'Man in the High Castle' aims to explore 'freedom as a concept'
© Alfredo Flores

Part of the appeal of “The Man in the High Castle” is that it’s “beyond partisanism,” says an Amazon executive behind the critically acclaimed new series.

The drama, based on the novel by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, re-imagines life in the United States in the 1960s if the Nazis and Japan had won World War II.

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“One of the things that did really appeal to me about this — looking out on the landscape and seeing how fractured the discourse is — the one thing that everyone has in common, regardless of what side of the aisle that you are on, is that everyone believes in freedom and everyone believes in the greatness and the preservation of the United States,” Amazon Studios’ Head of Drama Morgan Wandell told The Hill’s Editor in Chief Bob Cusack during a screening and panel discussion Thursday night at the Newseum in downtown Washington.

Wandell, who was part of the team behind the history-bending thriller, added, “So this actually seemed to be almost beyond partisanism, and for me, is part of what the appeal to the show was.”

In response to a question from Cusack about whether the country is taking freedom for granted, Steven Luckert, a senior program curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, replied, “Freedom as a concept, as an idea, is kind of amorphous. It means something different to every group, to everybody.”

“The Nazis were very careful, they also used the word ‘freedom,’” Luckert said. “They would use it just as a slogan. Because everybody likes it. Nobody’s going to run on an anti-freedom platform,” he said to laughs at the event sponsored by The Hill.

Panelist Ilya Somin told the crowded theater that the show takes on a number of political themes.

“The series, like the book, takes a position I think on this longstanding debate on whether the rise of something like Nazism is caused by something specific to German culture in particular,” said Somin, a George Mason University School of Law professor. “Or whether there’s just sort of more universal tendencies, which means that the same thing can happen in any society under right circumstances, including in America.”

Science fiction, said New America’s Open Technology Institute Director Kevin Bankston, can be a powerful reminder that “there’s nothing constitutional — I mean little ‘c’ constitutional — about us as human beings that prevents us from having a world like this.

“It’s only capital ‘c’ Constitutions that prevent us from doing what we just saw. And if we ever put that aside, whether from fraud, or fear, or force as here with the Nazis, we could descend to that same level.”

The first season of “The Man in the High Castle” was released last month.