I haven't read EVERYTHING BAD IS GOOD FOR YOU
(not that a simply ignorance of the material has ever stopped me before), but based on the New York Times piece
, his argument seems to be that complex narratives are better, and better for you, than simply narratives. This seems wildly wrong to me. This
, for example, and to stay with this week's "Freemason's Rule the Country!" brand of O.G. paranoia, is an incredibly complex narrative, full of odd connections and character; it's also the work of a loon. This
, on the other hand, is similiarly complex work of paranoia and alternate history (featuring again the Queen of England if not the ubiqitious Masons) and is, if not, art, at least a hell of a good time. In other words, I'm not sure complexity itself is enough, at least not if we're talking aesthetic merit (complex but inartistic works might I suppose be good for you in cognitive development sense, even if they're are crap as art). When we talk about art being good, we're really talking complextity plus something; be it craft, inspiration, or revelation. Complexity by itself is not enough.
Second, while reading through the back
on the Rosenbaum
piece, I notice Rose raising a question
about the proper use of stereotypes internal to other cultures. This is a good and prescient question, especially as more Western creators appropriate Manga and Anime tropes as well as Asian themes in general; in fact, in an odd bit of blogospheric synchronicity, I was wondering about this recently as well, after reading Sharkknife. Not that Sharknife is either bad or offensive, mind; but there is something weird, or at least potentially, weird, about an American book by a white creator whose protaganist is an Asian girl whose primary characteristic is, essentially, cuteness. Or where the dialogue is, I don't know, some sort of a faux street thing; a work whose impact depends on an appreciation of the funkily exotic. Maybe there is nothing weird about it, given the cultural cross-pollination at work. Maybe it's me. I mean, I think Sharknife had it's heart in the right place, but still; Elvis loved black music
(allegedly), after all, and he doesn't get a pass. I wish I could articulate why this thought crops up in some works but not others; after all, I don't think Kagan Mcleod's Infinite Kung-Fu is bad for playing with both Blaxploitation and Chinese stock plots and characters, but then again that book has style to burn. It may be merely that I want some self-awareness from a work that is playing with foreign tropes. Mcleod, with the extensive back end he puts in his books, where he rambles on about classic martial arts films, sort of suggests that he knows what building blocks he's using. Sharknife, by contrast, is pretty much the opposite of self-aware, which could be what sort of bugged me about it. More thoughts, later, with more time to think.
And in the spirit of half-formed thoughts dragged from the Peiratikos comment threads
, I'm still gnawing away on the bone that is Sin City; how and why the film version was so much more unpleasant than the comics given that the film's slavish devotion to the source material. I never thought that the comics were too much; I felt the movie was way too much. I felt bad seeing it with my wife, even though she liked it. And I can't quite figure out why. I mean, it's not because the film deviated from the source material. It might be the overload of three stories at once. Reading each segment a year apart, it's harder to notice Miller's obsession with genital mutilation. It might be a change in where I'm at with respect to the real world; fictional evocations of torture--especially torture used to reify the morality of the protaganist--is something I find more troubling these days, certainly moreso than I did back in, say 2000. It might be that we respond differently to film and comics violence. Movies control what we look at in ways comics can't, plus there is sound, Dolby surround in this case. And not just noise and movement, but real people up there on screen. I think that this may be the big one. We're sort of trained, I think, to look at people on the screen as stand-ins for real people. Naturalism, with respect to the human body, is sort of the default assumption; even in a movie like Star Wars, the basic limits of the body are basically the same as lived by the audience. Blades cut, rocks crush, throats choke shut. We empathize with the mutilation because we understand it; we've lived it, in miniature at least. Bodies in comics are abstractions, on the other hand (maybe) are abstractions. We don't empathize the same with a representation of a person. Picasso's Guernica
may be a powerful painting, but it is rather worse at conveying the horror of war than this picture