Akira Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon” tells the same event from the perspective of multiple narrators. The film has become legendary for the way it reveals that all reality is ultimately subjective. “Rashomon” has also been the driving narrative force behind movies ranging from “Hoodwinked!” to “Vantage Point.” The multiple narrative structure of “Rashomon” has also found its way to TV series which is probably a more suitable medium considering we have gotten to know the different perspectives on multiple characters well before the event that drives the episode.
Two episodes stand out in the legacy of “The X-Files” as examples of the “Rashomon” approach to subjectivity in finding whatever truth may be out there. “Bad Blood” is a vampire tale in which Scully and Mulder both recall many of the exact same scenes with minor to substantial differences. Only by piecing together both narratives can any kind of authenticity be arrived at. Even greater is the show’s finest moment, “Jose Chung’s `From Outer Space’ in which the very philosophical essence of the episode is the utterly elusive equality of objectivity. Many characters recall the same events differently and adding a wonderfully wrought patina of suspicion over everything is that even that subjective recall is up for question based on the circumstances of the moments being recalled.
The Dick Van Dyke Show
For some inexplicable reason, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” continually insisted on framing stories as a flashback for absolutely no necessary reason at all. “The Night the Roof Fell In” adds to the legacy of “Rashomon” style multiple narratives on TV from the universal incident of a couple recalling an argument from their own individualized points of view.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Ah, if we could only all have access to a holodeck! The title of “Rashomon” episode forward by “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is surprisingly unimaginative: “A Matter of Perspective.” Which is too bad because the execution is interesting. It take a holodeck recreation of a crime scene in which Riker is accused of murder to find that his version of the truth about that crime is the right one. At the same time, however, the holodeck recreation leaves the viewer with some intriguing ambiguity regarding Riker’s absolute morality as it relates to what might or might not have taken place at the real crime scene.
“The Simpsons” takes yet another approach to telling a story in “Rashomon” style. Whereas Kurosawa’s movies has each of the characters relate their perspective only on what took place within a single experience shared by all, the “Trilogy of Error” episode of “The Simpsons” utilizes the multiple narrative concept to tie together separate stories involving the characters to specific shared events in which the others are only partially aware of everything that happened.
KIng of the Hill
Arguably the funniest episode ever of “King of the Hill” takes a “Rashomon” approach to finding out exactly what happened to cause the local firehouse to burn down while our main characters were temporarily living their dream of being firefighters due to a strike. The recall is done in the form of an interrogation by the fire chief and the highlight of the episode is a sequence that shows each of the four guys as kids before they quickly morph through time to take on the familiar adult appearance we know so well.
All in the Family
One of the most imaginative uses of the “Rashomon” approach to multiple perspectives occurs on “All in the Family” and makes very effective use of what we already know about the personalities of the main characters. The event that is being recalled is nothing more complex than the arrival of a plumber of Italian heritage and his African-American assistant. The bigoted Archie Bunker recalls the duo in terms of the Mafia and Black Panthers. Mike, his liberal son-in-law, the plumber and his assistant are both just powerless blue-collar workers in trapped in an exploitative economic system. One of the big differences here is that viewers get a glimpse into what may actually be close to the objective truth through the story recalled by Archie’s wife Edith.