Television programs are presented to us as mindless entertainment. They are merely ways to pass the time between one scheduled event and another – rarely ever are they the desired intent. But if we focus our attentions on television a little closer, we realize that it isn’t all just sex appeal and mind-numbing special effects. Sometimes there is a life lesson to be learned, a deeper philosophic gem of wisdom that is waiting subliminally to be plucked by the oh-so-casual viewer and polished into a gleaming piece of esoteric splendor. Such a gem exists between the commercials of “Knight Rider”.
The average viewer thinks it is a story of man (David Hasselhoff), a talking car, some catchy music, and the occasional fistfight. But it is in reality a portrayal of The Everyman’s heroic quest to tackle his inner demons and come face to face with his greatest enemy – himself. This is not mere speculation, this is not conjecture, it is fact – I can prove it on a home computer.
We are not at first aware of the true nature of this show because it comes to us as a standard crime fighting show with Knight defeating criminals week after week while working for a sophisticated police force. If we think about it all, though, we realize this is merely illusory. The prospect of there being “talking cars” and a vigilante police force which cooperates with actual police could only exist in the realm of comic books – or as a subpsychic reality poised by a dream. The latter seems favorable when we consider the hints.
Let us do some name analysis for a moment, starting with the idea of “Knight.” Michael Knight’s real name is not Knight, but rather it is Long. He takes on the name of Knight ironically as a knight would take on a suit of armor. Once he identifies with this persona, he becomes it – a knight. The symbolism of what it means to be a knight was outlined by me in my work “On Love”, but it would do well to reiterate here for those who have not read that piece. A knight is characterized by a quest and a grail – a mission and an ultimate goal (which may or may not be attainable). The mission here is quite clear – to fight crime. The ultimate goal is more vague, and we only come to that later in the series (and I will return to this idea shortly). What is important to remember is that the idea of a knight is representative of The Everyman because as has been said every man sees himself as this knight – we live it in our dreams.
Let us turn now to the name of Michael. There is a dual interpretation of this name, which together serve to elucidate the fact this is all a dream. The first interpretation is the idea of “Michael” as Everyman. The name Michael is the most common first name for men in America, and also happens to be Hasselhoff’s middle name in real life. For the majority of the viewing public to identify with the lead character, it served as a useful tool to give them a name they could either relate to personally or know someone who could. The only other name with this level of recognition as The Everyman is John, although this would weaken the beauty of the second interpretation.
Not only is Michael the Everyman, he is in fact also a man of great inner conviction who will overcome obstacles to meet new challenges (much like a knight would). Where do I get this from? A simple etymology of the name Michael shows it comes from the Hebrew, meaning “He who is like God.” The name is full of inner power, and this is best shown through the original carrier of the name – Michael the Archangel. He was the leader of the Archangels (the highest order of angels), and was often portrayed as – surprise! – a winged knight, which breastplate armor and sword drawn. It was Michael who fought the Dragon (Satan), a classic knight nemesis, in the book of Revelation. Some scholars have even gone so far as to identify Michael as the heavenly incarnation of Jesus following his resurrection. The implications of this are staggering.
It is later in the series that we discover what Knight’s true quest is: to confront Garthe Knight and to thwart his evil plans. Garthe is no ordinary villain – he has the exact same face as Michael Knight!! While as entertainment this is merely a plot device, in the context of the larger psychological framework it is a most fitting end. It says, quite simply, man’s greatest enemy is himself and our greatest quest is to overcome our own inhibitions and live a life without regret and second-guessing. Garthe represents this to a T. He was the original Knight and went astray, only to be replaced by Michael. Yet, they are one and the same – two sides of the same coin. Michael cannot possibly achieve success without coming to terms with his past self (Garthe) and defeating him to move on to a higher level of being where The Self ceases to be antagonistic with itself. This is the goal of Everyman, although few if any succeed. Michael Knight succeeds, further indication this is all subconscious – the only place we truly come to terms with ourselves.
The suggestion of Knight Rider as a psychological profile of the Everyman might seem a stretch, and I may not have many examples to back myself up. But the few examples I have are strong, and I feel a deeper look into this idea might turn up a better understanding of what we each face in our daily lives – the trials of a stressful day reflected back to us at night where we have the power and inner strength to stop what we could only fear in daylight. We are all our own knights on our own endless quests, and someday we will be forced to face ourselves: our own worst enemies.