The fan panel “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy: The Man in the High Castle” was interactive from the beginning. Convened in Sheraton Augusta at 4PM on Saturday afternoon, the panel was moderated by Lindsey Boyer and included Roxanne Henkle, Andrea La-Rosa, Gary Mitchel, and Mark Staubitz.
Right out of the gate, someone asked how similar the TV show is to the book and if they would be unable to follow the panel as they had yet to watch it. The general consensus was the two are similar enough but there are some significant differences. From there, the conversation between the panel and the audience continued.
The next subject, the version of “Edelweiss” used for the opening sequence, brought a discussion of items in our current cultural language that would never have happened. Because “Edelweiss” was a song written by two Jewish men for the musical The Sound of Music and was used for the Von Trapp family to escape the Nazis, it would not have been written in this alternate history. Even the rockabilly music, heard sometimes throughout the show, was written with anti-Semitic lyrics. Another uncomfortable cultural shift showed the wives of the Nazis working together to craft a floral arrangement that, as the camera pans out, you see is a swastika.
Character analysis was a hot topic. Many on the panel and in the audience are looking forward to learning more about Obergruppenführer Smith. The backstory of his service on the American side prior to the Germans winning, and his subsequent flip to join the Nazi Reich, seems like it would be a highly interesting subject to explore. Mr. Tagomi and his spirituality with the I Ching is also an interesting subject with many wondering if that is what allows him to “jump between universes.” Tagomi’s assistant was discussed as well, due to his seemingly strong relationship with his superior. It was mentioned that Juliana’s last name of Crain was important because, in the Japanese culture, cranes are symbolic of hope and happiness. The growth of her character, after the death of her sister, shows her initial complicity in the way Americans are treated and her continual belief that all people have some inherent good in them. Also, when will we find out the true story of her bus accident; did she fall or did she jump?
The character of Frank is the most dramatic. Beginning, like Juliana, Frank would “keep his head down” and do his work. After the murder of his sister and her children, and the completely heartless way in which he was told, easily made it the most horrifying part of the show. Frank completely switched his view to an attitude of “burn it all down.” It was determined that Frank’s friend, Ed, acts as his conscience. He tries his best to keep Frank from losing himself in his hurt and hate. As for Joe, he is a complex character that many on the panel and in the audience do not like. It is apparent that he does not want to hurt anyone, but is a good little Nazi, doing what he is told and not speaking out.
Many other theories of the show were kicked around. Who *is* the Man in the High Castle? Is he Hitler, Juliana, Tagomi? Maybe it is just a title and there are many of them. How many films are there? If they could burn down a warehouse of films without a second thought and Hitler can have a basement full of them, where are they all coming from? Do you need to be dead in our actual reality to belong in this alternative one? Finally, is the use of “Edelweiss,” which sounds like a sad lullaby, putting Yamamoto’s “Sleeping Giant” to sleep? Or is it keeping the giant asleep? Fortunately, the show has been picked up for two more seasons. We will all have to watch to learn the answers to all this and more.