Tuesday, January 7, 2014

deja lu

A New York Times Bookends dialogue: James Parker and Pankaj Mishra ask "Why Do We Keep Resurrecting the Same Literary Literary Characters?", in reference to Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Hercule Poirot, Doctor Who.

Parker: "Are we caught in a diminishing loop of derivative creativity, some kind of stranglehold of the secondhand? Have we wandered deeper into Eliot’s Waste Land — the fragmented panoramas, the “heap of broken images,” only now with more zombies — than the poet himself could have foreseen? Can it be that our highest form of cultural expression is the YouTube mash-up?"  He recognises the likes of  J.J. Abrams and Steven Moffat (Doctor Who since 2009, the Benedict Cumberbatch-Martin Freeman Sherlock Holmes)  as  "zanily gifted reorganizers and rewirers of material" but says that "the material, for the most part, is not theirs. They work in tropes, memes, brands, jingles, known quantities, canned reactions, market-tested flavors, whatever you want to call them."  

Mishra, after explaining what Sherlock and Bond signified in their original era in terms of British social-political consciousness, argues that "shorn of their historical context, sequels and remakes today seem no more than rebranding exercises in an age of socioeconomic crisis, widespread uncertainty and creative stasis. Unlike most novelists, those refurbishing James Bond or Philip Marlowe can count on a ready-made store of readerly understanding and good will....  Such tickling of the mass unconscious can be remunerativet too: Unfocused nostalgia has a powerful lure in postindustrial cultures that seem to have a recurrent present but few clear traces of the past nor an avid anticipation of the future."

They might have mentioned The Secret Life of Walter Shitty too, as much an inside-out travesty of the original as those terrible Sherlock Holmes movies. (The TV series is enjoyable enough).

1 comment:

  1. I say those Sherlock movies don´t even belong in a recreativity camp, because you can tell there isn´t even a sympathy for the original. They´re just using the brand and gutting it from the rest. Same thing goes in a lot of movies. Sure, they are made of tropes, memes etc. But not of those of the classic except for the most obvious, the ones with some "brand" value, which are out of context. I can tell behind many movies theres a writer assigned on a story he doesnt give a damn about.