“Can old stories help us navigate the future?”….Hmmmm

by waxnwings

Can old stories help us navigate the future?.

This is just a response written to an interesting post linked above

The resurgence of the fantasy genre/fairytales/superhero’s in television and Hollywood in the past decade+ is definitely an interesting issue.

However, I have qualms with the suggestion that this resurgence is due to their ‘timeless’ nature and ability to ‘decode our internal worlds’. It seem to me that this is nostalgia speaking and it fails to address the actual content of the ‘re-presented’ media. Such tales have clearly not been ‘re-presented’ to us on modern screens with entirely the same themes fore-fronted as they once were. They have a lot more to say about the ‘external’ happenings as regards to shifts in popular ideologies. It seems we are merely attracted to them because of their guise as the classical (more often than not, Disney-fied) tale.

I have to disagree with Tartar if she suggest that these new renditions lend to a steady mooring ‘during the tumultuous waves of life’, and further that the modern audience even looks to this modernised content for such alleviation.

Alternatively, I feel that what is more imminent here is the manner in which these tales represent the prominent ideologies of this day and age – the reproduction of old tales/films are indeed particularly useful in tracking these.

Yes, there is familiarity in the tale of Cinderella, the characters of Red Riding Hood, the trials and tribulations of superheros. But in modern renditions there seems to be an emphasis on a model of abstract humanisation over plot or thematic familiarity; the idea that were are not just people of ideological categories but “people of the world”, “full, human persons” with anxieties, weaknesses etc. We see this in the familial strife of fantasy series’ such as Game of Thrones, Oz the Great and Powerful whose story is revealed, the copious reproductions of superheroes who are presented as more ‘human’ that super.

This can ultimately be seen as a method of direct depoliticisation which screams to us: ‘don’t think! Entertain yourself in these characters who are human, just like you!’ But take no action.

Can old stories help us navigate the future? Yes, entirely so. But we have to be sure that we pay attention to the nature in which they are RE-presented, rather than just assuming that their core thematic/morals remain the same. If we continue to consider their resurgence as simply the result of an ‘unconscious yearning for stability’, familiarity in a ‘tumultuous’ world or consider them useful only in navigating ‘timeless emotions’ we look only as far as the end of our noses, finding exactly what we hoped to.

The resurgence of such stories tells us much about the rhetoric of popular ideology and the state of current affairs (both internal and external) more than it does any ‘innate’ yearning for their presence. If we settle for them at face-value then we forgo any worthwhile interrogation of the significance of their re-presentation.