Perception

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I just saw the pilot for Perception. I like the idea that they're trying to portray a schizophrenic crime-solver sympathetically, in the mold of Monk for OCD but without the comedic elements. It's intriguing enough to want to see the other episodes that have aired. I like the main character and several supporting cast members. There was a nice moment during his neuroscience class when he presented an argument for skepticism pretty much the way a philosopher would, a reminder schizophrenic author Philip K. Dick had skeptical philosophical themes in his writing, partly from his neurological condition and the impossibility to detect from within a hallucinatory experience that it is not reality, since it appears just as real as anything else. This is what schizophrenia really is like for many who experience it. I liked that he has to have a handler who lives with him and follows him around on campus to tell him when someone he's interacting with is real or not. (But they don't raise the question, at least yet, of what happens if he hallucinates the handler's response to his questions.)

But two things bothered me. One is that they're trying to portray a schizophrenic's hallucinations as his subconscious mind trying to make sense of things his conscious mind can't make sense of. I know it's popular to emphasize the increased abilities that sometimes come with a disability, and these increased abilities are genuinely present in some cases with some disabilities (sometimes often present, sometimes very rarely). This is true with diminished senses and increased other senses, and it's true of some increased cognitive abilities for some with autism, But this looks like a wholly-concocted special ability for schizophrenia, which as far as I've been able to discern is not a "different" neurological condition with some pros and many cons but is in fact simply a mental illness, with no pros. I may be wrong about that, and experts can feel free to correct me if I am, but I've never even heard of something like this, and it does an injustice to what is good in the neurodiversity movement to pretend there are good elements to a condition where there aren't any, while bolstering what's insidious about that movement by acting like every neurological condition has to have positive features, when that's hardly the truth.

But there was one scene that struck me as being even more ridiculous, and I very nearly stopped the episode and refused to give the show another chance. I stuck it out, and I do intend to watch more episodes, but if they keep this sort of thing up I may not continue. They had a character who was aphasic, which is a varied condition involving brain damage and various linguistic inabilities. Sometimes it's extreme enough to involve a total inability to recognize others' attempts to communicate with language, and this character had that kind of aphasia. But apparently in the Perception universe people with extreme aphasia can tell when someone is lying, even though they have no idea what they're saying, and they find it extremely humorous. So this character was basically a human lie detector who never knew what the lies being spoken were (and may not have even known they were lies, just the the non-verbals involved, or something about the pattern of sounds maybe, was very, very funny.

Not only is this totally absurd, but they even had to bring out the tired example of Bush's 16-words State of the Union moment, where the political left successfully recast his accurate reporting of the conclusions of British intelligence about Saddam Hussein's attempt to get uranium from the West African nation of Niger as an outright lie by Bush. Factcheck.org argued that Bush had indeed not lied, even if something he had said was wrong, and that there was even evidence (which I consider much stronger than they seem to take it to be) to suggest that Saddam Hussein had made such an attempt (from the very reports of Joe Wilson, who was one of most prominent accusers of Bush as a liar). Putting this example next to Bill Clinton's moments of denying his affair with Monica Lewinski is pretty low, especially at a time when there's no political gain to be had by continuing this false narrative about Bush as a liar.

I was hoping that a show intending to portray a schizophrenic genius crime solver would provide a nice guide to what schizophrenia is really like, without the fantasy elements they seem to want to add. It doesn't help that they're immune to critical evaluation of what their political group-think partners tell them. That doesn't give me as high hopes as I'd had when I first heard of the show, but I will continue to give it

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Tried it but won't be continuing to watch. I just can't get behind the idea that these crimes are solved subconsciously. And personally I don't like shows where the cops simply couldn't function without this non-cop. I enjoy Castle or White Collar where the efforts of very competent police are enhanced by specialists. I don't enjoy shows where the cops just have to sit around and wait for someone else to solve this for them.

If it continues like the first episode, it's not that the crimes are being solved subconsciously. It's that his subconscious tells him that the crime isn't solved fully, and he needs to use his conscious mind to continue to figure it out. That's not as bad as being solved subconsciously. I could see myself getting annoyed really quickly if they actually do something like that. I do intend to keep watching it, at least for a few episodes, but it isn't going at the top of the list when the competition is Warehouse 13, Alphas, Falling Skies, Burn Notice, and Covert Affairs (not to mention catching up on Doctor Who and its spinoffs).

That catch-a-lie scene was exactly the moment that I turned to my wife and said "if they do junk like this anymore I'm not going to be watching it."

It was totally one of those bits when writers preach through the story they're airing on the screen. It's like when I was watching Camelot and Merlin confessed being an avowed atheist--as if he's progressive.

It's fine when they work actual arguments into the story, where what happens illustrates some point or where the characters discuss the implications of something and give reasons. A lot of Law & Order episodes have stuff like that, and I don't mind that. But when they misrepresent one side or when they act as if anyone who holds to some pretty common view is a complete idiot and bigot, when the view is question isn't any such thing, without giving any reasons for the other side, that's really annoying. I remember a few Stargate Atlantis episodes that nicely worked in some implicit arguments for finishing the war you started and not leaving the people whose lives involve suffering, because of your actions, without your help to fight the enemy you've inadvertently brought to them. I'm not sure if the writers intended it to be a parallel to Iraq, but it serves as a good example for some of the issues raised in that discussion. That wasn't annoying, and they did present both sides of the argument, even if in the end they endorsed the right view (that pulling out would be immoral). If they'd taken the other view, they would have presented negative consequences for it, since there are negative consequences both ways.

What doesn't work well is when the example in question is so obviously not parallel that it's ridiculous, like when the last brilliant season of Enterprise was marred in the first of two ways (the second was the awful finale) by trying to compare the Vulcan occupation by a Romulan spy with Iraq. It was such a clear case of an evil dude starting a war for purely selfish purposes and not having any of the interests of the combatants in mind, whereas Iraq had several arguments that did take into account the best interests of all people, including the people of Iraq. Yet it was clear to me that the writers wanted us to draw that parallel.

But I think this case was much, much worse than that sort of thing. It wasn't just having a character spout of controversial views that would offend someone. The success of the story depends on those controversial views being true, it could have been pulled off without that reference at all, and those controversial views have been decisively refuted by a bi-partisan source without the vast majority of people who hold those views ever even bothering to investigate the truth of the claim. It's such an obvious case of deliberate ignorance, wishful thinking, and group-think that any attempt to perpetuate it is offensive to the entire notion of truth-seeking, and putting into otherwise-enjoyable fiction that will be watched by people on both sides of the relatively-even political split in this country is just plain evil.

The episode made me wonder what in George Bush's voice clued anyone in that he was lying. I could not hear intonation or see none verbal signals of lying. I appreciate you pointing to the factChecking.org sight. That was a big help.

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