Wild Palms  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Wild Palms is a six hour mini-series, which first aired in 1993 on the ABC Network in the United States. From its beginning, "Wild Palms" was conceived as an Event Miniseries, with a limited amount of episodes.

Produced by Oliver Stone, and Bruce Wagner — who was also the writer — Wild Palms was a sci-fi drama about the dangers of brainwashing through technology and drugs. It was based on a comic strip written by Wagner and illustrated by Julian Allen first published in 1990 in Details magazine. The cast included several famous actors/actresses.

Contents

References in Wild Palms

Non-fictitious references

While the comic strip makes clear references from Senator Kreutzer to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, the series gives only allusions. Hubbard publicised a psychological technique, "Dianetics", which is practised in his "Church of Scientology". Kreutzer's technique is called "Synthiotics", his religious organization "Church of Synthiotics". Kreutzer's organization has a naval subsidiary called "The Floating World", so has the "Church of Scientology", called "Sea Org". In their reviews of the series, both The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly believed seeing resemblances.

Shortly after Harry joins the "Wild Palms Group", competing TV stations file a lawsuit against the senator's company, arguing that his new exclusive broadcasting technique "Mimecom" would create a technical monopoly. The lawsuit refers to the 1948 Paramount Consent Decree which forced major Hollywood studios to sell their movie theater chains to liquidate the existing oligopoly.

During a conversation, Kreutzer explains that his mother died as victim of Executive Order 9066 because she had Japanese ancestors. In 1942, U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed EO 9066 which led to the internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese living along the Pacific coast of the United States in so called "War Relocation Camps".

A manipulated video showing Harry killing his wife Grace (who was in fact murdered by her mother Josie) is announced to be broadcast on several TV channels. CNN alone is mentioned by name. After the broadcast, Harry contacts Josie one last time, sarcastically suggesting that she should start a weekly TV show featuring the murder of a surprise guest. As the first two attendants, he proposes ancient Roman dictator Caesar and controversial union leader Jimmy Hoffa who disappeared in 1975.

Artistic and other references

Literature

  • The poem Of Mere Being by Wallace Stevens is repeatedly used as a mantra by "Synthiotics" members.
  • Running to Paradise by W. B. Yeats is, among others, quoted by Senator Kreutzer in conversation with Harry Wyckoff: "The wind is old and still at play / While I must hurry upon my way, / For I am running to Paradise."
  • Comedian Stitch Walken quotes a chapter title ("The Pool of Tears") from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland: "Down, down, down through the pool of tears."
  • Grace alludes to her life as the Diary of a Mad Housewife -- a very popular 1960s novel by Sue Kaufman, which deals with the crack-up of the titular character.
  • The hologram of Dex Wyckoff recites Shakespeare's Hamlet: "It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you."
  • When given a precious dagger by Eli Levitt, Harry quotes The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
  • The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot features Kreutzer's last words: "This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper."
  • O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman is repeatedly alluded to and recited by the "Friends".

Other books are referred to in various dialogue, these include Neuromancer, The Illustrated Man, The Day of the Locust, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Emperor's New Mind and Grimms' Fairy Tales.

Music

Other songs referred to are Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", and "19th Nervous Breakdown" (as "18th Nervous Breakdown") by The Rolling Stones.

Film

  • Reminiscences of Seconds and Marathon Man can be found in Harry's interrogation scene.
  • Film star Tabba Schwartzkopf has recently headlined a 21st century remake of Magnificent Obsession.
  • Eli Levitt's death scene resembles the execution scene in Alphaville.
  • Upon being released after her "fifty-seventh" facelift, Josie facetiously refers to her nurse as Cruella DeVille.
  • Harry and Grace's kidnapped son, Peter, visits his mother in the rehabilitation centre, asking if she has been given the same treatment as Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit.
  • Oliver Stone appears as himself as a guest at a late night show, discussing his film JFK.
  • Rebel Without a Cause is playing while Harry and Peter meet in a cinema.
  • Early on in the first episode, Tully Woiwode and his sister discuss One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Brad Dourif (Chickie Levitt) debuted in this film.

References in dialogue or images can also be found to From Here to Eternity, Bride of Frankenstein, The Eagle has Landed, Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, Kwaidan, The Shining, Goldfinger and the TV shows Star Trek and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Visual arts

  • While describing the random seizing of a man in a restaurant, Harry points out "[it] looked like one of those Robert Longo paintings".
  • Tully Woiwode is claimed to have sold "deconstructed" Hockney paintings.
  • After Kreutzer has supposedly died, his son Coty states that he saw his body floating over the roof "like a Chagall".

Religion

  • While being visited by Josie, Chickie Levitt prays the Jewish Kaddish.
  • As seen throughout the series, the cult of Synthiotics is a fictionalized variation on some of the themes of Scientology and its inception is quite similar, with Kreutzer being partially modelled after L. Ron Hubbard.
  • When asked about the effect the "Go chip" implantation will have on Kreutzer, his sister Josie explains, "he'll be like Christ".
  • Buddhism is referenced numerous ways throughout the series. Several characters mutter, "Everything must go," an allusion to detachment. Hungry Ghosts, another Buddhist concept, is referenced in dialogue and by an episode title.

Other

The recurring rhinoceros image is a symbol used by Keutzer's "Synthiotics" associates: Kreutzer's sister Josie tells his son Coty early on not to be afraid of the rhino. Later, Coty leaves one toy rhinoceros at the site of Gavin Whitehope's murder, another one is stuffed into the mouth of a murdered "Friends" collaborator. In Eugène Ionesco's play Rhinoceros, human individuals turn into rhinoceroses, symbolizing conformity and affirmation of a totalitarian mass movement. To character Paige Katz, the rhino also represents maternity.

Thematically related works

In David Cronenberg's film Videodrome (1983), lenses manufacturer "Spectacular Optical" plans to change the viewers' perception of reality with their "Videodrome" program and forces TV station owner Max Renn to hand over his "Channel 83" for broadcast. In Wild Palms, the "Wild Palms Group" uses the "Mimecom" technique on its own "Channel 3" to manipulate their audience. In Videodrome, the organisation behind "Spectacular Optical" wants to release the viewers' potential aggressive energies and reinstate a strong North America which is currently "rotting from the inside". In Wild Palms, televised virtual realities are used to draw the audience's attention away from the state's increasing totalitarianism. In Videodrome, "Channel 83" owner Renn finally turns against the conspirators, killing their chief executive and shouting, "Death to Videodrome! Long live the New Flesh!" In Wild Palms, a manipulated video shows Harry murdering his wife Grace, proclaiming "Long live the Friends! Death to New Realism!"

In Philip K. Dick's novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), consumers immerse into an artificial soap opera world, which appears virtually real by taking a drug called Can-D. In Wild Palms, the pseudo-realistic effect is enhanced by a drug called "Mimezine". In The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, a new drug appears on the market which enables its supplier, Palmer Eldritch, to affect the consumer's perception and personally appear in his altered reality. In Wild Palms, senator Kreutzer wants the "Go chip" implantated into his body which, as his sister Josie explains, will turn him into a hologram and enable him to enter everyone's dreams.

In 2014, Cronenberg and Wagner collaborated on the film Maps to the Stars, starring Julianne Moore and John Cusack, which makes several references to the Wild Palms universe, including pieces of dialogue and certain situations and character traits.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Wild Palms" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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