Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Immortality: Blessing or Curse?

I've been watching my DVD boxset of Highlander: The Series (instead of Netflix movies which is why I haven't shared with you any of my scintillating and biting reviews lately) and although the show has its light-hearted moments and its violence (cutting heads off and all), it has made me think about immortality and its advantages and disadvantages. In a serious kind of way…

For those completely unfamiliar with the show (or movie with Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery), I'll give you a little background. The concept is that there are Immortals among us and they can not die unless you take their head – usually another Immortal as part of The Gathering where they fight because "In the end, there can be only One." And supposedly that One could then rule the Earth, if they so chose. So, Immortals walk the earth and look like normal people except that occasionally they fight each other with swords and the winner gets to take his/her opponent's head. Gruesome though but they obviously never show that.

When I watch the show and they do the flashbacks to earlier times in MacLeod's life it seems really cool to have lived through different times and to have seen all the things he is supposed to have seen, but there are the drawbacks which make me think that living forever is not all it's cracked up to be.

Oh yeah, if you've never seen the show and are thinking that it sounds interesting, I'm warning you that there are major SPOILERS ahead.

One thing I always think about is Richie. Richie is this young man who in the first episode tries to rob MacLeod's antique store. There is some way to tell if a person is destined to be an immortal (but they don't share this secret with us), therefore MacLeod recognises this trait in Richie and he doesn't press charges and takes him under his wing to await the day that Richie dies for the first time, when MacLeod will become Richie's teacher. Richie is around 19 years old, let's say. He is killed by a drugged out mugger in Season Two, along with the love of MacLeod's 20th century life. He now has this ability to live forever and see the changes that will happen over the next hundreds of years – providing he is able to win sword fights against other Immortals when challenged. When you take a fellow Immortal's head, you receive all his/her power through The Quickening (which takes the form of lightning usually). Something in Season Six causes MacLeod to hallucinate and he ends up killing Richie, accidentally. I remember this pissed off my other friends who were Highlander fans. I think they even stopped watching. That's not my point though.

I always think that it's so sad that in theory Richie has all the time in the world to explore said world, but then his life is cut down a mere 3-4 years after he becomes an Immortal. Is that a correct use of "ironic" a la Alanis Morissette? I wonder what his life would have been like if he hadn't found MacLeod or vice versa. Of course, the producers of the show had Richie as a common thief and unlikely to change w/o MacLeod's influence, so he would have been either a petty criminal, in prison or dead – I guess to make us feel better about his death. But to have MacLeod be the one??? Dear heavens! How tortured do you want to make your lead character? And how upset do you want your fans?

Other episodes that made me think that perhaps being Immortal is not all that and a bag of chips were Courage and Rite of Passage, both from Season Three. In Courage, Richie runs into an old friend of Duncan's at Joe's Bar. Old Friend is Cullen and is drunk off his ass and he proceeds to fall on it and blames Richie. Richie reminds Cullen that they are in public when Cullen challenges him and then walks away. Cullen is tired of killing, and not just Immortals, since centuries back he was The Best Swordfighter in Europe and just like Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles was tired of killing every Tom, Dick and Harry who would challenge him to a duel. He has developed a drug and alcohol habit which become his Dutch courage. MacLeod tries to reason with Cullen about his habits and how when he drinks and does drugs and then drives he kills mortals (he had crashed his car into a bus while chasing Richie down a mountain road). In the end, the drugs make him so paranoid that he thinks Duncan is trying to kill him and Duncan ends up having to kill his old friend in order to save his own life.

It was like another episode Studies in Light from Season Two (before Richie became Immortal) in which we encounter an Immortal, Gregor, who was tired of living, but instead of drinking too much or taking illicit drugs, he was an adrenaline junkie who would get mortals to do incredibly dangerous stunts which could kill them in order to find out from them how it felt to almost die. Gregor got Richie to attempt a motorcycle trick and Richie ended up hurt. This didn't make Duncan all that happy and even though he had known Gregor for centuries and had known him as a doctor who cared deeply for his patients, MacLeod challenged Gregor which was what he wanted. When it came time for the final, fatal blow Gregor came to the realization that he didn't want to die after all.

I know I haven't discussed Rite of Passage yet, but I'll get there.

Both Courage and Studies in Light explored the downsides of living forever (or however long forever turns out to be with people trying to cut off your head) by examining the unconscious mind, and how different personalities/people deal with adversity differently. Cullen hid behind drugs and alcohol because he knew it would never kill him, so why not escape the hell he was living when he could? Gregor knew that no matter what dangerous thing he did, he wasn't going to die and it had reached a point where he felt suffocated by his own immortality. He had lost the ability to feel, to empathise, to sympathise, and he was trying to get it back by having others tell him their feelings, thoughts and emotions when they were close to death. He needed to lose that battle to MacLeod and come *this* close to losing his head to understand and regain his desire to live.

In Rite of Passage, the 18-year-old daughter, Michelle, of a mortal friend of Duncan's dies in a car accident after leaving the house in a typical teenaged snit. The friends are distraught and feel responsible for their daughter's death because they had argued right before she went off in the car. MacLeod is with the family, of course, when she drives off and when they are in hospital and get the news that she died. MacLeod knows, of course, that Michelle was an Immortal waiting to happen, so he breaks her out of the morgue – which makes for a fun time for the hospital to explain that they lost the body. Michelle doesn't understand all the ramifications of being an Immortal and only thinks that now she can party like it's 1999 all the time. She attends her own funeral (which was attended by only her parents and Duncan – which seemed a tad strange to me) and she comes to the realisation that she had treated her parents badly, etc.

When Richie died he was already on his own and had been a foster child so nobody was looking for him and nobody knew he had died other than MacLeod, so there wasn't a problem of him having to go away or having parents mourning for him.

Would I want to live forever? I just don't know. I'm sure it would be nice never to get sick or to be able to walk up stairs without my knees hurting or to sit on the floor cross-legged and still be able to stand up and walk without hobbling, but is it worth it having to leave your family and then watch them die from afar (I haven't seen an episode where an Immortal was created by dying of old age – maybe you have to die a violent death or at least an early death, as one's first death came about because of the Plague)? Or actually kill somebody by beheading them? They make MacLeod's life seem so fabulous. He has plenty of money (made God only knows where as that's never really discussed, although I think we're supposed to assume he made very savvy business decisions his whole life and invested well), good friends, two homes (one in Seacouver, Washington and one in a barge on the Seine in Paris) between which he travels regularly. He has beautiful women falling at his feet (he is pretty bloody hot, I have to say), but he's lost mortal after mortal lover and never married. Immortals can not have children which is a source of sadness for many of them. If you find a mortal to love, they will eventually grow old and how do you stay in one place where people might realise that you look the same as you did when you bought that house 20 years ago? Immortals constantly need to move around and re-invent themselves. Then there's that pesky problem of never knowing when another Immortal is going to pop up and want to fight you and if they win, they'll take your head, and if you win, you have to kill them. Is it easier to kill knowing that if you don't kill that person they're going to kill you? Or at some point do you give up and let someone take your head because it all becomes too much – like Cullen or Gregor?

Have any of you ever lifted a real sword? Those fuckers are bloody heavy. I could barely lift it, much less swing it around and honestly fight somebody and have a hope in hell of winning.

And less weighty questions: Do Immortals celebrate their birthdays every year? Or do you get tired of it after the first 100 years? Do you get tired of seeing the same face in the mirror every day?

Not all of the episodes are so heavy. The ones with Roger Daltrey are usually quite light-hearted and great fun. Episodes like Courage, Studies in Light and Right of Passage are very much worth watching as well. They just evoke different emotions and thoughts.

I guess it doesn't really matter since there aren't Immortals among us beheading each other. I just know that when I get to Season Six and Duncan kills Richie that I will be a girl and cry for a TV character who is killed. And it'll still piss me off that they felt the need to do that.


At Wednesday, 26 October, 2005, Anonymous Clarity25 said...

I've never seen "Highlander: The Series", From what you describe though.. it sounds really interesting! As for living forever. As painful as the idea of separating from the ones I love..(especially from Eric). The idea of living forever is even MORE frightening. I guess life just has to run it's course.

I hope you're having a good day and feeling well..

love, Clarity

At Wednesday, 26 October, 2005, Blogger Glen said...

Things to do with my immortality and a dash of time travel:

1. Spend a few decades in Nazareth about 2040 years ago and get involved in the local political scene while maintaining my day job as a furniture refinisher. This would allow me to get to know J.C. and solve a million questions.

2. Live in England from 1470 - 1495 so I could once and for all determine who killed the Princes in the Tower and see what kind of man Richard III was. I am a Ricardian, not a revisionist but I promise I would keep an open mind and open eyes and my chronicle would not be slanted for the Tudors or the Lancastrians.

This is getting wordy, better make it a blog entry on my own blog, sorry dear!!

At Thursday, 27 October, 2005, Blogger Jason said...

I definitely would not want to be immortal. Things would get pretty boring after the first 100 years or so. I suppose I could always reinvent myself and try new occupations, but I'm a mere mortal now and I've already determined that working sucks. I suppose that I could accumulate enough money in time to become extremely wealthy and then spend my time traveling, but I'd see everything within a pretty short span of time (in terms of infinite time). I'd probably just watch VH1's "I Love the 2170's" over and over. It would be different if I had a significant other in my life, but she'd have to be an Immortal as well. I wouldn't want to change wives/partners every 60 years or so. In a very sick sense that would be like replacing a dog or a cat after it dies. Sorry to be so morbid. I didn't watch the series on a regular basis, but I did think that the show was pretty cool.

At Thursday, 27 October, 2005, Blogger Heather said...

I've only seen the movie and what I remember is his wife's name was Heather! :)

At Thursday, 27 October, 2005, Blogger trinamick said...

Highlander is one of my all-time favorite shows. I'm currently rewatching all of them on Netflix. I had missed a few over the years, because my mom didn't want me watching it, and of course, I had to sneak around. So I'm determined to get caught up.

Oh, and my word verification was kwpornw. Some theme I should know about?

At Thursday, 27 October, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Oh, and my word verification was kwpornw. Some theme I should know about?"

That's code for Kwit Watching PORN, Willya??

(hee hee)

At Thursday, 27 October, 2005, Blogger Kathleen said...

Clarity - It's a very good show. And it doesn't hurt that it has hot men in it. ;-)

Glen - I don't think you can go back in time. ;-)

Jason - LOL over watching VH1's I love the 2170s.

Heather - I haven't seen the movie since it first came out. I should probably check it out.

Trina - Netflix rocks, doesn't it? My word verifications rarely have enough vowels to pretend to form a word - yjvxmbyd - what the hell can I do with that?

At Thursday, 27 October, 2005, Blogger Jason said...

I'm straight and all, but Adrian Paul is a hottie.


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