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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...

Thursday, March 16, 2017


In this essay I summed up the "theme statement" from one of my key essays on "focal presences," ENSEMBLES ASSEMBLE:

ENSEMBLES ASSEMBLE established simply that it is possible for a work to possess two or more "focal presences," who may work as a team (the two alleged vampires in 1935's MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, various superhero groups) or may be utterly opposed (1934's THE BLACK CAT, 1968's WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS).  The latter is an important point in that the concept of "mortal enemies" pervades most if not all literary genres in one way or another. Usually either a "hero" or a "villain" alone is the focal presence, just as one sees with the examples from Haggard: the "heroic" Allen Quatermain and the "villainous" She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. 
On some occasions, the "centric will" may seem to emphasize the protagonist's opponent more than the protagonist-- as with the Batman tale "Laugh, Town, Laugh"-- and yet, in terms of the way the story is presented, it's still a Batman story, not a Joker story. But then, most if not all Batman stories follow the exothelic pattern. while all three of the horror-movies referenced above are endothelic: they seek to represent the nature of willing subjects that seem to be partly or fully negative with respect to the community within each narrative. All of the focal characters in these movies are "monsters," even though the "two alleged vampires" of MARK OF THE VAMPIRE are at the film's end are revealed to be actors in costume, merely acting out the dark fantasies of the story's actual villain.

Such last-minute transitions of the main character's persona are usually not the case. but there are some famous examples. Katniss Everdeen is in essence a demihero who finds herself forced to take the role of a hero, but by the end of the book-trilogy, she essentially reverts to the status of the demihero. However, I recently reviewed here a work of far less consequence than any iteration of THE HUNGER GAMES. It's interesting only in that it offers a more radical transition than one usually sees in works relating to the "superspy" genre, even in the subgenre of the "spy spoof."

The 2004 film D.E.B.S. is, as I said in the review, essentially "the glorification of the film's amour fou," which happens to be a lesbian hookup between Amy, a woman who initially dedicates her life to the persona of a hero, and Lucy, who has for some time prior to meeting Amy accepted the destiny of a villain-persona. By the end of the film, though, both women have decided that "Love is All There Is," and they flee the roles of both heroism and villainy. The lightweight tone and content of D.E.B.S. implies that they will live lesbianically ever after-- which is interesting to me, in my study of personas and focal presences, because it's more typical to see demiheroes transform into heroes, villains, or monsters-- but not the other way round. It's also more frequent to see demiheroes remain demiheroes from start to finish, particularly when they are found in ensembles, as I argued in THE COMPLICATIONS OF COMEDY PART 2, with the focal characters of TOPPER and I MARRIED A WITCH as my main examples.

IRRELEVANT ASIDE: I've argued that one can find "glory" as the essential-- if not overtly expressed-- motivation of most villains. I found this opinion echoed when I re-screened Michael Cimino's 1974 ironic heist-film THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT. Wounded unto death, the character of Lightfoot sums up his criminal career with Thunderbolt with these dying words:

You know... you know somethin'? I don't think of us as criminals, you know? I feel we accomplished something. A good job. I feel proud of myself, man. I feel like a hero.

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