The new series of HBO’s True Detective, which has just started in the United States, seems to be putting a serious damper on all the faux optimism about love being generated by the gay lobby there in recent days. Writing the majority opinion for Obergefell v. Hodges, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that marriage is a central institution that affirms an “enduring bond” and provides “loving and nurturing homes” for children. The petitioners, Kennedy argued, only wanted to build on this central social reality, making their appeal from a deeply held respect for its “recognition, stability, and predictability.”
That’s not the way it looks in True Detective, according to critic Mathew Becklo in Aleteia. In fact it seems the show makes Kennedy sound like one of the naivest men on our planet.
Becklo focuses on the picture of the venerable institution of marriage – and its raison d’etre, the family – being presented in the series. If Oscar Wilde’s paradox is even half true – that ‘life
imitates art far more than art imitates life’ – we are all in for a bad time.
About marriage and its present discontents, Becklo refers us to Ross Douthat‘s analysis of our predicament where he points out the irony that while the “conservative case” for marriage’s centrality is winning in court, the “liberationist case” against marriage’s centrality is winning the culture. While 65% of the Silent generation, 48% of Boomers, and 36% of Gen X were married between ages 18 and 32, for Millennials the number is at a meager 26% and falling. The percentage of unmarried births (40.6%) has hit a record high, while the birth rate for women in their early twenties (83.1 births per 1,000 women) has hit a record low. In short, people are opting for more open-ended family structures and fewer children, a principle which lent support to a new form for marriage, but inevitably causes it to feed back into the decline of marriage overall.
It remains to be seen, Becklo concludes, whether millennials can buck the trend and restore the nuclear family to something like “centrality.” In the meantime, a show like True Detective reveals the tyranny of this liberation, a wider and stronger current that sets the parameters for and subsumes whatever new family models we construct to outlast us. The characters all look depressed and burdened by this new rule, and you can see the desire for truth still flickering inside – but in Vinci, (the fictional urbanization where the show is set) there is no oasis.
If that makes for an unnerving show, so be it. My strong suspicion is we get the entertainment we deserve.
Maybe we get the life we deserve as well.
Read the full Aleteia review here.