psychology

Rev: Luther – Season 1 (2010)

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There’s something interesting about a man plummeting down to earth. Will he survive? Where will his body land? What kind of person was he? Was he competent at his job? Who were his loved ones?

To be honest, I’m more accustomed to TV detectives who were methodical, unemotional, and high functioning sociopaths—Sherlock—than emotionally raw detectives for whom life unravels completely during every single episode. But that’s why Luther was so good for it wasn’t really a show about crime solving but a psychological profile about a man who is a breathing and moving target.

Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) John Luther, played well by Idris Elba, had just spent months in the psychiatric ward after he allowed a serial killer to plummet from a factory walkway. The guy didn’t die though and his possible recovery and testimony hung over Luther’s career like the Sword of Damocles. But, back from the shrinks, because he’s so good at his job, Luther again threw himself back into the fray with his questionable—end justify the means—methods, along with the people around him.

Now, would any of the loved ones in detective Luther’s life have come to harm if he wasn’t a cop, a man who throws himself into the sights of danger? No. In the real world, Spider-Man sans the super powers, technology, and secret identity would have just been Peter Parker and he probably would’ve been killed alongside Uncle Ben and Aunt May would’ve have died alone in grief. And for most of us, the greatest danger in our little lives is whether or not we will be punished for being late for work or school. However, dead man walking, Luther survived… Luther persisted and earned but a pyrrhic victory.

There are several other tropes to gleam from Luther that I don’t have the time to cover here: tall-poppy syndrome, the explosive time bomb that is Alice Morgan (Luther’s new best friend), psychological relapse, PTSD, police cover ups, police corruption, how low can you get, warrantless methods, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

There were two things that I didn’t like about Luther, one that I hope the subsequent seasons rectified.

  1. First, was its seemingly limited scope. London is a huge canvass to present a show and I felt like the first season didn’t do enough with it and its denizens.
  2. Second, somewhat dumb plot holes or failures of reasoning that led to Zoe and Mark being constantly victimized.

Watching season two, now.

link: “I Don’t Want To Be Right”

I Don’t Want to Be Right,” a fascinating read by Maria Konnikova (The New Yorker):

It’s the realization that persistently false beliefs stem from issues closely tied to our conception of self that prompted Nyhan and his colleagues to look at less traditional methods of rectifying misinformation. Rather than correcting or augmenting facts, they decided to target people’s beliefs about themselves. In a series of studies that they’ve just submitted for publication, the Dartmouth team approached false-belief correction from a self-affirmation angle, an approach that had previously been used for fighting prejudice and low self-esteem. The theory, pioneered by Claude Steele, suggests that, when people feel their sense of self threatened by the outside world, they are strongly motivated to correct the misperception, be it by reasoning away the inconsistency or by modifying their behavior. For example, when women are asked to state their gender before taking a math or science test, they end up performing worse than if no such statement appears, conforming their behavior to societal beliefs about female math-and-science ability. To address this so-called stereotype threat, Steele proposes an exercise in self-affirmation: either write down or say aloud positive moments from your past that reaffirm your sense of self and are related to the threat in question. Steele’s research suggests that affirmation makes people far more resilient and high performing, be it on an S.A.T., an I.Q. test, or at a book-club meeting.