Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two Thoughts from the Space-Time Continuum

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and, frankly, I ain’t got a lot going on except football (Longhorns already won; time for the Texans to bump off Indy), shopping, and writing. Oh, and a little movie watching.

I convinced my wife to watch “Star Trek” on DVD. I saw it opening day back in May and have been anticipating seeing it again once it landed on DVD. In the Age of Complete Convenience For Everything You Might Remotely Want*, Blockbuster had loads of copies and I rented one. We saw it again tonight (Friday) and it led me to a statement and a question.

Reboots Are Not All Bad

I don’t know how many die-hard Trekkies lamented the events of the latest Star Trek movie. In one fell swoop, director J. J. Abrams wiped out all that we knew and created something new (nice rhyming, huh?). We had critics griping that there’s only one Kirk and Shatner is the one to play him. Ditto Spock, McCoy, and all the rest. It sure is loud, all that lamenting and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I did not count myself among the lamenters. As I wrote on my blog, I consider Star Trek my favorite movie. After initially being ambivalent about the film based on the first trailer, I came around quite swiftly and ended up loving the film more than I expected. Yes, they changed a lot--everything?--but one thing survived: the spirit of Star Trek lives in the new movie and among the new cast.

The same thing will be said about the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law. Critics are already lambasting the film, the director, the action-adventure aspect of the film, and, of course, the casting of Downey. But, like the Star Trek film, I can tell that the spirit of the source material lives in the movie. Sure, Downey’s no Jeremy Brett (my choice for a definitive Holmes) but, then, neither was Michael Caine.

I think it’s okay that every generation updates certain classic characters and I can’t think of any character or situation that is so sacrosanct as to automatically preclude updating (or a reboot). Can you? And who here is really, Really looking forward to seeing the new Sherlock Holmes movie?

What Is It With Young Men?

Again, with the new Star Trek film, young James Kirk is a genius rebel who grew up without a father and uses self-destructive behavior to hide his anger and guilt. All of this happens, of course, until Someone Else talks to them and motivates them to rise and become the man they were born to be.

How many friggin times have we seen this? The list is virtually endless: Star Wars, Top Gun, Star Trek, Batman Begins, A Few Good Men, Good Will Hunting, etc. There are the older stories and myths most of which don’t come to mind because I’m just not that up-to-date with my Greek and Roman myths (but I know they are there).

Which leads me to the question I posed to my wife last night and I now throw out to you: Are there any stories like this with young women as the protagonist, the one who must rise up and become the woman she was born to be? None come to mind and I’m honestly wondering if there are any. I know there must be so, please, enlighten me.

*Age of Complete Convenience For Everything You Might Remotely Want -- My family and I drove around Houston on Thursday, visiting family, eating, and playing a Wii for the first time. Thirty years ago, when it came to Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, there was *nothing* open. Period. If you didn’t get something by the eve before, you were out of luck until the day after said holiday.

Not anymore. I noticed Cracker Barrel was open. Kroger was open. Walgreens and CVS were open (do they ever close?). Other places whose names escape me were open. And don’t even get me started on this “Open at 4am” crap.

When, in the last thirty-odd years, did it become important that we, as a society, must not be put out and have to wait for something just because a store was closed?


Graham Powell said...

Are there any stories like this with young women as the protagonist, the one who must rise up and become the woman she was born to be?

Uh... Silence of the Lambs?

pattinase (abbott) said...

This was the only Star Trek film I felt was worthy of a cinematic production. Starting over was what needed to be done to warrant a movie rather than another series.


John McFetridge said...

Well, you know, men and wome are different. Our lives may be more similar now, but historically we've got to admit there have been some big diffences. (people made a pretty big fuss when my wife became an engineer, very positive - my wanting to be a writer wasn't greeted with such warmth. Going against the grain doesn't always make you a hero ;)

So, the question, "Are there any stories like this with young women as the protagonist, the one who must rise up and become the woman she was born to be?"

The issue I guess is what do you mean by, "Born to be?" If you mean the women who fought social convention and the expectations placed on them to become the woman they felt they really were, then pretty much all of them in literature, from Jane Austen to that Sex and the City woman -- all the female characters are fighting like heroes to be the women they want to be.

But that doesn't mean they want to be men or have any of those qualities of male heroes.

I think it's interesting that a movie reviewer in the Toronto Star this week compared the Twilight series to Gone With the Wind and felt that Twilight was being unfairly critisized. He made no allowance for the fact that GWTW has as its background some very real, very tragic events and Twilight is about fantasy creatures that don't really exist.

In some ways that's how I see the difference between these male "fantasy" characters like James T. Kirk and Sherlock Holmes and Batman and the much more real female protagonists of, say, Jane Austen.

Mike Dennis said...

There are several characters and situations I can think of offhand who would automatically preclude updating (defined as "why bother?"). Here is my Top 10 List:

1. Rick Blaine
2. Don Corleone
3. Harry Fabian (updated and failed)
4. The two leads in "Double Indemnity"
5. Charles Foster Kane
6. The situation in "The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" (updated several times and failed every time)
7. Tony Montana (rare case where the update surpassed the original and eliminated the need for further updates)
8. Spartacus
9. The situation in "The Lost Horizon" (updated and failed)
10. Fast Eddie Felson (updated and failed)

I'm sure there will be disagreement, but this is my list.

Ed McKeogh said...

I know I'm asking for it, but here goes...

Sam Keen, in his book YOUR MYTHIC JOURNEY, quotes Joseph Campbell as saying (and I'm paraphrasing here) that a woman's "heroic journey" is childbirth--something unique to her gender that men cannot do. So men, having no intrinsic, gender-dependent identity-affirming purpose have to "create" one, hence the gobs of myths that speak to the rite of passage from youth to manhood and the assumption of SOME task that infuses--and validates--his life with meaning. Such rites of passage require mentoring, hence the arrival in those stories of a wise old teacher who is often an older man but, sometimes, an older woman (such as the warrior women in certain Scandanavian myths). That's why the Hero with a Thousand Faces is, in 99% of cases, male.

WHICH IS NOT TO SAY THAT WOMEN CANNOT DERIVE ENLIGHTENMENT FROM THESE MYTHS AND ALSO PURSUE A VALIDATING JOURNEY BESIDES OR IN ADDITION TO MOTHERHOOD. It's just that is hasn't been until the last half-century or so that motherhood, itself, has lost its luster for so many women ... at least in some Western cultures.

Dana King said...

Thank you for this: "When, in the last thirty-odd years, did it become important that we, as a society, must not be put out and have to wait for something just because a store was closed?"

There's something wrong if the American economy can't sustain a handful of days a year without commerce so the people who work there can spend time with their families.

We have a rule at my house: certain holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day), if we don't have it, we'll do without it until tomorrow.