Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Illusion of Risk

I've been spending a fair amount of time lately watching episodes of The Persuaders.  I say 'watching', they've frequently been more of a background whilst I've been engaging in the current overhaul of The Sleaze.  Seventies TV shows like The Persuaders make a great background for doing stuff like that - unlike contemporary shows, they don't ask us to follow complex story arcs across an entire series, they're instead content to serve up neatly self contained stories on a weekly basis.  No need to worry whether something somebody did or said in episode three is going to turn out to be significant in episode ten.  But to get to the point, after a while certain tropes and motifs begin to emerge in the episodes.  One of the most significant of these is the number of times episodes open with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis gambling in an upmarket Casino, or occasionally at the racecourse.  Indeed, Curtis' various 'systems' for beating the odds are a recurring theme.  Which left me wondering, what is it about te world of gambling which attracts the wealthy, (the premise of The Persuaders, if you've never seen it, is that the protagonists, Lord Brett Sinclair and Danny Wilde - Moore and Curtis, respectively - are millionaire crime fighters)? 

I mean, it isn't a motif confined to The Persuaders, a multitude of films, TV episodes and literature all depict the wealthy as gamblers, getting their kicks at the tables or race courses.  It's always depicted as glamourous and exciting.  Working class gambling, by contrast, is always seen as dangerous and downbeat, confined to tatty book makers shops or poker games in the dingy back rooms of pubs.  Losing always has serious consequences for the lower classes, including destitution and violence.  The risk is very real.  Which is why, I suspect, gambling is depicted as a past time for the wealthy, but an addiction for the workers.  For the rich, losing, even losing big, doesn't necessarily have devastating consequences.  Sure they are risking some of their cash, but not risking potential consequences.  For the rich, gambling provides only the illusion of risk.  It is a tame thrill.  For the time that they are at the tables, they can feel they are at risk of losing but, in reality, they are always winners.  Which is all a bit heavy to be extrapolating from a few episodes of an old seventies series.  But then again, much of the dynamic of The Persuaders is based upon notions of social class, (although just as wealthy as Sinclair, Wilde is depicted as being socially 'inferior', moreover, Wilde, as an American, is shown as being frequently baffled and confused by British class conventions).  Anyway, I'm sure we'll be returning to The Persuaders in due course...

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