Friday, September 12, 2008

The Village

The late 1960s were a time of youthful rebellion against long-standing societal norms, including government institutions. Much of this was fairly mindless, and, frankly, silly, but it did inspire a fair amount of high quality output in the popular arts. The year 1967 brought us Sgt. Pepper, and debut albums from The Doors and The Velvet Underground, along with the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” In the cinema, there was Bonnie and Clyde and Cool Hand Luke and Belle du Jour.

The same year also brought the short-lived TV series The Prisoner. Conceived by and starting Patrick McGoohan, the show chronicled the attempts by a former spy to leave “The Village,” a seemingly-bucolic town where everyone was under constant surveillance and from which there was no escape. As “Number 6,” McGoohan wrestled with the question of which side his captors worked for, while maintaining his defiant attitude toward them and resisting their increasingly desperate efforts to learn his secrets. “I am not a number – I am a free man!” he bellows at the leader of The Village, Number 2, who only laughs at McGoohan.

The show became a cult favorite (and is reportedly being remade for 2009 in a six-episode series), no doubt in part because of the clever plots and battles of wits between No. 6 and those positioned against him. (In one episode, No. 6 “escaped” back to London, even returning to his old offices to tell the story of his captivity to an old colleague, only to find that his escape was orchestrated by No. 2 and that “London” was really a soundstage back in The Village and his old colleague was working for No. 2.) But the show was also an allegory about self-determination and the dangers of authority, a theme that fit in well with the late 1960s, but whose message resonates even today.

The Village is a set of three sims developed by Catty Erde that recreate the look and feel of the show, from the seaside houses to Rover, the white ball that acts as a sentry to prevent escapes and discipline the defiant. Though neither Victorian nor Steampunk in its aesthetic, I see The Village as a kindred spirit, combining the well-scrubbed look of the town and polite repartee of its residents with a darker undercurrent. In the Steampunk genre, this darker undercurrent reflects the downsides of industrialization – the dark satanic mills, exploitation of children in sweatshops – as well as the dangers and triumphs of the men and women of science, toiling alone, for good or for evil, and using science to reshape the world around them. In The Village, the darker undercurrent is the constant struggle to maintain one’s individuality and freedom (whether physical freedom or merely intellectual freedom) against the totalitarian forces of the government (or, more generally, against those in power). Though no doubt Patrick McGoohan would object to the comparison, his creation stands along side the works of Ayn Rand as a warning against the tendencies of socialism to crush individual liberties. Or, if one prefers more modern references, The Prisoner is a reminder that, no, one does not need or want a village to raise a child.

Coming into the village:

An aerial view:

Encounter with Rover:

A little psychedelia, befitting the period:

Nothing like a copy of the Tally Ho, the village daily:

"Who are you?" "I am the new Number Two."

There is only one way out of the village:

Hat tip to LadyStargazer Graves for mentioning the sim in ISC chat.

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