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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, March 9, 2015


My NUM trope "outre outfits, tropes and devices" is a smorgasbord of aspects that have to do with the *dynamicity* of a given character. But I've never taken the time to observe how each of the three, despite their close association, sort out with respect to the naturalistic and the uncanny.

When attire is not actually marvelous--  that is, when it does not confer marvelous power on a character, like Iron Man's armor-- it must conform to the rules of causal coherence. However, it can still be "uncanny" rather than "naturalistic" on the terms cited in POWER AND POTENCY PT. 2.  It's not that clothes "make the superman," as they do with Iron Man. But if they are uncanny, they can make the man SEEM LIKE a superman.

Now, this is easy to demonstrate with regard to costumed heroes. Non-powered heroes like Batman and the Shadow are known for imitating unusual presences with their attire, which obviously gives them the aura of the uncanny. Yet in this essay I specified that it isn't even necessary to don an imitative costume to gain this charisma:

...Zorro’s costume confers on him a charisma that provides him with greater narrative dynamicity. The Zorro narratives, while insisting that Zorro is merely a skilled human, emphasize his presence as a spectre of fear to his opponents, and it is this which gives the black-clad avenger the charisma of “the uncanny.”

Now, science fiction narratives don't typically show their protagonists waltzing around in garments that depart from the norm. Yet though everyone in a FLASH GORDON narrative wears the same "outre" garments, Flash's outre outfit is the only one where his normal dynamicity is enhanced by the uncanny look of his outfit, because he's the hero. (Well, as Flash's opponent, Ming gets some uncanny mileage too, but definitely not Dale and Zarkov.)

Many future-Earth scenarios, though, feature a concatenation of "ordinary garments" with "somewhat weird garments." On my movie-blog I've just finished reviewing three post-apocalyptic films of the 1980s that may illustrate the dichotomy.

Here's the redoubtable Snake Plissken from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK:

Then, his close imitator "Parsifal" from 1983's 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK:

And finally, here's the un-redoubtable "Slade" from 1987's EQUALIZER 2000:

Now, even though all three men inhabit a "marvelous" future, none of them are real supermen. But do their clothes make them "seem like" supermen?

Though I liked the first two films and disliked the third, I don't think that fact prejudices me against the costuming of Slade in the 1987 film. The garments of Slade are simply bland and functional on their own terms; there's nothing about them that suggests the uncanny.

In contrast, though Plissken and Parsifal are not wearing "costumes" in the true sense, there has been some attention to how they convey heroic stature upon those who wear them. Russell is simply wearing almost all-black attire, as does Zorro, and the addition of the eyepatch gives him an iconic stature-- although it would be easy to get any of these elements wrong, so that they do not convey such an impression (I'll try to think of a good counter-example for later). Parsifal is not entirely copying all aspects of Plissken's look, though the influence is plain, but director Martino has given him a snazzier jacket that perhaps befits his "knightly" cognomen.

More costume-conundrums to come.

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