Monday, January 30, 2012

Sequestration of Harshitude.

The title really makes no sense.. but Harshitude.. a Dude'ism if ever there was one.. is about the best word I could really think of.

I just got done reading a rather critical look at the works of Steven Spielberg. It had a portion that really resonated with me, specifically about how I feel towards the "Grimdark" sub genre of Fantasy.

"In each of his issue films, Spielberg presents a bleak world, then finds a ray of hope within it. Often, that contrast between light and despair is rendered visually, and not always comfortably so. In Ryan, the gray, grainy, skittery feel of the invasion of Normandy clashes with the gauzy shots of the aged Matt Damon at the grave sites. In Amistad, the awful portrayal of the Atlantic Passage jars against the scenes in which John Quincy Adams, like a character in a play, stands off from the people he’s speaking with to declaim his lines into the distance. Spielberg is sacrificing aesthetics in his intense desire to sequester the harsh material cinematically. He never commits to a worldview that doesn’t ultimately have a sunny patina."

That is a very good explanation of what my problems with Grimdark really are. I don't mind the graphic depictions of war or battle, what I draw issue with is their general lack of hope. Lots of defenders of the sub genre like to point out that Lord of the Rings, ends on a pretty down note. They are some what right, yes, Frodo never really recovers, The world will never be quite so magical as it was before, but the world has hope returned to it. Most of Robert E. Howard's works, again sometimes pointed to by the grimdarkers, isn't so much against civilization but for the triumph of human spirit and will power. Hopeful themes both.

Granted not all of Spielberg's movies make sense. He twists reality to fit his worldview. He forces his films, if not have a happy ending, at least only have a bittersweet ending. He doesn't do down endings. Even the bulk of the films he produces follow this model. Think about how culturally important the movies he has directed or produced are, not only to the culture of the United States, but likely to the world in general. Arguably he is less culturally important than George Lucas, another man who shares the some what gauzy rose tinted world view. The two men are after all frequent collaborators/partners in crime. When I think about just how many films I've seen that Speilberg or Lucas made.. It begins to make sense to me why I have such a similar world view.

Even in Lucas's darkest turn, The Empire Strikes Back, which I've never hidden the fact it is my least favorite of all 6 films in the Star Wars series.. precisely because it's such a departure from the rest of the work Lucas puts out. I can't view it as anything but a middle chapter, it exists to shift the characters from the end of A New Hope, to the beginning of Return of the Jedi. Just as the down ending of Revenge of the Sith functions to transition the hopefulness at the end of Attack of the Clones into the hopefulness of A New Hope.

I grew up watching Star Wars, Willow, The Goonies, Back to the Future, Hook, Jurassic Park, and Batteries not included over and over again. It's really no surprise I can't deal with bad endings. I grew up being exposed to media that presented the bad guys winning as anathema to itself. The Bad Guys ALWAYS lose. Thats the way it should be. Hope remains, and with it reaffirmation that the world isn't really as crappy as it seems to be.

Maybe that's not accurate. In fact I know it's a lie. But it's a lie I willingly accept in order to not sink into depression. That's perhaps the whole point, and says more about me than it does about the people who write down books.

1 comment:

Andy said...

For me, the issue is that there is no one true way of viewing the world. For every oppressive hellhole of a country in which people are pointlessly imprisoned or killed, there are other parts of the world in which people get along in their lives without a care in the world. And even in some lousy places, people find ways of making life bearable or even fun, and in prosperous places, people find ways of making themselves miserable.

What I object to is when someone tells me that life is nonstop sunshine or that life is pure hell and that thinking otherwise is a delusion.