I was reading this morning about Tom Selleck (for those of you unfamiliar with any reasons why anyone would still care about Tom Selleck some seventeen years after ‘Magnum, P.I.’ went off the air, he’s been in the news for water theft in California) and I found myself thinking that if you were a writer of fiction, you could not have created a more unintentional metaphor for the global warming crisis than California.
It’s the perfect recipe for an allegory. You have a marginal environment that is slowly sliding into catastrophic uninhabitability (and of course, unspoken in your novel is the idea that it’s doing so primarily because of the macrocosmic problem that you’re replicating in microcosm here, which is always nice thematically) and a cast of characters who are so wealthy, so powerful, so utterly solipsistic that they’re simply unable to adapt to the changes because it involves them being told “no” and they don’t understand what it means anymore. And so droughts and wildfires gradually become endemic, turning into the new status quo, but the movie stars and big-name agents and Hollywood producers don’t understand why they have to ration their water just like the little people. Surely all that money counts for something, doesn’t it? Surely they’re just purchasing a commodity, and as long as they can afford the premium that results from high demand and limited supply, they should be allowed to use as much as they want however they see fit?
Of course, we haven’t gotten to the third act yet. As much as it’s entertaining to watch Tom Selleck publicly humiliated and forced to cough up undisclosed sums of money, I don’t think we can really call that a “climax” in a narrative sense. Maybe we’ll get a scene where L.A. goes up in flames, all the Hollywood mansions consumed by wildfire as Ariana Grande asks her PA to “do something about this”. Or maybe we’ll get a proper trial scene, not with Tom Selleck but with a big-name, bankable movie star in the role of water thief like…oh, gosh. We could go with the “poetic justice” angle and put Schwarzenegger in there, as a member of the Republican party whose stance on global warming is to stick their fingers in their ears and shout, “LA-LA-LA, I’M NOT LISTENING!” (As well as the former governor of California, and not a proponent of environmentalism or water rationing at the time.) Or you could go the “dramatic irony” route, and stick in someone like Sean Penn to show that sometimes people talk the talk but aren’t willing to walk the walk. Or hey, you could go all “meta” and cast Kevin Costner. Either way, it’d have to end with jail time.
But ideally, our “California” story should make you think. Watching people casually ignore the slow death of their home state, simply because they can’t imagine anything really bad that money won’t make go away, should maybe make people think about what’s happening in our wider world. Because the only difference between Tom Selleck and the Koch brothers is one of scale.