Monday, March 08, 2010

Oscar Reconsidered

I watched the Oscars last night.

Actually, "Sal" was over at the house, and she watched it. She loves to see the ladies all dressed to kill. Me, I'm just playing Solitaire or something. I was very pleased to see "Precious" honored as much as it was. In my thirty years in DC, I've seen any number of young girls of color, often as summer interns at my agency, who are clearly not prepared to venture out of their own neighborhoods. If this movie could touch one of them, I'd buy tickets for ten of them to see it.

Really. I would, albeit with a female chaperon of similar ethnicity to take them on my behalf.

I also remembered something I came across in January by Peter Sciretta at “Did you know that James Cameron’s Avatar is just Disney’s Pochontas in disguise? Of course, this isn’t very surprising. If you know anything about screenwriting or storytelling, than you know about Joseph Campbell’s Heroes Journey, the mythic structure that has been utilized in many many Hollywood films.”

Sciretta mentions what Campbell termed “monomyth” divided into seventeen stages, roughly grouped into categories of departure, initiation, and return. The writer also goes on to a second comparison, one of Harry Potter to Star Wars. (Click on either manuscript to read up close and personal. You know you want to.) While I find such comparisons amusing -- admit it, so do you -- I do not believe that they betray plagiarism. As Campbell illustrates, these narratives dramatize aspects of the human condition, which does not change with who tells the tale.

In his introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces he writes: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” I could apply this model to virtually any story in which the main character undergoes some sort of quest, or transformation, or any sort of challenge in his life. I could apply it to Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn. Does that make Mark Twain any less an original?

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post managed to find an attempt to do a "mashup" of Avatar and Pocahontas.

I couldn't even remember how many awards the real Avatar won, but I do remember a young filmmaker with a message to kids everywhere with video cameras in their hands, to ignore anyone, even their parents, who tell them it's a waste of time. No, believe me when I tell you, he said, it is NOT a waste of time.

We deserve to hear that kind of uplifting message at the Grammys, don't you think?

Or DON'T you?

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