I just went to the theater to see the Superman Returns flick, and was pleasantly surprised... though in part because of preset expectations that were extremely low. I had heard, for example that there were dozens of pretentious Father-Son-savior-redemption referents, and there were... as Supe blatantly takes upon his shoulders the burden of humanity’s sins... ooooh. And yet, it was quite not as offensively pushy as I feared. And while the protagonist’s endleesly schoolboyish , brokenhearted crush on Lois was way over the top, some of the movie's color and vivid flash helped make up for it.
On the positive side, there were a few moments of normal people stepping in to help out. Perhaps a new superhero tradition? Not as beautifully and meaningfully as it was done in both Spiderman films - (those two did this in boldly profound and marvelously moving ways that I deeply admired) - but at least a bit of it was there.
And now, regarding art on a much more elevated level.... Stefan provided this and I want to thank him for it:
David, Samuel Clemens's slam against Sir Walter Scott reminds me of your rants about Bakshi, Lucas, and JRRT. Take this excerpt from the chapter "Enchantments and Enchanters" of _Life on the Mississippi_
"Against the crimes of the French Revolution and of Bonaparte may be set two compensating benefactions: the Revolution broke the chains of the _ancien régime_ and of the Church, and made of a nation of abject slaves a nation of freemen; and Bonaparte instituted the setting of merit above birth, and also so completely stripped the divinity from royalty, that whereas crowned heads in Europe were gods before, they are only men, since, and can never be gods again, but only figure-heads, and answerable for their acts like common clay. Such benefactions as these compensate the temporary harm which Bonaparte and the Revolution did, and leave the world in debt to them for these great and permanent services to liberty, humanity, and progress.
Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless, and worthless long-vanished society.
He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote. Most of the world has now outlived good part of these harms, though by no means all of them; but in our South they flourish pretty forcefully still. Not so forcefully as half a generation ago, perhaps, but still forcefully.
There, the genuine and wholesome civilization of the nineteenth century is curiously confused and commingled with the Walter Scott Middle-Age sham civilization and so you have practical, common-sense, progressive ideas, and progressive work, mixed up with the duel, the inflated speech, and the jejune romanticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of charity ought to be buried.
But for the Sir Walter disease, the character of the Southerner--or Southron, according to Sir Walter's starchier way of phrasing it--would be wholly modern, in place of modern and mediæval mixed, and the South would be fully a generation further advanced than it is. It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge, before the war; and it was he, also, that made these gentlemen value these bogus decorations. For it was he that created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. Enough is laid on slavery, without fathering upon it these creations and contributions of Sir Walter."
Phew! I am not sure that even I would go so far as Clemens does here, in my denunciations of romanticism. (Indeed, I feel that I do not denounce as much as caution.) For example, it seems to me that Clemens ignores the INHERENT allure of feudalism. I see it as clearly the “natural” human order, since it erupted almost everywhere, across 4,000 years. Certainly the proud and prickly Southern caste system was already present before Sir Walter Scott.
And yet, he is right to point out that this elitist-feudalist-fantasy-ramantic stuff - when it becomes anti-modernist propaganda - is one of the purest evils around. Moreover, how can I feel anything but warmth toward Clemens for expressing - once again - his alliance with us moderns, and with our determined goal of human progress.
Want an irony? read something else by the same man... Mark Twain’s lovely rant against Benjamin Franklin! Superficially similar, it has very different deep meaning. It is a great piece, in which one grouchy brother gripes about another... while you can tell that they were so very much alike, under the skin. Both rambunctious and eager and bold and tolerant and deeply, deeply American. They were siblings.
Last week, standing by Franklin’s grave... just a block away from the American Enlightenment's Sinai... I felt very much the same.