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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, July 30, 2012


Before delving into the complications of *dynamis* once more, I want to clarify some of my earlier pronouncements on the categorization of works in terms of both their mythoi-affiliations and their extent to which they utilize the combative mode, the latter discussed here.

Since I decided to reconstitute the idea of my combative/subcombative distinctions, I found myself returning to a question I tabled years ago: is there a subcombative form of adventure, given that its essence is symbolized by the *agon,* the very representation of combat and therefore of the quality of sublimity that Kant calls *dominance?*

I've been moving toward an affirmative answer in recent months.  In MIGHT VS. DOMINANCE, I referenced a scene in the 1940 film THIEF OF BAGDAD-- which is as a whole a combative film-- and observed of the scene in which Abu tricks the genie that 'in this sequence, we are dealing with something very like "dominance," although perhaps a qualified form.'  In the same essay I also noted that the original Arabian Nights story of Aladdin:

The original story of ALADDIN AND HIS WONDERFUL LAMP would seem to be a subcombative form of adventure, in that there is no actual combat between Aladdin and his opponent the "Chinese Magician," nor does Aladdin fight any proxy servant of the Magician. The conflict consists of either hero or villain swiping the lamp away from the other at this or that time, but never in a direct confrontation.
In a similar project, I decided to apply my idea of a "combative mode" to all of the films I'd reviewed thus far on NATURALISTIC! UNCANNY! MARVELOUS!, while also simultaneously aligning them with their dominant mythoi: adventure, drama, comedy or irony.  Since I label all the films I review in terms of their dominant mythoi, I made it implicit that if it was a comedy without the "combative" label, then it would be necessarily be subcombative.  The one exception I made was for the adventure-mythos, since I had, as noted above, a special interest in ferreting out subcombative versions thereof.  And of all those films thus far reviewed, I only found one that functioned more like an adventure than any of the other three mythoi: 1989's BRENDA STARR.  The movie deals with the standard tropes of adventure-- a heroine and her assistants attempt to foil a Nazi plot-- but neither Brenda nor her allies are especially combative.  They function more like comic heroes than adventure- heroes, often succeeding by luck more than by skill.  On a side-note, I have a loose impression that the comic strip which birthed the movie followed the same basic pattern, but I've not read the strip in sufficient doses to make that determination.

With all that in mind, I'm reversing one of my seminal mythoi-determinations, seen here.  The basic logic remains unchanged; for instance, the other example set forth in that essay, STARGATE, I still regard as being a drama/adventure; that is, essentially a drama with strong adventure-elements.  But I've changed my mind on DOCTOR WHO, of which I said:

...the Doctor fights his foes with the centuries-spanning knowledge of a Time Lord, not with martial abilities. His doctrine is *froda,* not *forza.* This puts him very close to the territory of the typical dramatic protagonist of mainstream science fiction, but in the end DOCTOR WHO is still about external peril rather than internal instabilities, and so it still falls within the category of the adventure mythos, for all that its protagonist lacks the *dynamis* of an adventure protagonist.
I didn't go quite so far as to call DOCTOR WHO a "comedy-adventure" as I did with INFERIOR FIVE, but that was my basic implication: to say that the *dynamis* of the Doctor's trippy character dominated the narrative and overwhelmed the *dynamis* of the adventure-oriented plotlines.  But I'll reverse that implication now: in essence the Doctor, like Aladdin and Brenda Starr, belongs in the adventure-mythos, but only in the subcombative compartment of that mythos.

More in the forthcoming DYNAMIS VS. DYNAMICITY.

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