I have a somewhat private, neurotic hobby. I like to watch films that I’ve watched a thousand times before but with a different set of eyes.
The Lion King, for example, is a quaint little tale about finding your identity and having the courage to live up to your destiny… until you watch it with the set of eyes which reveals it as pro-monarchist propaganda designed to teach the unprivileged that they are ruled by virtue of natural law (and there’d be a drought and famine if they ever got ideas above their station).
Basically, if you change the context of a film, it tells a remarkably different story. In Buffy and Philosophy, for example, Neal King’s ‘Brown Skirts: Fascism, Christianity, and the Eternal Demon‘ explores Buffy as a fascist icon (promoting the superiority of the human race and the cleanliness of human blood) rather than as a liberal icon.
But there is another way I like to ruin my childhood: abandoning what I was taught to know about the film. A recent example was The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy is cute and, therefore, must be the good guy. The Wicked Witch of the West is ugly, has ‘Wicked’ in her name, and, therefore, must be the bad guy.
But what actually happens in the film?
A house lands on the WWotW’s sister. Dorothy steals the shoes (aided and abetted by the ‘Good’ Witch of the North). Trying to find a way home, she’s told that she must assassinate the WWotW: a task she takes on willingly, noting only its difficulty. When the WWotW defends herself, she is accidentally executed. Dorothy and her friends are rewarded.
If somebody had given the WWotW a hug and said, ‘Shit, I’m really sorry about the untimely death of your sister. Here, have her shoes,’ there’d have been no need to ritually execute her with a baptism of death. The WWotW might have even given Dorothy a lift home on the broomstick. We’ll never know.
In related news to this post, there are quite a number of [Insert franchise here] and Philosophy books. Some of them are excellent. Others are absolutely awful. Here’s a quick run down on some that I have:
– Buffy and Philosophy: rather good. Some essays are a bit weak but others are imaginative and clever. There’s a fine line between using philosophy to interpret Buffy and using Buffy to explore philosophy: I’m not always sure it works.
– Superheroes and Philosophy: the difference between the good essays and the bad is even more marked than in BandP. Deadpool as the zenith of existential characters (because he’s aware that he’s a character in a comic book) is superbly explored.
– X-Men and Philosophy: the subject matter made this an easy triumph. It’s impossible to discuss anything that goes on in the X-Men comics without bumping into several philosophically important topics. The problem was therefore to choose interesting topics which would also make the book marketable. Thus, there are a few shallow, pointless essays which blemish an otherwise excellent read.
– House and Philosophy: utter dreck. Complete and utter dreck. House, on the whole, isn’t particularly interesting philosophically. We might wonder why misogyny is hailed as a brilliant comedy device (also used in How I Met Your Mother) but it doesn’t really support and entire book.
– Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: I’m only a few essays in and it’s not too bad. There is an absolutely baffling essay on nuclear strategy… Yeah, it’s like: ‘Strategists are a lot like a Mad Tea Party. Here are lots of quotes from the books. I’m running late so here are some examples of nuclear strategy and quotes from Derrida.’ It’s pretty much a mess. The others were of quite a high standard: Alice as a feminist icon was particularly interesting because it gives her an agency that I don’t think is in the books. Alice seems to be pushed around by a particularly nasty world (it’s why Terry Pratchett doesn’t care for them). The essay revises her as rejecting social norms demanded of her as a woman and does a fairly good job of it.
Also, new Doctor Who. I’m not sure why it’s getting quite so much flak as it is. More on this in a different entry.