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9.15.02 Watching Movies

Compare and contrast: Ken Burn's Lewis and Clark and Fellowship of the Rings.

It was odd this week to intermingle the watching of both DVDs. The Louisiana Purchase became Middle Earth and Lewis & Clark became Hobbits -- though it sounds like Lewis and Clark were better planners. Both groups of adventurers enjoyed close-knit fellowship and teamwork as they tackled unknown territory. Both groups depended on the good graces of guides and helpers they met along the way.

Why are these stories and their themes so popular right now? What is it about our culture that needs these stories told in just this way? Does it comfort us to see ordinary homebodies successfully traverse dangerous territory?

Or have the producers simply been well-schooled in Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces? Are these just the universal hero stories expected to appeal to us because they have appealed to us from the beginning of time?

Another theme: redemption. This weekend we watched Changing Lanes and Trainspotting. Their themes seem somehow more contemporary: flawed men seduced by corrupt sub-cultures (whether Wall Street law practices or the heroin underworld). Our heroes have terrible judgment but after they are pummeled for a while with the consequences of their choices, they begin the difficult turnaround.

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