Friday, October 7, 2016

Bingeworthy: Cleverman

"The Aboriginal people of Australia are the longest surviving culture on earth with over 60,000 years of stories known as The Dreaming. The Dreaming is the spiritual realm that binds the past, present and future together. It is inhabited by incredible creatures and spirits. At the head of this realm is the Cleverman, a powerful man who is the conduit between The Dreaming and the real world."

Opening credits of Cleverman on Sundance TV

In the world of Cleverman, a mysterious group of ancient creatures known as "Hairypeople" - who have lived peaceably and secretly alongside humans for millennia - have been discovered in contemporary Australia. As is often the case with new and different people, they are not warmly received by the general public or the Australian government. Hairies are deemed "subhuman," and are required to live in "The Zone," an undesirable part of the city. As Hairies are stronger, faster, and, well, hairier than humans,  the powers that be are both interested in and fearful of their potential. Adding to the fear and distrust of Hairies - a series of gruesome murders are terrorizing the inhabitants of The Zone. 

Who can bring peace to this world? Who will advocate for the Hairies and protect the people of The Zone? Of course it's the Cleverman of Aboriginal lore. He's old, though, and seems ready to pass the mantle on to one of his two nephews: Warru, a human/subhuman activist who has been groomed for the role his entire life, or his half-brother Koen (who is also half-Aboriginal) who makes a living exploiting terrified Hairypeople for his own gain. The choice seems obvious - or does it?

Cleverman has many layers. It explores timeless mythical themes such as strife between two brothers, reluctant heroes, developing virtue, supernatural anointing, and of course the ancient story of the Cleverman & the Dreaming (probably new to most non-Aussies - it was to me!). It also includes classic sci-fi tropes and ethical quandaries around issues of genetics, reproductive politics, the limits of science, etc. And, you don't have to dig very deep to find excellent conversation starters about immigration, racial and ethnic identity, class warfare and xenophobia. At its heart, however, Cleverman is a superhero origin story that I hope to follow for many seasons.

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