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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...

Saturday, April 2, 2016


In the 2013 essay THE NECESSITY OF SPECTACLE PT. 2., I made my only reference to yet another set of paired concepts, "centric force" and "diffuse force."

When opposed megadynamic forces exist in a narrative but are not the main focus of the narrative, such a work is "subcombative" and the opposed forces are what I will term "diffuse forces" rather than "centric forces"-- on which I may write sometime later.
Though I didn't use the terms again, they apply broadly to my attempts to distinguish the effects of combative dynamicity from all other forms of simply conflictive dynamicity. The negative example that I cited in SPECTACLE 2 was the 1957 film THE DEADLY MANTIS, which satisfied the narrative value of the combative, in that there appears in the film a culminating conflict between the titular Mantis and the U.S. Air Force. Yet the film did not generate the significant value, because both of the opposed parties do not project an equal aura of formidability. Thus forces that could have been "centric" in terms of creating the sublime effect via the "combat myth," become rather "diffuse" and disorganized by comparison. Over time I've made many references to other plays and films which concluded with some type of "diffuse violence"-- HAMLET, MACBETH, THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, WORLD WITHOUT END, and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN-- though I didn't utilize the "centric/diffuse" terminology at all, possibly because those terms had been spawned by a period of intense interpretation of Northrop Frye's concepts of "the centrifugal" and "the centripetal."

The dichotomy has returned to my mind since I've started focusing more attention on the problems of another type of "diffuse force:" that of a person or force that is peripheral to a central struggle, as I've recently explored in THIRD PRESENCE PERIPHERAL. In that essay I was concerned primarily with the interactions of metaphenomenal and isophenomenal elements in a given narrative, and whether the former inevitably trumped the latter, a problem also scrutinized here.

In THIRD PRESENCE I hearkened back to the 2014 essay DJINN WITH SUMMONER PT. 2, where I cited examples of narrative conflict that had been interrupted by peripheral forces. "Periphery" as a geometrical term means the outer limits of an area or object, and thus connotes the area furthest from an imagined central point, and thus I found that even though all of the protagonists of the cited works received help from peripheral presences, I found that they all distracted from a potentially central conflict between the "hero" and 'villain" of each work.

At the  end of the essay I concluded that the reason I found that all of the "djinns" cited in the essay were divorced from the action was because they were "djinns who were purely contingent on the contrivances of the plot, not as representations of the characters themselves."

Today I've also reviewed another film that seems more valuable as an illustration of my theory than as a work of entertainment: SCOOBY DOO AND THE SAMURAI SWORD.  At the conclusion of this DTV cartoon, Shaggy and Scooby Doo-- generally represented as characters of no dynamicity whatever-- receive a "crash course" in samurai swordsmanship, by which they are jointly able to defeat an evil samurai-demon. This would be yet another situation in which a culminating conflict does transpire in the narrative-- satisfying the narrative value of the combative-- but I find myself taking away the significant value, because it's suggested that the victory comes about because the main protagonists get substantial help from their mentor and a guardian dragon.

Therefore, even a narrative that ends with what looks like a contention of exceptional forces can be seen to "unravel," to become "diffuse," when there is no substantive alliance between the protagonist(s) and whatever force is helping them out.

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