Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Questioning Escapism

If there has been anything positive about being without sufficient work at the time, it has been an ability to take another look at several films with renewed eyes. Particularly after reading a pretty good little book on the subject - Mushroom Clouds And Mushroom Men by Peter H. Brothers, something I'll definitely delve into more on these pages in the near future. Combine this with my own internal notions regarding pop culture, particularly film's divide between sheer escapism, and a viewer's wish for actual catharsis, one can take another view of these works as something of a conundrum. How does one write for a blog centering on some of the most left-field, escapist-like fare, and not drive one's self crazy in the process? There is a simple answer to this. One I hope more "geek-media bloggers" take into account when talking fantasy & genre works.  So when it came time to take in another viewing session of 1964's Three Giant Monsters - The Greatest Battle On Earth (also known in the states as Ghidrah: The Three Headed Monster) it should come as little surprise that aside from the superb work on display by Honda, Tsuburaya & crew, it's still a middling mashup of Dogora, featuring a cool monster fight at the end. For most, this was the big shark-jumping turning point for the Gojira franchise, and it's hard to not see why.

By this point, it only made sense to take the nuclear nightmare metaphor, and chuck it for what the public seemed ready to embrace, Gojira as hero. And what better adversary could there be than a three-headed dragon from space? After ten years, perhaps TOHO and the public were ready to make off with their cathartic sides, and just break out the monster in a manner that would see him as a reluctant representative of humanity. Perhaps my favorite moment in the film involves humans asking the diminutive Shobijin (Yumi & Emi Ito - PEANUTS) to translate a crucial discussion between Radon, Gojira, and Mothra - one that could rouse all three monsters to join forces against the dangerously powerful Ghidorah. Upon pleading with Gojira to join the cause, his response is to the effect that humans aren't worth helping because they "always bully him". It is this one silly scene that somehow cements the film as an important moment in the series, as it is that rare moment where the audience is directly privy to what the usually punchy monster thinks of the human race he has suddenly been tasked with defending. By giving Gojira a relatable voice, as is the public's view of such calamity in the real world.

I continue to stand by the notion that the very best genre has to offer carries within them some tether to very real concerns and emotions. When discussions arise regarding wishes that stories could remain almost strictly outside the realms of reality, one cannot help but wonder where it comes from, especially when the public tolerance for story logic and reason have reached fever pitch in recent years. Possibly as backlash from years of being inundated with works that continuously wink and nudge the audience with a general attitiude of "Kid with us..You don't really buy into any of this, do you?" By the 1980s, films had shunned camp for the most part, and substituted it with over the top sensibilities, which do have their charms. But such as storytelling trends change, the constant has always been some semblance of the real, and how it pertains to daily life. From another take on the "Hero's Journey" or even a simple horror tale, nothing works like carefully considered stories, and multidimensional characters. Without them, all we are looking at is fanciful art for its own sake. (which in it's own way have their charms, just not in many ways that engross me, or inspire discussion deeper than what manner of model work was used here, or CG texture modeling there.)

If the story cannot connect beyond the artifice, then the artifice becomes the reason for being.

So when I read tweets, or blog updates, or even Facebook posts bemoaning the idea that films offering less than comfortable emotions, it begs the question of why one watches what one does. And while disagreement is encouraged and the very essence of a free society, one cannot help but wonder how it comes to be that certain questions, emotions, themes are considered verboten in lieu of tropes, cliches, and expected outcomes. Again, this is obviously speaking completely from a subjective viewpoint, but if catharsis is to be avoided, then what function does art serve in that respect?

Suddenly..."moe" begins to make all the strangest sense in the world.

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