Television

CW's The Republic of Sarah Is No Free State Project

Anarchy in New Hampshire? Unfortunately, not quite.

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The Republic of Sarah. The CW. Monday, June 14, 9 p.m.

Created only in 2006, The CW is America's youngest broadcast network, and a lot of its audience (target demo: women ages 13 to 34) isn't much older. It's the sort of network where you're much more likely to see potential Pussycat Dolls than Lysander Spooner wannabes. And yet there it is: The Republic of Sarah, the new CW drama in which a mob of hardbody high-school kids and their state-smashing history teacher stage an anarchist revolt, secede from the United States, and make out a lot, too, which I'm sure Spooner would have agreed was a righteous blow against the state.

You think I'm exaggerating, and perhaps I am, just a bit. (Spooner didn't think hookers should go to jail, but I'm not sure he had an official position on French-kissing.) But The Republic of Sarah is the most deliriously goofy TV political mashup since a soon-to-be-vanished Brit satellite channel aired a sitcom called Heil, Honey, I'm Home! about you-know-who.

Stella Baker (Tell Me Your Secrets) plays Sarah Cooper, an instructor in cute-as-a-rustic-button Greylock, New Hampshire. She's right in the middle of teaching a unit on the Revolutionary War when a mining company rolls into town after striking valuable coltan ore nearby. (If you remember that coltan is what some of the robots in the Terminator movies were made of, your damage is beyond anything we can do for you here. Seek help immediately.)

What the townfolk lack in intelligence—"You don't have to dumb yourself down to fit in," Cooper counsels a kid transferring from Los Angeles—they make up for in belligerence. "We don't need a bunch of flatlanders taking over!" one of them shouts at the miners before they've actually done so much as a blow a leaf in the air.

But, like the four-flushing, mustachioed villains of dinner-theater melodrama, the corporate stormtroopers live down to expectations. Naturally the first thing they do is crush a quaint pagoda in the town square because, as everybody knows, there's a lot of profit in pagoda-crushing. And Cooper, still stirred from by her Revolutionary War lesson plans, decides they must be stopped before they declare war on park benches, flower boxes, and playful kittens.

First she tries standing in front of company bulldozers as if she's in Tiananmen Square. Then she hits on a cartographic loophole in the Constitution: A river changed course while Canada and the United States were mapping the border, and nobody bothered to correct the discrepancy. And the town of Greylock sits squarely in the unclaimed parcel of riverside land. Secession! No gods, no masters! Taxation is theft! Cute girls for everyone!

My first impression of the pilot episode of The Republic of Sarah was that it was written by screenwriters oblivious even by Hollywood's generous standards: nothing about the Border Patrol encircling Greylock and arresting illegal immigrants crossing the border to their jobs in other towns; nothing about punitive U.S. tariffs on maple syrup or whatever else Greylock—which, after all, is not a signatory to NAFTA—might have to export; nothing about Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont joining NATO to protect themselves from their bellicose new neighbor. And then there's the small matter of 18 U.S. Code § 2385, which takes a dim view of overthrowing the United States government.

To my frank amazement, a lot of these issues actually are addressed in later episodes. (Well, not the point about NATO, but I only watched three hours.) And, for a moment, I thought The Republic of Sarah's writer-producer Jeffrey Paul King (the creative wrangler of CBS' modern-Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary) might be offering up some serious political commentary. No spoilers, but I half-expected the musical score of the second episode to feature The Who screaming, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…"

Alas, what I mistook for incipient coherence was mere creative flatulence. Whenever serious ideological disputes come up in The Republic of Sarah, they're resolved in favor of the heroine on the grounds of her sheer moral authority. Along with the old order, logic has been dissolved; Cooper and the kids believe in the sanctity of borders when used to protect them from the rapacious corporation, but dismiss them as irrelevant "lines drawn on a map" when they pose a threat. Most interestingly, in these days of ascendent anti-racism, there's not a word about the moral or legal validity of secession when it's mounted in support of something more yucky than corporation-bashing—say, slavery.  The Republic of Sarah treats ideas as fashion accessories. And anybody who remembers bellbottoms or saddle shoes knows what happens to those.

NEXT: Propaganda Art Gets Boost in Biden Budget

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  1. I have not watched this show, but it always cracks me up whenever “legal validity of secession” is brought up against it. That’s literally what secession is, breaking from the legal order. I get very annoyed at the begging of the question when people bring up Texas v White or whatever that “Texas can’t secede, it’s not legal.” I guess it was legal when the 13 colonies did it against the Crown? It’s literally like saying I can’t flee my captor because he told me so.

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    2. People think because Texas can’t legally secede from the US, Texas can’t secede from the US.

      I assume they also believe that because it’s illegal to rob a bank, no one can rob a bank.

    3. Yeah, you’re married, you can’t leave.

  2. Sounds like something ENB or White Mike might write.

  3. It’s the CW, so don’t take any reference to the law in this show seriously. If such a mistake was made, it would mean this town was part of Canada or the United States, not that it wasn’t part of any country. Also, how did nobody notice this border screw-up until now?

    As for secession, the show’s producers clearly want to avoid seeming to advocate for it. That’s why they came up with this goofy scenario involving the town being outside of Canada and the United States.

  4. Family Guy Petopia episode was better. Found out his house wasn’t legally in the US.

  5. target demo: women ages 13 to 34

    Female lesbian SJW’s with an inordinate number of cats and blue or purple hair ages 13-34

      1. Are you confusing cw with the spice channel?

        1. No, the Spice channel actually has sex. CW is for lesbians – so lot’s of talk about how, maybe, they could have sex, but I’m too tired and have a headache.

  6. “creative flatulence.”

    BYOL [Bring your own lighter]?

  7. Why youbwatchin this shyt, Glenn?

    Review new seasons of shows that get better over time. Really hoping the next Season of Animal Kingdom is good. Started out as light Summer ‘Point Break’ fare, thought it would die with Scott Speedman’s character, but last year’s origin story flashback and how they culminated in Ellen Barkin’s death was better than anything else on TV.

    1. Hey, at least it’s on topic. How many shows about anarchy and free states and New Hampshire and secession are there?

  8. Oh, dear God, I hope it’s “woke”!

    I gave up watching TV because of things like this. Someone thought this was a good idea and paid a lot of money to make it happen.

  9. Actually, the coltan ore miners sound like Promethean Anarcho-Capitalist heroes trying to make the ore the tool for every person and Sarah and her (no doubt jailbait-loving) Gummint Skoolz history teacher sound Like Occupy Graylock, NH. Will the CW show the outdoor sewers and garbage piles Sarah and her Comrades make?

    If I see it, I’m rooting for the miners!

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  12. “What the townfolk lack in intelligence—”You don’t have to dumb yourself down to fit in,” Cooper counsels a kid transferring from Los Angeles…”

    Nothing like Hollywood’s contempt for the rest of the country.

    1. Wait, if the townspeople are so dumb, wouldn’t the kid have to dumb himself down to fit in? Or is she saying the kid from LA is dumb too? The quote doesn’t even make sense.

  13. What writer Garvin describes reminds me of the Gaza Strip around Israel. It was being inhabited against the rules, if rules exist to Israel.

    But to be fair, you have the “Bombers of Israel” coalition who make it their business to eradicate hundreds of homes on a regular basis. This fact resembles the aforementioned idea of borders being little other than lines on a map: If your home is destroyed by bombing, then generally you cannot continue inhabitation but nonetheless have a rare need — disallowed to be a commodity need perhaps — to find a new residential address.

    Such mode of fairness recapitulates to the fact that Israel’s new government, as founded or treatified just after WWII had ended, was evidently not preceded by a transitional government. And once the tyranny of government sunk in its acclaimed foothold, land of the natives was sold despite the fact that natives who had done no uncivil wrong to anyone were living there — and that there was no provision of the transfer of land to “Israel” to deprive them of their property, until the new government apparently left no notion of valid pre-existing land claims in their practice of organized government.

    This of a “land without borders” works like ghosts doing the same things over again, each night or on select occasions, until their curse at last has been lifted and they can rest in the sort of sleep reserved for the buried dead. Wrong done by those-gone-before, yet mysteriously never corrected nor restitutionalized, somehow ordains doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results.

    Whilst under the spell of injustice, ideas may as well resemble fashion accessories.

    1. Except for the minor detail that both Jews and Arabs, along with Greeks and Romans and Syrians and Babylonians and Turks and many other people have lived in that part of the world since time immemorial. Start again. Tighten up. Do better.

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