Some PA and Dystopia clarifications are in order...

As is often the case, I seem to have a bent for blending and blurring distinctions rather than embracing and codifying them - and that is certainly the case when it comes to post-apocalyptic and dystopian movies (and tv shows.)  For hard core purists this will be upsetting and I regret any discomfort or disdain I may cause you in advance, ok?  It is not my goal to be imprecise.  Rather, as is my inclination in almost everything from music and theology to prayer, food and art:  I go for fusion. Think Wagama Noodle Bars (check it out @ http://www.wagamama.com/ or TexMex. Think LGBTQ-Straight Alliances. Or Herbie Hancock and John Legend and Pink.

Fusion - or genre bending - is an intentional, post-modern aesthetic that values nuance and insight from the perspective of compassion, cooperation and creativity. It is a way of seeing and being that posses a clear challenge and alternative to fundamentalism of every shape and hue.

Brother Cornel West put it like this:
 
Any time you shatter innocence and find yourself wrestling with deep experiences of suffering, grief and sorrow, you will find yourself working in the stuff of great art.  (The original, Black artists of the blues) understood that the blues is not about optimism. Nor is it about pessimism. It is about hope because blues sensibility is tragicomic not sentimental. There are no pure heroes or impure victims. Good and evil are locked in all our souls. So the question is, what kind of choices to we want to make?

West goes on to note that the early bluesmen and women of color often found their true voice through guitars - and they passed that wisdom on to others.  "Robert Johnson found his voice through the guitar... Bob Dylan is a white blues brother from Minnesota, but he isn't Robert Johnson. Bruce Springsteen is another great white blues brother. He isn't Muddy Waters either. And he knows that - he appreciates that - and has found a genius in his own way. There is an importance of knowing from whence you came."

I am an almost 60 year straight, white guy from the American middle class.  Like Clapton, Dylan and Springsteen before me, I've found my voice in the blues (and jazz.)  I first heard the blues through the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.  When the Stones did Bo Diddley's "Mona" or Soloman Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  Same with the Beatles' version of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven."  Or the Animals' take on John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom."  And after learning the white soul boy version of these songs, I went deeper - to the source - and started to groove on the black soul versions, too.  And don't even get me started on the fusion/genre bending beauty of Motown where black gospel, blues and soul got married to white pop and created a groove that had all the races dancing in the street, ok?

So these posts are going to be saturated in genre bending:  for me it is both a spiritual commitment and disciplined aesthetic.  That said, we can still appreciate some of the differences, too without getting bogged down in arcane minutiae, yes?  One young Canadian writer who specializes in both genres for young audiences writes:

Dystopia is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian; (while) post-apocalyptic stories are set in a world or civilization after a disaster such as nuclear warfare, pandemic, impact event, etc. To oversimplify things a bit, one of them is chaos, and the other is chaos pretending to be order. (Bibliotropic @ http://www.bibliotropic.com/2011/07/dystopian-versus-post-apocalyptic.html)

That helps a bit without creating rigid barriers.  Another young author adds her insight like this:

Dystopias, of course, answer the same questions (as utopias) with a great deal of distrust and fear regarding human nature and our ability to “progress.” Can we make it better? No, they answer. We are not likely to improve. Every overt movement we humans take to rectify currently objectionable ways of living can be taken too far, and human life descends down a new, probably bad, road.

Every dystopian story calls into question very particular structures of an existing social or political order, twisting them in new (and usually bad!) ways, so that we see them, as if for the first time. Apocalyptic events, be they natural or man made, create ruptures in all the social, cultural, and political structures, making this kind of rethinking a necessity. Many (if not all) of the systems collapse, for a short time or for forever, and our expected ways of doing things fall down like dominoes.(The Hub @ http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2011/07/28/dystopian-vs-post-apocalyptic-teen-books/)

Take a look at my growing film list and it will be clear that I tend to merge both genres and particularly like it when the blending is done by the artists, too.  This is, of course, by no means comprehensive but illustrative.  What are some of your favorites that I have overlooked?

A Boy and His Dog

28 Days Later

Mad Max: Road Warrior

The Road

Children of Men

Water world

Book of Eli

I Am Legend

12 Monkeys

Logan’s Run

The Stand

Terminator

On the Beach

Planet of the Apes

Escape from NY

Matrix

Equilibrium


The Postman

Omega Man

Jericho (TV)

Quiet Earth

La Jetee

Logan’s Run

Blade Runner

Strange Days

Roller Ball

1984

AI

A Scanner Darkly

THX

Dark City

Total Recall

Fahrenheit 451

Gattaca

Metropolis

V is for Vendetta

City of Lost Children

Robocop

Minority Report

Wings of Desire

Brazil

Clockwork Orange

Running Man

Avalon

Hunger Games

It will be interesting (at least for me) to look carefully again at each of these films:  not only do they often share a common visual aesthetic ~ something Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) described as a fusion of Edward Hopper's painting "Nighthawks" with the French graphic novel artist Moebius (Blueberry, Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal) who worked on other films like Willow, Alien and the Fifth Element ~ but they also celebrate the ache in the human heart for compassion even in the most desperate times.  More soon... 

Comments

Popular Posts