*sidles up to microphone, nervously clutching notes*
Having no spare juice to rant about politics today, I have decided to talk about Stuff I Like.
Specifically, certain genres of storytelling. I like storytelling. In particular, though I find it kind of amazing the way that western culture keeps coming back to one particualr kind of story: the epic. You know, Our Two-Dimensional Hero goes on some sort of adventure or journey that takes him or her to Strage, Liminal Places, where his or her Adventures will teach some fundamental Truth, and then he or she will go back to society a Changed Person.
Look at what has happened to epic's reputation, though. Oh, it's all good and effete to claim that you read *The Oddyssey* in World Lit and enjoyed it, but honestly, where is epic today? It hasn't died out, you know. It's in novels, particularly sci-fi and fantasy (Tolkein), film (the Wakowski brothers), and comic books/graphic novels (*Kingdom Come.* *The Sandman.*) Role playing games, both tabletop and electronic, are nothing but attempts to retell the epic genre to ourselves, rather than being told passively. But these, of course, are nothing like *The Illiad.* Oh, no. These are lowbrow materials, and not to be taken seriously. Guilty pleasures. Geek stuff.
Is there something wrong with having meaning conveyed by the interaction of character with plot, rather than by following the moody introspection of a given character through a nearly plotless space? Don't get me wrong: I like good character study. But why do we rate it more highly than other ways of conveying complex ideas? Epic does paint with a wide brush, but as the chorus of Matrix fans hanging around here know, the truths it tries to convey are no less profound. And they're conveyed in spite of Keanu Reeves' flat acting style. In fact, they come across more clearly *because* richly detailed individual characterization does not trip up the works.
Indeed, I contend that epic invites us to think more. Do we spend a lot of time hearing about how Neo feels about having gone down the rabbit hole? About his confusion, depression, or fear? No. But we are invited to think, because we are not having the whole thing experienced FOR us, about what it might be like for *us* if the same happened. Indeed, VASpider wrote a short peice along those lines the other day.
While none of this can possibly excuse *Star Wars: Episode II,* I would just liek to say that I'm pleased this genre has not died. Of COURSE it was silly when Roland cleaved both an opposing knight AND his horse in two with a single blow. Versimilitude is not the point. It was just as silly as Beowulf not needing to breathe actual air for three days, and the now-famous Trinity Coiled To Attack In Midair shot. But kvetching about a lack of subtlety in epic only shows that you don't know where to look for it -- that you only recognize subtlety when it is served to you on the fine china of an artfilm character-study. There is much more subtlety of theme in much of epic, for those with patience enough to listen.
I like epic.
Going home to watch the rest of *Neverwhere* on DVD now.