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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

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...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

EXPENDITURE ACCOUNTS PT. 2

In Part 1 I took the trouble to articulate category-names for Bataille's formulation on humankind's attitudes toward consumption-- elsewhere referenced as "the desire to conserve and the desire to expend"-- as well as to fuse them with my Schopenhauer-derived categories of "will."  To be sure, were Bataille alive he'd probably condemn the endeavor, as Stuart Kendall's biography mentions that the French author had no love for the German philosopher.








Having done all this, I must admit that the categories of "expenditure" and "acquisition," which describe how the affects of fictional characters impress themselves on readers, don't have great utility as working terms.  I've been striving to isolate two common words that summarize the emotional tenor of, respectively, "abstract goal-affects" and "concrete goal-affects."

In my first attempt at finding two such tenor-terms, I drew on a dichotomy of "courage" and "endurance" suggested by actor Christopher Reeve-- though had I wanted to resort to a more intellectually respectable source, I could have just as easily cited Socrates' opposition of "courage" and "temperance" in THE STATESMAN.  I said that Johnny Thunder, despite his mental limitations, was essentially an "active hero" who suggested the tenor of intellectual courage. In contrast I said of Jimmy Olsen:

For all of his flirtations with heroism, Olsen is first and foremost an "ordinary guy," which allowed him to show an "endurance" sort of heroism in some stories, and to be a pure "victim" in others.
 
Later I tended to use terms derived from Hobbes, as in the PLAYING MERRY HOBBES essay:



I would say that the qualities of "glory" and "diffidence" also seem better matches for the characters discussed in that earlier essay, with Johnny Thunder following a pattern of "glory" while Jimmy Olsen follows one of "safety" (which I find that I prefer to "diffidence," as that seems to imply a trait of the character rather than a plot-action).
 
I did so again at the end of TWICE THE MIGHT PT. 2: 

I'll note in passing that I rate the central heroes of both films as "demiheroes" in that they are concerned more with the Hobbesian value of "safety" than of "glory."
 
Of these two terms, "glory"-- which is meant to be applied to the "intellectual will" embodied in the hero-persona and the villain-persona-- is not problematic.  Anyone who makes the effort can imagine "glory" being given positive connotations for heroes and negative connotations for villains.

"Safety," however, does not apply across the board to the two persona embodying "instinctive will," the demihero-persona and the monster-persona.  I believe that I was concentrating so much on defining the nature of the demihero, as against the hero, that I failed to find a tenor-term that applied equally well to the persona incarnating the dominantly negative aspect of the instinctive will, the "monster."  The "concrete goal-affects" of a "monster" are not adequately described by "safety."

However, I think that Hobbes' original terms of "safety" and "diffidence"-- which are entirely in line with the "desire to conserve"-- can be subsumed not by what the monster-persona does, but by what it dominantly wants.  In this essay I said.

I’ve defined the persona of the “monster” as the generally negative counterpart of the demihero. Usually the monster is also defined principally by self-preservation, whether the creature is destructive on a large scale (Godzilla) or covets some forbidden prize (King Kong). Self-preservation and endurance also typify even benign monsters, like Man-Thing...
 
The tenor-term for both monsters and demiheroes must be a positive value that can be turned into a negative aspect.  This leaves out Hobbes' terms "safety" and "diffidence," for neither are positive values.  The same holds true for "temperance," the term used in my STATESMAN translation, which doesn't translate easily into a negative manifestation.  Reeves' term "endurance" wasn't quite right, either, but one of its synonyms-- "persistence"-- does have the desired positive connotation.

I for one find it easy to think of the demihero, the "ordinary guy-hero" like Jimmy Olsen, being virtuous primarily in terms of his persistence.  As I said in the cited essay, Olsen is a reporter first and a hero second, while his opposite number Johnny Thunder is defined by being a hero first and a whatever-he-did-for-a-living second.  Thunder may be a dopey comic hero, but he's all about sharing the abstract glory of fighting crime and hanging out with the Olympian company of the Justice Society.  Olsen, a comic demihero, is content to be "Superman's pal," and his forays into heroism are perforce of limited duration.



However, monsters like the ones mentioned above-- Godzilla, King Kong, and the Man-Thing-- are best seen as negative parodies of either human beings or other animal-species.  And yet, though the audience recognizes that their affects are negative in relation to what their victims want, the monsters are charming because of their quality of persistence.  The persistence-virtue of Godzilla and the Man-Thing manifests in their being very nearly immortal; no matter how many times they die, they just keep coming back in some incarnation.  Kong's original incarnation perishes, and to my knowledge only one latter-day effort made the attempt to revive that specific Kong.  However, Kong still comes back in what might termed "template" versions, versions that have no ostensible connection with the original 1933 entity.  But even though Kong is not diegetically immortal, what Kong's afficionados admire in the big ape is another form of "persistence," his dogged if unrequited love for his female co-star.



Clearly, I need to explore the tension between "glory" and the newly-minted term "persistence" with respect to the two negative personas, "monster" and "villain," so that will be the subject of EXPENDITURE ACCOUNTS PT. 3.

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