Imagine if you could bring your favourite fictional characters to life. To get a peek into how they live outside of the pages of their novel or behind the scenes of their TV show.
Well, with Nic Pizzolato’s philosophical and metaphorical Rustin Cohle, people have decided to do just that. “Rust,” as his few friends in HBO’s smashing new hit True Detective call him, has captured the minds of the more than 12 million viewers who have tuned in weekly for the past two months. On Sunday, the first season wraps up and Rust will make his last appearance on the silver screen.
To put it in the most simplistic way possible, the character of Cohle is deep, dark, and complex. Matthew McConaughey, the actor who took on the challenge of capturing Cohle – and has done an incredible job, according to just about everyone – went so far as to create a 450-page graph to trace Cohle’s life, and many personalities, over the 17 years spanned on the show. These multiple distinct personalities, and a knack for questioning the meaning of life and the universe in utter poetic language, have set Cohle apart as one of the most memorable television characters we’ve seen in this millennium.
People have eaten it up. If “true” television success is to be measured by engagement rather than pure ratings in today’s media environment, True Detective is successful in every way.
Gawker’s science fiction and fantasy blog, i09, have tried to decode the mind of Cohle, hundreds of theories trying to decode the many intricate mysteries of the show have popped up on Reddit, and prompted major newspapers and magazines to help wade through the theories and provide their own speculation. Multiple short spoofs have popped up, from Community’s Joel McHale to stand-up comedian Jon Rudnitsky portraying McConaughey as Cohle in the lead-up to the Oscars. One fan made an interactive Google map showing locations that have appeared in the show. Even Esquire wrote a DIY post on how to make Cohle’s now-infamous beer can men.
Yet, with the character of Rust Cohle, we’ve created a persona to allow him to continue existing outside of the walls of television.
Slate may have taken the cake earlier today, when they linked to Rust Cohle’s Pinterest page, complete with boards from his choice beer Lone Star to his must-have office supplies and even some casual wardrobe pins. College Humor scored points a couple of weeks ago when they created a mockup of Cohle’s OKCupid profile. On 4chan, multiple users are recreating fake Rust-inspired life experiences. The popular fake greeting card site, someecards, has also made some special Cohle inspired cards.
In this way, True Detective is reinventing the way we watch TV. And not just with the content. Shows inserting cheesy hashtags onto the actual production (like Workaholics) or encouraging second screen conversation with various social media inspired promotions is nothing new. In fact, it’s becoming the standard.
But the way in which audience members, and even online media (both mainstream and alternative) have come to embrace the show, and create a place for it in a universe that exists outside of the walls of your TV, is an entirely new phenomena. For fans of the show, it really bolsters the enjoyment of the show. Or at the very least, provides a laugh.
What do you think about the online engagement around True Detective? Are we really interacting with fictional characters differently. Share your thoughts below!