By mentally typing my departed friend Kody as an iconoclast, my mind immediately associated this term with 1970s movies – my favoured golden age of film. While the change began in the late 60s, and probably ended shortly after Star Wars in 1977, this era is probably best characterized by what became known as anti-heroes. Serpico. Don Corleone. Popeye Doyle. People you probably wouldn’t like if you knew them, but who made astonishing journeys of self discovery.

And as the world became more socially aware, those journey were often fraught with paranoia and conspiracies, as the motivations and machinations of business and political organizations were exposed. While there were some decided left wing leanings in many of these films, the underlying message was that it was time to examine the social structure we took for granted as good. The beauty of this wave of movie-making, was that it generally managed to combine entertainment value into these morality tales. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest was a raucous romp in an insane asylum – which also exposed draconian methodology, abuse of power, and the loss of self. All the President’s Men, while focusing on political shenanigans recently ripped from the headlines, was at heart a detective story.

But more important than this was the evolution of character. Our protagonists were no longer merely steely-eyed lantern jawed heroes. We had quirky neurotics, philanderers, people who drank and drugged too much, who resisted authority, who were surly and unsocial – all characteristics we see daily. And best of all – they didn’t always – or even usually – have to overcome these characteristics in order to achieve something meaningful. Their story arced without full redemption. Serpico and Michael Corleone were never redeemed, although their actions were validated.

The last ten years of cable television have marked a similar trend in characterization. Finally breaking away from stereotypical doctors and lawyers we have a new dawn of iconoclasts: Tony Soprano, Dexter Morgan, Walter White. We have Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, and of course The Sopranos. The stories stretch across an entire season – or multiple seasons instead of in self-contained, isolated hours. This, to me, is an equivalent time for television to my beloved 70s on celluloid. And of course, while there are occasional exceptions, movie programming has reverted to committee-penned franchises. The tide has turned, for now.

And while it has, until Breaking Bad returns in a couple months, I will continue watching 70s movies like Network, Taxi Driver, The Parallax View, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, Mean Streets, One Flew Over….

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