Friday, April 24, 2015

Idea map 1: True Detective, general.

Pic of the initial idea map. This is what told me there was a book in all this.

The inner ring of ideas:

True Detective (I'm not italicizing it, it's too laborious for this kind of work) explores the nature of the detective through detective fiction tropes, through its episodic development of the detective fiction tropes as well as other tropes, through references to Lovecraft and Chambers, the author of The King in Yellow, and behind all this, the idea of Carcosa as both place and idea.

True Detective offers a wealth of detective fiction tropes. Just a few: Visual tropes, sexual tropes, and espionage fiction tropes (a subgenre of detective fiction); sacrifice and ascension; time and non-time; day/night, light/darkness, clarity/obscurity; and others (I've another idea map for detective fiction). These tropes form a structure that True Detective plays with and on, incorporating the artist from Chambers's work and the amateur, and often unintentional, investigator from Lovecraft's work into the figure of the artist-investigator, fully realized in the form of Rustin Cohle. 

So what is the nature of the detective in True Detective? The title points us in no certain direction. What, exactly, is a true detective? Is it someone who works on a police force? Is it a private investigator or gumshoe? Is it someone who adheres to a code, and if so, what's the code? Is it someone who behaves ethically, and if so, what are those ethics? Is it someone whose investigation is as lurid as the tabloid-style title that True Detective evokes? 

In the season 1, the buddy cop trope gets exploded. Cohle is seduced by Martin Hart's wife yet never claims to be a victim; Hart and Cohle don't have any kind of bonding moment until the season is nearly finished and Cohle is off the squad; the two detectives are not confidants, even though they evidently have confidence in each other when trouble arises; no matter how much they drink together, Cohle is uninterested in bonding with Hart, even when Hart's wife has left him over his extramarital affairs. Despite all this, during the two shootout scenes--the LeDoux encampment and the Childress homestead--there is never any question but that these two will fight and save each other, come what may. Is that, then, what a true detective is? Are all other loyalties minimized, and is this the only one that signifies what the phrase means? If so, then this is more of a wartime definition, such as that of a soldier with his unit, and not a peacetime definition.

The detective versus the investigator. This is an idea that's been around since at least Auguste Dupin in Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841), when Dupin outwits the poorly trained and dog-leashed policemen with little effort. This is especially the case in "The Purloined Letter" (1844), which contrasts Dupin's methods with the plodding, methodical police work. Similarly, Cohle as the investigator, monkish and brilliant (that's yet another idea map), has capabilities well beyond those of Marty Hart, whose real skills are in the basic legwork of police investigation. We're put on notice that the age of privileging either the detective on the police force or the investigator working independently (in Cohle's case, even as he's on a squad) is behind us. It takes both kinds of effort to solve today's crimes.

Yet what a contrast Cohle and Hart are.

Hart: Policeman, morally and sexually corrupt, utter womanizer despite his understanding of the consequences, yet he fits in with the other policemen and with society in general. He's the image of the hardworking father on good terms with his colleagues.

Cohle: Monastic, monadic, Cohle is the consummate investigator. He lacks moral and sexual corruption to the degree that Hart possesses it. Early in the season, Cohle is desperate to find some way to sleep, the consequence of the death of his toddler daughter not long before. His daughter's death fundamentally changed him, and although those changes made Cohle's life nearly impossible, it is because of those changes that he ultimately is able to solve the murders committed by Childress and the cult. Cohle does not fit in with society except with criminals when he works undercover; this fact does not trouble him at all. 

The coda of corruption is the primary structure of the narrative. True Detective has musical roots, with sections playing, returns to previous points (music and memory), and the final resolution--the coda--worked out in the present day of the narrative. These various sections of the narrative build in two directions: one, where the detectives Gilbough and Papania, the internal investigators, are convinced that Cohle is the murderer, and two, where Cohle and Hart gather information over the course of years to track down Errol Childress, the real murderer. Without Cohle's skill as an artist-investigator, however, Gilbough and Patania would have had little to go on. The original murder of Dora Lange would have been unsolved, and the evidence of the existence of the cultists and their political allies would never have been documented. What makes this happen is the transmission of corruption by and through the artist, Cohle, as he investigates the many murders and documents his findings. Without his sensitivity as an artist combined with his skill as an investigator, the murders would have continued.

Carcosa as place versus idea, south Louisiana as place versus idea. As we discover in the episode 7, "After You've Gone," Miss Delores knows of Carcosa.

"You know Carcosa?" she asks Cohle.

"What is it?"
"Him who eats Time. Him robes is a wind of invisible voices...Rejoice. Death is not the end. Rejoice! Death is not the end! You know Carcosa! Rejoice! Carcosa!"
 It's interesting that both Carcosa and south Louisiana are unquestioned. Even when things are at their worst--when the evidence comes out that the Carcosa cult is backed by the most powerful political individuals in the state--no one questions whether Carcosa exists, and no one questions why these powerful political figures are backing the cult. It seems that being able to rape and murder young girls to ensure one's ascension is some kind of understandable explanation. 

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