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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...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"M" FOR EFFORT

“To stay cheerful when involved in a gloomy and exceedingly responsible business is no inconsiderable art: yet what could be more necessary than cheerfulness? Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part. Only excess of strength is proof of strength.”-- Nietzche, TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS.

My current theoretical terminology doesn't exactly need yet another arcane term. Yet the idea of "effort"-- defined by Dictionary.com as "exertion of physical or mental power"-- seems to gloss some of the ways that I've distinguished between two of my "big Ms," megadynamicity and metaphenomenality.

For instance, in the WEAKLINGS WITH WEAPONS series, I discussed that when a character's only claim to megadynamicity inheres in his weapon, the character must demonstrate "mastery" in order to reach the level of the megadynamic. In the section quoted, Nietzsche states that his ideal human being is defined by his "excess of strength" that are in turn the result of "high spirits." But "high spirits" are those that spur human beings to make the effort to transcend their own inertia, much as Twain describes with respect to Joan of Arc's inspirational power, cited in greater detail here:

But all these are exalting activities; they keep hand and heart and brain keyed up to their work; there is the joy of achievement, the inspiration of stir and movement, the applause which hails success; the soul is overflowing with life and energy, the faculties are at white heat; weariness, despondency, inertia—these do not exist.

Thus, I've credited some fictional characters with possessing at least an "exemplary" level of megadynamicity, such as Jack Burton and Hammer's version of Professor Van Helsing. Being able to use a knife or a faux-cross in an inventive way shows "effort," and thus boosts the character to the megadynamic level.

Regarding the nature of the metaphenomenal, I've noted that I don't consider a movie to have metaphenomenal content just because someone in the story thinks he's seen or heard a ghost. This happens in all versions of SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE-- a film often cited in the relevant concordances-- and in the B-flick HAUNTED RANCH. I commented on the latter film thusly:

...when characters fall for an extraordinarily simple deception-- like Snowflake, or like the hero of KING ARTHUR WAS A GENTLEMAN-- or, for that matter, when they manage to scare themselves, like Laurel and Hardy in their short THE LIVE GHOST-- I don't think that channels any sort of eerie vibe. The audience remains removed from the spectacle of the goof who puts easy credence in ghosts, magic swords, or similar chimerae, because it's evident he has no discriminatory powers.
The "eerie vibe" I look for in uncanny works with the "phantasmal figuration" trope is produced when some agent within the story has managed to produce a phantasmal effect-- but only through some sustained effort. That effort might be fairly compared to the effort that the story's author must sustain in order to produce that effect within the story proper-- which may in future need further exploration in tune with my concept of artifice

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