Carnivàle of Time

American Horror Story: Freakshow is definetly NOT the best NOR the first show about an itinerant circus in America. In 2003, HBO aired Carnivàle, a cult TV-show that reflected with its characters and mythology a deeply complex sense of temporality.

Carnivàle is divided into two characters, two opposite ways of understanding the pass of time: on the one side, we have the avatar of Light, Ben Hawkins. When we first met him he was just a farmer boy living with his dying mother in an old house but, the appearance of the Carnivàle circus will change his life. He will join this itinerant group of people and travel all around America.

Ben Hawkins is the eternal movement, but not a repetitive one: he is the one that breaks the chains of events, alters the present, past and future in order to create its own history. Not a straight line but a line that crosses different times and places and creates something that had never happened before.

His healing powers are a proof of that: there is nothing irreversible for Ben, even a paralytic girl can walk again, even a war can be stopped.


Every Avatar of Light has an enemy, the Avatar of Darkness. In this case, the evil presence resides in the soul of Justin Crowe, a methodist minister devoted, together with his sister Iris, to transmit his Christian faith.  Brother Justin, unlike Ben, doesn’t want to change or transform anything: his only purpose is to create a new Canaan, a new divine kingdom on Earth.

When we first see him he’s at his church, lecturing his congregation and singing “He’s got the whole world in his hand” from his tribune. Even this innocent song has a deep meaning in the show: he sings and prays to a God who has the whole universe, the rain, the wind, you and me, in his hands, a God that imprisons every possibility of change.

As the tree that marks him where his new church should rise, Justin only wants to spread what is in his roots: to grow and let everybody take in the message of his God. In a world where the branches only repeat what the roots have told them there are no possible change, just repetition.


Therefore, we have an agent of change and an agent of repetition, both fighting against each other but knowing that their battle is just one more in an infinite sequence of an eternal war. The most important question that rises in the core of Carnivàle is if we are not at the same time and Avatar of Light and change and an Avatar of Darkness and repetition. Is not capitlism always changing in the surface but remaining intact in its core? Like Ben, we change our digital past, present and future on the Internet constantly, and like Justin, we long the old and peaceful times where everything was simpler and clearer.

Sadly this show, as this war, will never have an ending.

The Homecoming Queen

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