my “reviews” are considered alternative because I do not focus on judging a work of art (any kind of art!) by using specific knowledge or terminology, but by simply following the train of thoughts that the vision of that artwork creates in my brain, if it does. I do not consider myself an expert in anything, probably nothing at all. I know a tiny bit of many things, but I do not excel in a specific matter, and that may be one of the reasons why I could never find “my way”. Why am I even saying this? Because the idea of writing about The OA, a Netflix series that was released almost a year ago, has been moving around for quite a while; I had this feeling that I had to make up my mind before writing about it, and then I may be able to say something coherent. I finally realized I just needed to accept something that I was too blind (or too proud?) to see.
The OA received several contrasting comments and opinions among the experts. While I personally loved it, I can understand that the critics might be a little reluctant in showing appreciation when it is a little hard to see through, a little deeper, a story that makes no sense to the Western culture. Moreover, both plot and style are entwined, the story pops like a bubble during the season finale, leaving the spectators speechless, and those charming dance moves are definitely not accepted, or simply not understood, by many: too spiritual, too superficial, too …stupid.
As always, when a TV series catches my eye (I mean, literally), it is because of something they say, a song from the soundtrack or some other features I can relate to, easily. It is in the very first episode that the protagonist, the OA, says “It’s not really a measure of mental health to be well-adjusted in a society that’s very sick,” referring to an outburst of violence of one of her friends. For instance, violence, pain, isolation and trauma, not only suffered by the OA, but by other people as well (spectators too?) seem to be the “leitmotivs” of the whole story, making it more relatable to a more general public, well at least more to me. When you’re trained to find allegories, symbols, metaphors, (I was a student of literature for a long time, after all!) it is a little easier to go further, to look for what is hidden behind the written words because the author might have wanted to say something, although not explicitly. What I wanted to see in this case is how, by using scenes that to most are normal fiction-based images, a message of freedom, an open door from isolation, had to be cautiously portrayed: the last episode is about high school students getting assaulted while trapped in their glass-walled cafeteria, just like Prairie -the OA, was trapped in her blindness first, and glass-walled cage later. Her story, whether made up -as they want us to believe-, or not, got her through her own imprisonment, until she freed herself and the students, by teaching them a sense of community, sharing what I interpreted as ancient traditions, made of dance moves and spiritual calling: “I survived because I wasn’t alone”. (Damn, I am screwed.)
That was the moment when I opened my eyes. Social isolation is real. When a person starts avoiding social interaction well, as they say, the “shit has hit the fan”, but being an introvert, it may not be as clear as it should be. Have you ever stopped to think about this? Have you ever had a friend denying offers to go out, even to just have coffee and not necessarily to go partying all night long? Have you ever thought of a friend “what a bitch” for canceling last minute on you? Have you? Do not feel bad (yet). It’s ok. As far as you’re concerned, it is not a big deal. When does this go from “not being in the mood” to isolation? When this denial, this resistance, this rejection of interaction persists for a longer time than usual, and it is well often a consequence of a period spent in a depressive state, sometimes caused by a sense of shame, or low self-worth (rings a bell!). What many do not understand is that there are several factors that can impair social skills leading to isolation, and it is not always by choice.
Prairie survived because she was not alone. When you spend most of your time all by yourself though, you get used to be alone. It only takes time to realize that eventually being alone sucks. You start avoiding not only social interaction but professional events as well. You make up excuses and you miss that chance to meet new people, new opportunities, turning your isolation into a vicious circle of worthlessness. You register to be a reporter for a cultural festival where you really want to interview people who are successful, who made of their passions their job, and their daily inspiration, to potentially stumble upon people you used to know, to breathe fresh air and walk down the crowded roads of the historical center of a town -that you used to know, but -you- are no longer who you used to know or used to be. You choose your aloneness over opportunity. You choose vacuum over fullness. Withdrawal over moving forward. You choose to let go even of all those things you may want to keep…
I watched The OA when something was coming down the pike but it was not so evident yet. Not to me, even less to others. It definitely takes a while for me to digest things, and this took almost a year, but in my defense I can say that… well, no need to defend myself. These days, everybody is focusing on mental health, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and actual successful performances. It is not that common to hear someone talk about isolation and alienation, when I believe it is actually part of the same game. While missing all the events and the various opportunity I may have, I did not want to miss the chance to talk about it. Even if not in person, not to someone, and not actually -talking-!
Genre: they want to call it “science fiction, supernatural drama”
Created by: Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij
Starring: Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Scott Wilson, Phyllis Smith, Alice Krige, Patrick Gibson, Brendan Meyer
Watched on: Netflix
One Season, Eight Episodes binge watched in: One day.
A Russian blind special girl gets adopted by an elderly American couple. They rename her Prairie. When she turns 20 she runs away from home to go to NYC because she believes her dreams showing her father looking for her in the city. She lives homeless for a while playing the violin on the streets, with a song her father taught her when she was a child hoping he would come to her. Instead she catches the attention of a doctor who offers her a place to stay if she agrees to be a part of a research about NDE, near death experiences. She leaves with him but he keeps her into a glass walled cage in the basement of his house. For seven years, she is held captive with four other people while being drowned and revived many times. They do not realize this is happening until she teaches each one of the prisoners a move to a five part dance ritual that can help open a portal to bring people back to life or heal them. Once the doctor has proof there is life after death he gets rid of Prairie, and she finds herself stranded somewhere. Her adoptive parents recognize her and take her back home. She does not socialize much, but she befriends some high schoolers with troubled backgrounds and convinces them to meet so she can tell them her story. Here she starts calling herself the OA, the Original Angel, and she begins teaching them the dance movements so she can open the portal and save the remaining prisoners. One day there is a shooting at the high school. While the disciples do the dance moves, the OA gets shot and the season ends with a collection of books the police found under her bed with titles referring to her story, making it all appear to be made up. Like I said, alienation/isolation and trauma seem to be the foundation of this story where, in order to understand, you have to believe reality is not what it looks like. Your mind has to be wide open, your mentality has to be flexible, believe it or not, this may be just another version of the truth, a multi-faceted reality nobody knows at its whole. Crazy? Maybe. Trustworthy? Possibly. Fascinating? Definitely.