Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Revisionist Mythology

The other day, Alexis at The Tao of D&D* trash talked Star Wars. Alexis is kind enough to inform us that any adult who appreciates Star Wars is an uncultured dolt. Joseph Campbell believed that Star Wars re-introduced modern audiences to the concept of the monomyth. Ergo, by Alexis' estimation, Joseph Campbell was an uncultured dolt. If I am an uncultured dolt for liking such a well regarded film, then at least I'm in good company.

Star Wars is an example of intellectual property with significant cultural impact. Sometimes there is conflict between the 'owner' of such a property and the people ('fans') deeply affected by that property; such has been the case with some of George Lucas' efforts to 'revise' certain details of Star Wars. (For the record, not only did Han shoot first, but Greedo didn't get off a shot at all. Those are the facts. Deal.) I am reminded of when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes; public outcry was so great, he was eventually compelled to bring Holmes back. When does should an artist lose control of his creation?

Another intellectual property with significant cultural impact (well, impact to Our Hobby at least) is The World's Most Popular Role-Playing Game. There is occasional discord between the owning Wizards and those who cherish the game's origins. At least we have the Open Game License; the Wizards are free to take the path where My Little Pony leads them and we are free to preserve, if not enhance, what we hold dear.

Han shot first.

The Great Detective lives.

D&D is ours (except for beholders and displacer beasts and stuff).

* Alexis is like Emmanuel Goldstein in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Just as Goldstein served as the focus of the Two Minutes Hate, Alexis is a target for cathartic release. If Alexis did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.


  1. That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard Joseph Campbell say. Who knew he could be that unread?

    Apparently, neither Joseph nor you have ever heard of William Shakespeare, who wrote 8 parts of a saga; or Marcel Proust, who wrote 7. Parts which, incidentally, haven't included three crap-fests which even the fans dislike ... though granted, I've never been entirely satisfied with Henry IV: Part II.

    It is really a matter of what you choose to compare your genius with, I suppose.

  2. Hah! And L'il Lexi compares his "genius" to...Grogturdia. No wonder he can't stop fondling himself. Or talking about revising those Weather and Perfumer Seasonal Event Tables.

    Just return to de-linifying your belly button...that is, if someone as superior as you actually has one and did not get it surgically removed so you could smugly shake your head at those of us lugging ours around.


  3. And I suppose that comment was demonstrative of why I shouldn't feel superior?

  4. Come off it! Everyone knows Shakespeare rolled for everything on random tables to write his plays! The Scottish Play* is the original SUCKDUNGEON! Rumour has it sometimes he allowed Christopher Marlowe and Her Majesty Herself Elizabeth Regina to roll for him!

    Regina sounds like Vagina.

    *little known fact: just like in a theater when you are trodding the boards, it is bad luck to say the name of the Scottish Play on a blog message board when you are trolling the boards.

  5. First, I'd like to think everybody for commenting.

    Second, I'd like to respond to Alexis. When Campbell said "modern audiences," I assume he meant the contemporary generation. While Shakespeare and Proust are timeless, their works are not necessarily (or easily) accessible on an intellectual level by the 'mainstream' of our day and age. Also, I do not speak of the Star Wars saga, but merely the original film (which is now branded 'Episode IV'). Perhaps I misread your post, but I thought you were addressing only the original film. Saying that Episodes I-III are crap-fests is being rather generous. Had Campbell lived to see them, I fancy that he would have bitch-slapped Lucas. Personally, I don't particularly care for Episodes V or VI either.

  6. JRT,

    Not only did Shakespeare use random tables for his plays, but for his sonnets as well.

    Of course, Shakespeare didn't create the tables, he only rolled on them. Edward de Vere compiled the tables, with editing by Francis Bacon. (I think it was Philip Sydney who originally said, "Everything goes better with Bacon," but don't quote me.)

    Oh yeah, John Dee made Shakespeare's dice.

  7. I will admit that the first movie (sorry, I cannot think in terms of ‘episodes’) has its bright points, and that it could be termed a romp and general good fun. However, this insistence that it is ‘the greatest movie ever made’ is merely a bit of social wish-fulfillment, which argues that the best film must BE fun and not another serious boring drama, as the critics always insist it must be.
    I have no idea what Campbell was on when he made that statement, but given his history of not being easy to please, I suspect there is a misquotation somewhere that has long since become canon … like Yogi Berra who did not say half the things he said.
    There have been plenty of movie sagas in the years leading up to Star Wars that could be called ‘monomythic.’ Quite a lot of them aren’t in English, as some Japanese-loving enthusiasts would be quick to agree. Some of them have been Westerns, some of them have been Who-dunnits … and some of them have been famously pornographic. What they weren’t was science fiction – for the simple reason that it took considerable technological advancement in film making to make a movie that could be.
    That Star Wars happened to be that film was mere chance. It has been improved upon a dozen times but of course none of those improvements have achieved the notoriety that has come from being first, and having the living hell sold out of it. It isn’t the movie that’s responsible for the “love” of this movie. It’s marketing.

  8. I find it funny about associating me to Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein … Orwell being, of course, one of the first people to consider himself distinctly superior to the masses – having spent so much time among them, as detailed in Down and Out in Paris and London. The Two Minutes Hate was the sort of thing in 1984 that worked very well with stupid people, but did not work at all well with Winston, Orwell’s hero, who looked around at the other hating people and wondered why he was not like them.

  9. Marketing definitely had a lot to do with it. You ever see any Proust action figures?

    Anyway, I've dug out my copy of The Power of Myth. More to come.

  10. "However, this insistence that it is ‘the greatest movie ever made’ is merely a bit of social wish-fulfillment"

    And that is why so many of your arguements are hollow. Nobody here said that, did they? And most fans of Star Wars don't say that either. If you believe so, provide three solid examples that prove the majority of Star Wars fans say it is the "greatest movie ever made."

    Your willingness to lie about people, mischaracterizing them and mis-stating their words so you can feel better about your own miserable existence, is why most discerning people laugh at your endless genuflecting. Because it is so demonstrably false, as above.

    But hey, keep repeating your mantras, one day you might believe them.


  11. I think you should know that in Classicist circles old Joseph is seen as something of a whack job, not particulary important and not a measurable part of the curriculum. Moreover, advancing his theories in a Classicist department of a university would produce a facial expression something akin to a bad smell.

    He is one of those 20th century fellows, like Wilhelm Reich, who is cherished for their brilliance by a certain popular segment of the population that does not generally have much influence in academic circles.

  12. I only need one example. Alec Guinness heard it referred to as that so often he made it his central point in the chapter he gave to Star Wars in his own autobiography.

    I would naturally expect my opinions to sound 'hollow.' They are not your opinions, O unnamed anonymous commenter, who demands sources without presenting even a false name for the internet.

    I wonder about the madness of those who believe an opinion that differs from their own is a "lie."

  13. Pay attention, L'il Lexi. You said:

    "However, this insistence that it is ‘the greatest movie ever made’ is merely a bit of social wish-fulfillment"

    There was no such insistence here. Or among the majority of fans.

    So it is a lie. One you didn't even have the stones to try and defend, except to put in scare quotes.

    I did not call it a lie because it differs from my own opinion - oh where would you be without your non-stop mischaracterization of others' statements? - I called it a lie because it is a willfully inaccurate statement. A lie, bitch.

    And I did present a false name for the internet. Try looking at the post again, if you have the reading comprehension you so desperately claim.

    Or read to the bottom of this post.

    But, more importantly, truth is truth whether it comes from an anonymous source or from Sagan.


  14. "Scare quotes?" Are quotes scary?

    So when I repeat what I've heard, it's a 'mischaracterization.' But when you claim to knowledge of what I do willfully - that is, secret knowledge of what is inside my mind - that isn't a mischaracterization.

    Nice world you've created there.

  15. No, not claiming secret knowledge, kid. Just going by the exact words you wrote, and your inability to defend them.

    Here is a hint - when you spout such a massive generalization, and are called on it, yet refuse to back it up (bringing up Guiness's dissatisfaction with star Wars in no way backs up your explicit words that "However, this insistence that it is ‘the greatest movie ever made’ is merely a bit of social wish-fulfillment"), that is willful on your part. And a lie. Ergo...

    But hey, just keep pulling a Karl Rove. And repeating what you are told to say.

    Perdy - sorry for hijacking your blog. Looking forward to your thoughts on Campbell. And more nudity.


  16. Oh, I don't think its that hard to find "greatest movie of all time" mixed with "Star Wars."

    Try Google.