Monday, August 06, 2007

Quick Thoughts on Things Old and New

I saw the new Winnie the Pooh this weekend with my two year old. A part of me was horrified to see Tigger and Pooh in superhero costumes, to see A.A. Milne's work reworked in such banal and contemporary terms. But I realize that things do date, and worse, they drop off the radar entirely, and that my son certainly enjoys the new Pooh and he's the audience. So, is it better to create something lasting or to keep it pure and obscure?

Also, Fiona Avery transcribes a few words from a lecture by Timothy B. Shutt, PhD from Kenyon College, on "The Epic Today." Shutt talks about the cultural longing for epics and suggests their placement/consignment in fantasy worlds has to do with our deeply ironic, post-modern culture. He also asks if we aren't past the age of irony now. The comments on epics being about belief (not necessarily religious belief, but strongly held, unabashed beliefs in notions of honor, glory, morality) remind me of the new Doctor Who (particularly the third season closer). Doctor Who is very, very definitely about belief, and the character is shown to be fueled by belief in an almost divine sense, and thus, fits Shutt's definition of epic very nicely. I am also intrigued by his comments that we are past irony. They caused me to recall David Brin's reaction to critical dismissal of the film, The Postman. Though he allowed it wasn't a perfect adaptation of his novel, he felt that it was a shame that the hope and patriotism couldn't be taken at face value by a cynical media. I'd like to be past irony myself. Certainly, watching my two year old watch Winnie the Pooh, I'd like him to grow up in a world that allows itself to wonder without shame.

Update: Doh! Speaking of "the Epic Today," I forgot all about this.

8 comments:

Fiona Avery said...

Hey, thanks for the link! I am indeed curious about the Beowulf movie penned by Gaiman and Avary. I'm also curious about the elusive and older Beowulf-and-Grendel movie, which is another film I see popping up when I do Beowulf movie searches.

Loved your comments about The Postman -- that is exactly the kind of thing I was on about with my own entry. And I'm going to have to watch Doctor Who. I hate waiting for series releases, so what I generally do is wait 'til the series is finished and see it all in one go (I just did that with the Harry Potter books).

Just in closing, many folks make the mistake of thinking of epic as an adjective when I talk about the Epic. The Epic is not Don Quixote or Huckleberry Finn or even The Lord of the Rings, though it comes the most close to it, but fails because it's an 'imaginary' realm no matter how based on fact. If there's an element of irony, reality, or questioning of the very belief told within the narrative, then it can't be an epic.

Epics also do a lot to establish the identity of the people who read it and in the past that was nationality or religion. So it begs the question: What do we have to rally around in this way, today? Just wanted to toss that out there as well.

dave hutchinson said...

I'm an enormous fan of Ray Winstone, but even I have to admit he hasn't looked that good in a movie in...well, ever, really...

As to epics, I'm not sure this counts, but I'd maybe throw in the Western movie genre. Just a thought.

Tim Akers said...

I think there's a lot more to the Western than the movie. I read many...many...L'Amour books as a child. It's hard to describe how central the cowboy is to the American Psyche.

Dianora said...

Having seen Ratatouille this weekend, I can say that even if we are not quite past the age of irony, I think it's possible that we're finally getting there. Baby steps.

Lou Anders said...

And if there is to be a brave new world, our generation may have the hardest time living in it....

dave hutchinson said...

Tim - you're absolutely right, and I apologise for omitting the Western novel. I should have said the Western genre and left it at that. It just seemed apposite considering what Fiona said about establishing the identity of a people and what Lou said about notions of honour and morality.

Anonymous said...

New epics will have to be done so well, because irony is such a go-to frame of mind. However it is ironic that the movie Pearl Harbor with Ben Afflect, got a little bit of a pass due to its proximity to 911. I think we can say that Postman was a more powerful film, but the audience was a jaded generation-x, that fed on the cynical for its cool fix.

Lou Anders said...

Um, I have to say I absolutely couldn't stand Pearl Harbor. Had nothing to do with being jaded and cynical, I just thought it was a dreadful movie. Same goes for Top Gun - that was laughably bad. I do love Officer and a Gentleman and saw The Postman three times though.