Edited to fix links, because TWoP reorganized during the cataclysmic site renovation.

Heroes episode 1.20, which Sara‘s TiVo thinks is called “String Theory” (even though it’s actually called “Five Years Gone”) and which you can watch here, was more obviously an awesome episode than an emotional one, but it moved me more than any episode since “Company Man” (watch it). We learned that Hiro—the bubbly, excitable otaku who marvels at everything (“all full of hope and optimism,” says Future Peter)—became Future Hiro—hard, unsmiling, cold, consumed by a single goal—when Ando died. Read it carefully: Ando’s death took all the joy out of Hiro’s life. Even more, Future Hiro’s overriding reason for traveling back in time and telling Peter to save the cheerleader wasn’t to avert the deaths of millions of New Yorkers when Peter exploded; it was to keep Ando from dying.

And now it’s time for the breakdown.

Future Hiro’s visit to Peter in the subway was the beginning of the primary story arc for season 1. Remember all the promos? “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” It turns out to have been misguided—Future Hiro’s idea that if Peter could keep Sylar from eating Claire’s brain and acquiring her power of regeneration (is it any wonder I love this show?) then Hiro would be able to kill Sylar before he could nuke half of NYC was based on the false premise that Sylar was the bomb, not Peter—but it was the engine that basically ran the show this season. And it was fueled by luuuuuve: Hiro’s love for Ando. Maybe I’m not connecting the dots with a thick enough pen, or maybe you’re following along just fine, but it seems apparent to me that season 1 of Heroes was kick-started by one man’s deep, devoted, lasting (remember, “Five Years Gone” was…five years later) love for another man. I don’t know of any other mainstream show that’s willing to portray any kind of same-sex love that positively, that nobly. It was breathtaking for me, when I got to Ando and Future Peter’s scene in the strip club. (Dirty!)

And as far as teh gay on the show, it seems worth mentioning the whole ruckus over Claire’s friend Zach, who was intended (and pretty clearly communicated) as a gay character. Somebody—either Thomas Dekker or his people—got cold feet, and the show lost its only gay character. Hiro’s motivation here strikes me as a marvelous way to restore an element to the show that we know was supposed to be present.

Proud unto Popping

Friends, Angelenos, photo buffs: look over here! Santa Monica College’s annual photography show is up until June 2. Why do I mention it, you ask? Because, in his first-ever submission to a competition or juried show, Eric had two—count ‘em, ladies and gents and everyone else, two—photos selected. I can’t even tell you (or him) how proud I am. Go to the show, look at all the excellent work, and then head to Eric’s site and commission some photos.

…But only after all the post-parts are posted. (And I realize that a multipart post about, of all combinations, Percy Shelley, David Foster Wallace, and Arrested Development may not be an optimal first post, but it’s something that’s been percolating in my brain—and rather than say it to anyone I know, I’ve decided to whisper it into the cavernous Intertubes and wait for some whisperous reply to carry back.)

First: to assemble materials. I’ll start with Shelley. Not all of Shelley, obviously, because I’m not insane, but this little bit from the Defence of Poetry:

The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause.

(There’s a philosopher who had something similar to say, something along the lines of “love is the basis of all morality,” but since I can’t remember his name or the exact wording, you’ll have to trust me.)

I’ve loved this formulation from the moment I read it—partly because it’s such a nice, relieving bit of clarity in the Defence‘s mix of patronizing, theorizing, justifying, philosophizing, and twaddle. From that mix, the only other thing I want to note is Shelley’s rather expansive notion of the “kindred expressions of the poetical faculty; architecture, painting, music, the dance, sculpture, philosophy, and, we may add, the forms of civil life.” This, in addition to his insistence that almost any writing that sounds nice and says true things is poetry, is what makes the Defence so useful in arguments, because it means I get to apply it to anything I want. It’s like the Commerce Clause.

To the Shelley I’ll add a bit by David Foster Wallace from an interview with Larry McCaffery, published in the Review of Contemporary Fiction in 1993:

I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of “generalization” of suffering. Does this make sense? We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside.

This isn’t the same as Shelley’s position, obviously—Shelley wants to make people “greatly good,” where Wallace wants to make people “less alone inside”—but it’s still about the moral value of empathy. In some ways, DFW is more pessimistic here than Shelley (not surprising, given some of Shelley’s Olympian ideas about the “poet”), because he flat says that empathy is impossible. But a moral imagination, specifically the ability to experience other people’s suffering, is a key component for both of them in the creation of true art. (For a slightly different take from DFW on empathy, see his 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech.) Obviously I can’t say without evidentiary backup that DFW’s been influenced by the Defence, or even read it, but his and Shelley’s ideas here are close enough that they’re worth yoking together for argument’s sake.

And that’s a round-up of my argument’s foundation. Next time I address it, I’ll start building something that will eventually house Infinite Jest and Arrested Development.