Saturday, February 05, 2022

And After the Party...

Are you watching The Afterparty on AppleTV? You should if you can. A genre-bending murder mystery with a great comedic cast (how wrong can you go with folks like Ilana Glazer, Ben Schwartz, and Tiffany Hadish on the same set?), centered around the investigation of the murder of a pop star at his mansion during the after party he hosted for his high school friends following their 15 year reunion.

But I want to do something a little different: give my prediction of who the murderer is, based less on anything that's happening in the show, and more on pattern recognition for how murder mystery shows work. There aren't spoilers here per se -- unless I'm right, that is.

Anyway, my guess for the murderer is Mr. Shapiro, the science teacher.


Well, my first principle is that the murderer will not be any of the main characters. In a whodunnit type series, whose premise is alternating who among the main crew suspicion is cast upon, it's really hard to finally land on any of the main players without it feeling a little anti-climatic.

At the same time, the murderer has to be someone whose name has been mentioned and who has already been confirmed to be on scene when the murder happened. You can't just say "Surprise! There was an unknown stranger hiding in the closet the whole time!"

So ideally, you want someone who has been mentioned and confirmed to be present, but is otherwise forgettable. He isn't part of the group that comes to mind in the list of suspects, but once he is revealed as the killer you can't claim that the show is cheating.

Mr. Shapiro has, of course, been named. And though we haven't seen his face, it was confirmed that he was at the titular afterparty (having sex with someone in one of the spare bedrooms). It's been treated as a throwaway gag (he was also walked in on having sex with someone in one of the classrooms during the reunion itself), but it suffices to establish his presence at the scene of the crime such that he could be a suspect. That he hasn't been seen since -- that nobody seems to remember he was present at all such that he should be among the group of suspects the detective is interviewing -- only points further in his favor as the ultimate killer.

We don't have a motive yet, but that can be established later. Again, I'm just working off genre conventions here.

Anyway, I just wanted that prediction on paper because if it's correct I claim the right to call myself a legend. But again, it's a very good, very funny show and you all should watch it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Our First Experience With Antisemitism (Except for All The Other Times)

This passage, about a Jewish couple in Tennessee whose attempt to adopt a three-year old child was rejected because they were Jewish, struck a chord with me: It strikes a chord because it is reminiscent of a phenomenon Albert Memmi explored in his Portrait of a Jew. Memmi speaks of how often Jews speak of never being truly "aware" of antisemitism until some particularly stark incident slaps them across the face. Until that moment, they will say, antisemitism was never really a "thing" in their lives. And yet, if you press them a bit, it turns out that this overt incident was not the first -- there were other incidents, perhaps many other incidents, but for whatever reason they didn't "count", and it doesn't occur to them to mention them or even think about them as antisemitic incidents. So after the initial declaration that the overt incident was "the first time", there comes the belated admission that well, I guess it wasn't the first time, not by a long shot, and what at first might have felt like a isolated, even freakish incident, really is just bringing to the foreground a lot of baggage which had been tucked away in the background.

We could all stand to wonder why this practice exists, and why it has existed for so long and over eras and locations where it seems nobody -- least of all the Jews -- should have had any trouble recognizing that antisemitism wasn't isolated or freakish (Memmi's examples were people like Herzl and Einstein).  What explains this pattern? Why is our first instinct, our deep psychology, to "forget" antisemitism has happened to us?