Consciousness can be raised through any medium, including one that can cost over $100 a month.
Claire Fallon – Nov 16,2018
Socialist prestige TV is here. Yes, consciousness can be raised through any medium, including one that costs over $100* a month, like premium cable. Bit by bit, anti-capitalist sentiments have been worming their way into the most vital cultural product of our era, from Samin Nosrat’s Netflix cooking show “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” to, most recently, HBO’s new series adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, “My Brilliant Friend.”
The series, like the first novel in Ferrante’s quartet, is told by Elena “Lenù” Greco, an older woman reflecting on her girlhood in a working-class neighborhood in 1950s Naples. In her retelling, little Lenù befriends Raffaela “Lila” Cerullo, the daughter of a cobbler and the cleverest girl in her class. Lenù, also a top student, is impressed by her rival’s brains, but by also her rebellious spirit and courage; early on, Lila shows little patience for bullies or social norms. The two become inseparable as children and cling to a fraught but profound friendship even as, through adolescence and young adulthood, their paths diverge: Lenù continues her education and grows more detached from the mundane violence of their neighborhood. Lila is forced to give up formal schooling and becomes immersed in attempts to better her condition, both through socialist ideology and schemes to design and sell superior shoes from her father’s shop.
If Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels had been published under a man’s name, if they had featured a friendship between two poor but clever boys from Naples or perhaps if they’d come to the U.S. just a few years later, conversations about the quartet would have begun with its keen-eyed explorations of Italian politics ― specifically, socialist organizing. It’s a central, inescapable concern of the series. In a Jacobin article this April, Dawn Tefft praised Ferrante as “the organizer’s organizer.” The later books, set amid the political upheaval of Italy in the 1970s, dwell upon the logistics of organizing factory workers, the roles of the privileged and oppressed in activist spaces, the urgency and crushing impossibility of revolution.