Postmodernism be thy name

I remember studying postmodernism in university and the upmost hatred I had at the idea that there is no such thing as a new idea. But when examined this truth becomes self-evident. There is no such thing as new ideas, merely a new way of looking at or telling the same stories over and over again.

It can be applied to any type of philosophy and industry but one where we see it prevalently is in literature (and film – however this is not a film blog). It is more than a matter of genres these days when we talk about the subject of books. Think about how often you describe a book by using other books as an example.

As much as vampires would be a perfect example of this, I know we seem to harp on about a certain series rather frequently so I’ll choose another course of action.  I have recently finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, as I didn’t want the upcoming movie spoil the imagery I would create for myself first.

The Hunger Games, for those who haven’t read it or seen the previews for the movie is a post apocalyptical, adventure, action, political and emotional thriller focusing on the life of Katniss Everdeen. The story is based around the event of the title, the Hunger Games where 2 children from each district are sent into an arena to battle to the death, the winner being given a life time of so-called luxury on winning. I won’t go into any more detail so I don’t spoil the story for those who are planning on reading it and/or seeing the movies (unless they totally balls them up and only the first one gets made), but when asked what it was about, the first thing that popped in my mind was it was like a cross between Battle Royale and The Long Walk.

Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル Batoru Rowaiaru)is a 1999 Japanese novel written by Koushun Takami, later made into a movie of the same name by Kinji Fukasaku in 2000. Although I haven’t read the book yet, the movie is about a group of school children pitted against each other on an island in a battle of life and death, the winner will be the only one allowed to go free. And although the situation is vaguely similar in the child vs. child battle to the death there is no similarity in characters and story.

The Long Walk is a short story by Stephen King under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. Again child vs. child who battle it out on, as the title suggests, a long walk. Anyone slowing below 4 miles an hour gets 3 warnings, and is then shot dead by the military that run the walk. The winner will get a life of luxury at the end. Although a less aggressive and more psychological version of the theme it still rings true.

If we look further this idea appears again and again. An earlier example is that of The Most Dangerous Game, a short story by Richard Connell, later adapted to film in 1932. A big game hunter ends up stranded on an island with an eccentric man who claims he hunts the most dangerous game. This is when the hunter becomes the hunted as he realises the man hunts humans on his island.

I’m sure there are many more examples of this story throughout literature and history as well, and this is but one example of postmodernism. Think of your favourite book; now think about how you would describe it to someone. Does the description liken it to another book or a film perhaps?

Postmodernism is a bitch but don’t let it discourage you. Sure no ideas are new and maybe even the way you look at it or approach it may have been done but people keep on reading the same stories over and over by different writers in different covers, and will continue doing so, because everyone tells a story slightly different to the next person. And it is the familiarity of theme combined with the spark of imagination needed to find the way to tell it that keeps us opening books and watching films etc etc even if we have seen them dressed in a different cover many times before.

 

~ Sabrina R G Raven

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Reinvention Be Thy Name

Many genres have had a reinvention, and it normally only takes one person to hack a new path through the jungle for the rest to follow. Take for example Danny Boyle’s film 28 Days Later,’ I would say he reinvented zombies. These zombies run fast, real fast. They never did that before. With George Romero’s zombies, they were always shuffling, moaning, and stumbling. But these zombies, they sprint like Olympic athletes. Boyle’s zombie flick spawned a whole new generation of zombie movies. It breathed new life into an otherwise dead genre (pun intended). Although, if I went to see a Romero zombie movie and they ran fast, I would be disappointed. Often you need the old as well as the new.

Sometimes the reinvention of a genre goes horribly wrong, take Twilight. Vampires were already cool and not many people changed them. You had Interview with a Vampire and Dracula, all still very decadent and blood thirsty, it’s how vampires had been and how they should have stayed. Look at Fright Night or ‘Salem’s Lot, they can walk among us almost undetected but still pack a punch when it come to sucking blood. Twilight vampires do not. Even Robert DeNiro as Frankenstein had its merits and the new Wolf Man movie wasn’t so bad, but did these movies make as much as Twilight? No. They never branched out from the cliché, they never challenged what had already been paved in stone. Instead of a reinvention, in was a reimagining, and that’s not what I want. Change something that has been done to death and show me, if it sucks, well ok, at least you gave it a go and came up with something new from something old. But if it works, then that particular thing will never be the same again. I suspect with the new sparkly vamps there will be a backlash and we’ll start seeing movies with hardcore vampires again. But there will always be that scar across the Vampire genre now.

Typically, I don’t like fantasy. Not the dungeons and dragons, elves and swords fantasy. For me, it’s just old and dated and only really appeals to hardcore nerds. Now, I know I may have offended some of you by saying that, but hear me out.

When someone told me about Game of Thrones, I was hesitant. I wasn’t into political fantasy with the occasional battle scene and with boring old men with long robes and beards, clasping tomes and dribbling. We (my girlfriend and I) ended up giving it a go, and couldn’t stop watching it. I remember thinking that I must have been under a rock for the last few years and not noticed that Fantasy could be kick ass. I mean, I’ve read Lord of the Rings and I even had that old board game Hero Quest, but that was a long time ago and I haven’t liked Fantasy since, but this was different somehow. I really loved the characters, they were unique and the story lines between the Kings and their rule was intriguing. Some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘Jeez, this sort of Fantasy has been out for a long time.’ But I’ve never seen it. I avoided the whole Fantasy isle at the book shop because I just thought it was all relatively the same. I’ve now got three of the Song of Ice and Fire books and plan on reading them later in the year, plus I’ve pre-ordered the graphic novel to read and I also want the sword with the white wolves head on it for my wall.

Tolkien may not have invented many of the species or races he wrote about, but he invented the way we imagine them. As an example, elves are a certain way because that’s how Tolkien wrote about them. Then came the hundreds of copycat books where the Elves and Dwarfs are all the same. Terry Pratchett took this and held a mirror up to them, making a joke out of what they had become, or what was expected of them as ‘Elves’ or ‘Dwarf’s’. JK Rowling then took magic to a new era. I never really thought about the wand before, the last time I checked it was used by lame party magicians to pull rabbits out of their hats. But after watching/reading Harry Potter, I wanted to collect them and know more about them. I liked the way they were made and how they were used.

I’m down for reinvention. I say let’s move forward so things can evolve. Eventually it will come full circle, but we have to do that loop before we can go back to the ‘old school’ versions of things. These versions are what we fell in love with, and we will again, after tasting a few different flavours. If you can write about, for example, ‘Giants’ or ‘Imps’ in a new way, and make them unique, then I say your progressing the fantasy field and giving it that nudge that it needs. Sometimes a push is what’s needed to make something move, but all in all, I only want to read something new and interesting, but kept real. Good luck.

Mitchell Tierney