Being Human (2009)

Posted by Matt Foley on January 26, 2009 in Blog tagged with

The latest manifestation of the Gothic on British telly is explicitly about the modern human condition. When I say human condition I do not use the term in a flighty sense. After all modern life is often mundane; but of course there are flashes of intensity. Both these binaries are staged in Being Human (2009), but only the intensity is Gothic.

The series is about me, you and your friends and yet it’s three main protagonists each inhabit a Gothic condition: a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf. All in their twenties, and sharing a house, they mirror the domestic pattern of a generation. Naturally this allows the narrative to generate some giggles (and conversely some tumbelweed moments) by exploiting the comic situations that can occur in the modern quotidian. However, such comedy is emotively balanced with the isolation that each of the protagonists feels due to their monstrosity or spectrality.

In a sense, it is the isolation they share that brings the characters together. They attempt to cover their implicit differences, the tropes that each of their Gothic conditions signify, with the palliative care of communal cups of tea and emotional tete-a-tetes. However, their conditions do frustrate their relationships in extreme ways, particularly in the case of the werewolf George and the vampire Mitchell, and the staging of such differences brings about the flashes of intensity in the narrative that make it sporadically compelling. Such a flash is generated by George changing to a werewolf in front of the ghost Annie:

Above is the preview trailer for the series on youtube. It is strangely juxtaposed by the understated comedic staging of its counterpart which was aired on T.V:

These trailers, however, give you an idea of the light and shade of the piece as a whole. The latter trailer makes the series seem much tamer than it actually is and if I had only seen it, and not the gory preview, I probably would not have bothered to watch the show. This probably just reflects my taste for neck-munching and bloody transformations though. I would, however, recommend the series as the most contemporary staging of the Gothic in British culture. It certainly portrays what those in our generation – who have brains – are coming to already realise, that the beast (drives, unsociability, libido) is internal and not in some external Other. There remains, however, an unwillingness for these characters to reveal themselves to society as a whole, warts and all, and this is suggestive of a difference in what can be portrayed in the modern home environment and what the social contract in general allows to be seen.

The series is currently on BBC iPlayer and will be repeated on BBC 3 a lot during the week. The times can be found here

The original pilot show, with a slightly different cast, is also on youtube.

There is a lot to discuss, such as how each Gothic character trope is constructed, and I hope that anyone who sees the programme will put their thoughts below.

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