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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Because I Love It pt. 2

Note: This is Part 2 of 2 part post. It can probably stand on its own but if you'd like to read the first part, click HERE

I have already vainly attempted to explain why you should follow your art and subsequently your bliss (Seriously, read up on Joseph Campbell if you haven't). But that is not enough to tell you why I read what I read and watch what I watch. And as we already know "because I love it" isn't enough.

The stories that hold my heart hostage are the stories of opposites. Not opposites in nature but opposites in humanity. I love the dichotomy between two men who stand at opposite ends of a spectrum but can still some of themselves in each other. At first I thought this was the literary idea of a "foil" but now I realize that it goes a little further than that. I love the idea of nemeses: two people who exist only to oppose each other and to clash and conflict. They are similar but represent something so entirely philosophically or morally different that it makes them enemies. I know it probably sounds like I am high right now so let me try to explain myself through some of my favorite examples.

Gabriel (Sylar) Gray - Peter Petrelli

My conflicted feelings regarding the show Heroes are fairly well documented at this point. But Heroes could fail as miserably as it wants to at this point and I would still watch it only for the ongoing relationship between Sylar and Peter. Of all the individuals who possess gifts on Heroes, Peter and Sylar are the most powerful. Each man has the ability to acquire and use any other Hero's "power". They are similar in this aspect, their physical appearance and even their bloodline but they each represent something entirely different. In order to use another person's power, Peter merely has to be in their presence and then recall their personality and the way they made him feel to utilize their power. Sylar, however, must murder someone, tear open their cranium and examine their brain in order to acquire a power. This difference highlights the dichotomy between what they stand for. Peter is a symbol of compassion and Sylar is a symbol for consumption 

Batman - Joker

These two foes have been going at it for years. But I am not really a comic book person so I can only focus on the incarnations in Christopher Nolan's absolutely brilliant The Dark Knight. In the Dark Knight, Batman and Joker really should be the best of the fans. As far as the movie is concerned, they are the only two human beings on the planet who do what they do. They dress up in crazy costumes and take to the streets every night representing an idea truly greater than themselves and far greater than any "normal" civilian can. It is a lonely existence being the only "freak" in town but at least they have each other to spar with. And sparring is all they can ever do because as the Joker brilliantly notes Batman won't kill him because of his "code" and Joker won't kill Batman because he views him as a kindred spirit and so fascinating. But they can't quite be "kindred souls". For all their eccentricities and theatrics, Batman and Joker represent two ideas that are completely contradictory. Batman believes in "Order" the organized ways of society and law while Joker lives his life by only one creed: "Chaos". 

Jack Shepard - John Locke

The similarities between these two Lost characters are fascinating. Aside from the obvious "they both crashed on a mysterious polar bear infested island", they share many other traits. Both are natural leaders of men, both have massively disappointing relationships with their fathers that they have had to overcome and both men are viewed with respect on the island. But they are polarizing figures. Despite their similarities, they just can't quite seem to get along. Jack is a Man of Science and Locke is a Man of Faith and this sets them on two sides of the same coin and in permanent conflict with each other. Their beliefs have strained the relations of everyone on the island and eventually broke the community into two groups. Every event that occurs are viewed through both of the perspectives of Jack and Locke. They represent the back-bone of the show and one of its main themes. But still, there is something tragic about the fact that they can't see just how similar they really are.

Those are the big ones and here are a few more that I appreciate.
The Matrix: Neo (Freedom) - Agent Smith (Bureaucracy)
Harry Potter: Harry Potter (Love) - Tom Riddle (Fear)
Unbreakable: David Dunne (Strength) - Elijah Price (Weakness)
Dexter: Dexter Morgan (Discipline) - James Doakes (Passion)
Lord of the Flies: Jack (Id) - Ralph (Ego) - Piggy (Superego) 

And that friends, is how I intellectualize all the literature and entertainment that moves me. I encourage that you understand why you love something but at the end of the day: just appreciate it.

Only then can the explanation "because I love it" make sense.


Cassie The Venomous said...

Oooohhhh, the Joker / Batman.

"You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just.. do things."


Anonymous said...

Good stuff. That polarity thing seems to have a stange draw on a lot of people, given the popularity of the device's use. Once you start thinking about it, the relationships pop up all over the place; the literary examples are too many to realistically list. I never watched Lost, is the Locke there supposed to be an omage to his enlightenment counterpart?

A.G.B said...

Sir, if you understand that philosophical reference and are not watching Lost, you are wasting your life. It is an exciting action-adventure show for philosophical and literary minds. If you ever listen to anything I ever say, listen to this: Watch Lost, it will change your life forever. Period.

And no, John Locke isn't really a doppleganger of the real John Locke but they do share some traits. There are many characters in Lost named after philosophers, physicists and literary writers: Austen, Carlyle, Bakunin, C.S Lewis, Faraday, Rousseau, Burke, Hume, etc.