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Yeah, I can't get to sleep. What's your point? - CERisE's Testing for L

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November 5th, 2010


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05:21 am - Yeah, I can't get to sleep. What's your point?
majesticarky posted this lovely bit about dragons and vampires having transformed from their original, frightening visages to approachable sorts. I hammered my response into a post:

I can forgive the original Hollywood interpretations of Dracula -- consider Bela Lugosi more an effect to show what Dracula was like to the women than what he actually looked like. Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer turned them into the stuff of romance novels. I guess hunks with thin, half open shirts have lost some of their cachet.

To be fair, there are people fighting the good fight and keeping vampires true to the original conception. The recently produced comic & movie 30 Days of Night springs to mind as an example of vampires as perhaps even more frightening creatures.

Zombies have also strayed somewhat from their original forms. Compare the slow, shambling creatures in Night of the Living Dead vs. the undead Olympic athletes in the Left 4 Dead video games, the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and 28 Days Later. Here too, there's some good news with the Dead Rising series.

One of the earliest mentions of a dragon that I know of is Beowulf. John Gardner's Grendel gave that dragon a particularly memorable line: "My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on it."

After a fashion, I have to point the blame for dragons at a particular love of mine: The Chronicles series of Dragonlance in which they postulated the existence of good and bad dragons, gave them intellects, made them powerful sorcerors, and an aura of fear. Anne McCaffrey followed that with dragons being companions in the Dragonriders of Pern books.

And then, of course, there's that unforgettable Sean Connery flick Braveheart which is the best dragon film I can think of off the top of my head.

(The year 2000 also saw the release of the entirely forgettable Dungeons and Dragons movie which was wonderful in the way they handled dragons -- even explaining that some dragons could be made beasts of the earlier legends -- and terrible in everything else. The best line of the movie was Jeremy Irons' "I WILL CREATE NEW DIMENSIONS OF PAIN AND GIVE YOU NEW SENSES TO FEEL THEM WITH!". More for camp than anything else. I bet it's aged badly too.)

Still, there is this to be said: there are some shining, marvelous pillars of fiction involving new dragons, whereas new vampires & zombies are a complete wash.

An aside: I can think off hand of at least three other cultures which had dragons apart from the Germanic/Scandanavian archetype. It occurs to me that our concept may have caused people 1200 years ago to clap their hand against their forehead, shake their head, and lament the state of writing in the same way as Twilight.

That's three sets of monsters (the youngest of which is the vampire: a mere 200 years old) which have morphed from terrible creatures within the last 30 years. Taking a previous work and reconsidering it from the stance of the villain is a rich tradition of fictional writing. It tends to make the villain somewhat more sympathetic. And if the villains are sympathetic, perhaps they share other human traits?

(A more modern example, contrast Hitler with the Hipster version.)

Possibly this is the "fault" of industrialized society. As kids, we still have the fears of the creatures under our beds or in our closets and we leave a light on as a talisman against the dark. As adults, we dismiss those fears.

In general, our society has gone from fearing dumb brutes with overwhelming powers to cold, cunning killers. Even Jurassic Park couldn't resist taking velociraptors and making them into creatures of tactics. Alien is probably the next closest, but those creatures have become more intelligent as the series has gone on.

Perhaps all that remains of primitive man's fears are ghosts -- but there's such a load of fiction out there about ghosts which are stuck here for a reason. Never mind the people who claim to be able to speak to them.

(As a postscript, I'm certain this isn't my best writing. It feels choppy. I'm choosing to blame it on the lateness of the hour, but it's been a long time since I've written anything worthwhile and even longer since I've had a decent editor. I can't help but think that's had an effect on my ability to express myself with the written word.)

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:darnn
Date:November 5th, 2010 12:38 pm (UTC)
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So you didn't like 28 Days Later?
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From:nekojita
Date:November 5th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
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You know, I remember getting into trouble for reading the more 'un-sanitized' version of fairy tales to the neighbor's kid when I babysat her years ago (with all the cutting off of heels and rolling in barrels of nails and pecking out of eyes and such)... but that's the way they were supposed to be. Magic wasn't supposed to be all fairy dust (well, unless you went back to the original forms of fairies, the type my Irish grandmother raised me up with, who would steal you away and eat you rather than sing you songs and spin you dresses out of cobwebs and moonlight) and happiness, but paying the price owed. And magical creatures always had their own appetites and mindsets, and yeah, no sparkles or wanting to be friends (please, oh please don't get me started on the sparkles, I will rant until I'm hoarse in the throat once I do).

I guess that's why when everyone's raving about that insidious Twilight series or even LKH's books, I always bring up Nancy A. Collin's Sonja Blue series, because out of a lot of modern vampire writers, she does still close to the original mythology (and not just for vampires). But that's probably why she's not on the best seller's list, her version doesn't sparkle or been completely emasculated.
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From:testing4l
Date:November 6th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC)
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Now I wish I'd mentioned it over sushi. ; )

(Side note: When I was at the Festival of Books, they had a wall of a tent with a bunch of markers on it with an invitation to write on it. I didn't know what sequels there were to Twilight, but I could surmise by the sheer number of repetition.

I remember this little old lady behind me who said, "Well, at least they're reading.")

Some of the original tales really are quite different. If nothing else, then for their understanding of anatomy. I remember not quite getting the original Rumplestiltskin (where the dwarf tears his leg off) or Red Riding Hood (in which Red Riding Hood was apparently swallowed whole by the wolf).
[User Picture]
From:nekojita
Date:November 6th, 2010 12:45 am (UTC)
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Now I wish I'd mentioned it over sushi. ; )
Oh, sure, and then Mac would have been throttling *you* because she's heard my Twilight ranting many a time before! :-P

(and I don't know, I sorta worry about a generation of young women reading a series where the 'ideal man' is a serial stalker and their Mary Sue insert believes that it's okay to be dominated and to give up every aspect of herself and to be continuously placed in danger by someone who supposedly 'loves' her as long as she is 'loved' in return. It's... seriously disturbing.)

As for the understanding of anatomy... some of the series I've seen out there lately hasn't really shown much of a better grasp of it, despite the supposed leaps of science we've made in the intervening centuries. I mean, first there's the *sparkling* vampires, near indestructible vampires, then there's the heroines whose private bits seem to be made out of antibacterial coated Teflon (not to mention are some sort of interdimensional pockets because of the size differentials), a serious miscalculation on the male population's genitalia size, and a bunch of other blatant ignoring of physics in relations to the human body. Makes me want to bash some writers over the head with an anatomy book.
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:November 7th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
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Incidentally, I just found this t-shirt and thought you'd enjoy that it exists. 8)
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From:majesticarky
Date:November 5th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad I inspired a creative endeavor : D. Ghosts have been made PG too, look at Casper. hehe. These days, though, people are tired of ghosts doing bad deeds and more interested in finding out what happened to them like all of those shows about people who can communicate with the dead.
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From:testing4l
Date:November 5th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
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It's been pretty much forever since

Oh crap -- I should have remembered Casper. I used to <3 Casper.

Still, there aren't many of them. Even Ghost had some pretty violent ghosts amid the pottery wheel scene.

Actually, come to think of it, we're still scared of spiders and snakes. They aren't supernatural, but maybe that's the best we have left.
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From:squeekiemouse
Date:November 7th, 2010 09:36 am (UTC)
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If you get a chance, I do recommend the vaguely new "How To Train Your Dragon" movie, as long as you can tolerate kids films. Its a pretty basic story (it IS a kids movie), but the dragons in it are cute and hilarious. Interesting concept, all around, and illustrates the popularity of the genre in general that pseudo viking villages as a setting are filtering down to children these days.

... I could also recommend a million other dragon things, but that was the newest one to spring to mind.
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:November 7th, 2010 10:11 am (UTC)
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That was actually the movie which started majesticarky's rant. 8)

It's on my netflix queue -- like so many other things. To paraphrase Goethe, I think that I add things to my netflix queue because I imagine that I'm also adding the time to see it to my lifespan. 8)

(Since this sort of thing seems to inspire recommendations, I had recommended to her Braveheart (which seems to get better with each rewatching), Dragonlance's Chronicles, and Anne McCaffrey's Pern books.)

That aside, it lightened my heart a bit seeing a comment from you, dear. I had feared you had entirely departed the reach of my internet sphere.
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From:squeekiemouse
Date:November 8th, 2010 06:32 am (UTC)
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No, Im not totally gone, just ridiculously busy. Are you surprised? : ) I've gotten a bit worse than usual, I think, now that Im in library school because I have this impending feeling that I'll NEVER get to have any of these opportunities again. Thats not quite true, but it feels like that with some of the fantastic classes and jobs etc. I'll be back in CA for summer, so maybe we can hang out then or something, before I fly off to Europe.

Hope you're doing well!
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:November 8th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
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No, Im not totally gone, just ridiculously busy. Are you surprised? : )

I really shouldn't be. But I am a bit every time. It amazes me that you keep up the focus to do all the things you do while finding new things to fill in the upcoming gaps. If I had half a brain, I'd study how you do it to see if I couldn't apply some of that towards making a better memory-fetch processor. 8)

I'll be back in CA for summer, so maybe we can hang out then or something, before I fly off to Europe.

I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed.

Now I just have to figure how to type code like this... 8)

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