I thought about what some of the most popular shows have been, and what I experienced in The Goldfinch reminded me of them. The first that came to mind was the wildly popular "Dexter", exalting a serial killer that was okay because he only tortured other serial killers. Justified torture and murder. I watched much of the first season, couldn't take it, the horribleness of it, so stopped watching. Then there was "Breaking Bad", a chemist using his knowledge to manufacture a seriously good product. It devolved, as it should have, into the most horrid storyline and monstrous people. I lasted through season one a couple more episodes. Had to stop, couldn't take it.
There was "Sons of Anarchy", so good. Even wrote about it here when it first started. It was brilliant. It too generated into horribleness. Bad people making worse decisions, bad treatment of loved ones, murder, betrayal. There were no good people, no good actions in the end, unless it was the worse of the worse getting murdered. I hung out to the end of this series, hoping some good resolution would happen. Based on "Hamlet" I knew all would die, but good grief, how they got there was appalling. Then in the end (spoiler alert), Jax, a torturer, betrayer, liar, the leader of the Sons, the worst kind of human being, is presented as a Christ archetype sacrificing himself for the group. Good grief.
"House of Cards" I gave up on after about two shows into season three. It devolved into the worst kinds of behavior, even for politicians. Every kind of human decency was violated. I just became disgusted by the whole thing. Speaking of which, "House" was the same. House was an amoral jerk that was a force of destruction. He hurt everyone, was a psychopath, plus the storyline of every episode was the same. Someone dying, someone lying, "everyone lies", and then the truth comes out and the patient (victim) is saved. Both horrible and predictable.
I came away from these shows wondering what the point was. (The Goldfinch wasn't pointless by the way.) "The Unforgiven" by Clint Eastwood at least had a point. All the bad things that happened there is what happens when there isn't forgiveness. Great point. That other stuff mentioned here is just dwelling on the dark heart of people just for the sake of the dwelling. Just can't stand it. These were hugely popular and celebrated shows. Just a reflection, I guess, of how much of our culture is dwelling on the worst, dark hearts of our spirit. A sad reflection of where we are.
Do read though, if you're so inclined, The Goldfinch. Sad story, exquisitely told.