Sunday, September 28, 2008

in/nuendo delicto & Watchmen (these items unrelated)

I'm up at school, responding to student work. Last time I mentioned them, it was at the beginning of the semester. I haven't taken time to note that there are some promising writers in class. Some generally-creative minds, as well. Hooray :-)

Yesterday Kate and I took a break from the insanity-that-is-our-current-schedule and watched the first couple episodes of The Tudors. At one point, the Duke of Buckingham walks in on a knight having sex with his (that is, Buckingham's) daughter (the idea that "his daughter" means "his property" plays out pretty strongly here). He later confronts King Henry VIII, saying he caught the man "in flagrante delicto." Now, we've all heard that phrase. I'm not bothering to look it up in the OED right now, but I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that "flagrante" is related to the modern "flagrant." In which case, I have to ask-

Is there an innuendo delicto? A subtle delicto? I mean, can you catch someone in the sex act, but they're kinda pretending that it's not happening (I'm picturing the awkwardness of co-ed dorms and roommates coming home early here)? And to the other end, can you have flagrantissimo delicto? Riding down Main Street, USA on a unicycle while making love?

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In totally unrelated news, but posted here to avoid posting again: the Watchmen movie is on the way. I feel great trepidation, don't think the movie can in any way, shape, or form approach the movie. Shot-by-shot recreation of scenes does not necessarily mean that the film will be faithful to the comic. Potentially worse, especially for someone who likes video games, is the video game spinoff that's being worked on. With that in mind, however, there is hope.

Once upon a time, there was a game that essentially had a "Press x to think introspectively on your life" command. I'm thinking of Planescape: Torment. Not the best-selling game ever, but one of the most philosophically-complex games I've ever played. Within the first few minutes of playing, you're confronted by a quasi-Buddhist character telling you the world is illusory. Within twenty, you're given the option to convince another character that it's OK to die...because that person is losing his faith, and his religion posits death as a good thing, a passage to a better world. I really, really doubt that the the Watchmen game would try for that angle, but there's always the possibility.

Of course, then we'd end up with a comic book that pushes the boundaries of what a comic book can do, a video game that pushes the boundaries of what a video game can say/mean, and a movie that turns out to be the lesser/least product. Ironic, no?

Also, instead of a movie, an HBO/Showtime miniseries would rock. Webisodes/blog entries/etc to mirror the non-comic interludes. A multimedia experience that could (finally) capture the spirit of the original

2 comments:

Dan said...

Jeff,
In the last post you used "Main Street USA". I would like to see a posting about this. Have McCain and Obama brought this into mainstream America as the catch phrase of 2008? This might not have been the intent in your blog but i can't help think back to their debate on Friday and how they have made the phrase Americans will keep saying until November, and then it will be done. Will this replace the annoying WMD?
-Dan

JeFF Stumpo said...

Hmmm, I would say that Obama's catch phrase is still "the middle class," which the moderator on Saturday got him to define in terms of dollars, or "change," which is parodied wonderfully in the latest jibjab.com cartoon. For McCain, it's "values," though he really only inherits that one by trying to play to the conservative base (yeah, go ahead, define "values"), or "troops," which he uses to both reach out to individuals connected to the war in Iraq and to keep the foreign policy ball in his (more experienced) court.

I'll say this - I really hope that "Main Street" doesn't become the new catch phrase. Like "change" or "values," it is functionally meaningless, but it parades around as if it were "the middle class" or "troop levels."

"The middle class" and "troops" are changeable. They are fuzzy definitions. But you can still latch onto something distinct with them. You can play the numbers game, ultimately pin them down.

"Values" and "change" run up against a problem the queer theorists have noted for a while - any ostensibly homogeneous group is actually quite fractured. That is to say, a group that labels itself "Democrat" or "Republican" or even as specific as "Anti-abortion" or "Pro-choice" actually contains very different members. Not all Republicans go about being republican in the same way - some are fiscal conservatives, some social, some are willing to expand the government (a no-no in conservative ideology) in order to better protect the country through direct military might (a yes-yes in conservative ideology). Some pro-choice folks want no conditions set on abortions, some are pro-choice only in the first two trimesters, some are pro-choice only in the case of rape or incest. Yet these people get grouped into a single organization, even as their interests directly related to that organization are widely different.

This is the problem with "Main Street." Who the hell lives on Main Street? There's Main Street in a small town in rural Texas. There's Main Street in Chicago. You're going to tell me that these people want the same thing, even economically? Obama and McCain will look like they're pinning Main Street down to something real - contrasting it with Wall Street - but really, does that get us any closer? No. What they're really trying to do is create their own demographic - people who think they're mainstream, again whatever the hell that is. It's not quite geography, not quite economics, not quite politics, not quite anything. It's an empty phrase that they hope you'll think yourself part of.

Then again, I'm feeling cynical today...