The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Holy Jumping Backpacks Batman!

I was reading an article I culled in the summer entitled "Beowulf to Baman: The Epic Hero and Pop Culture," College English 31 (1970). The article was fairly interesting and enjoyable to read. Some interesting points, especially to all except those who are familiar with Frye and archetypes, etc. However, the article is interesting because it is a historical document: Apparently, teaching high school students or even undergraduates about Beowulf, Milton, Spenser, etc, was very difficult back in 1970. One of the author's goals was to demonstrate the these epics ARE relevant since teens or whatever back then would enjoy analogous programs on television.

The author (Roger Rollin) makes one point that I'm not sure I agree with, and point out the article's main weakenss, to wit, it would be impossible to write it today. On discussing the virtues in common with Spenser's knight's (Redcrosse, for example), he mentions chastity, something which had become unpopular by the late 60s. He compares these to spy-heroes such as James Bond and says these people are

"already to a great extent outside both the law and the culture, apparently have licenses tp fornicate as well as to kill. They are hedonist-heroes of the New Morality. Yet their popularity, enormous for a year or two, already seems on the wane, which may indicate that Spenser's ideal of Chastity is still operative beneath the surface of our supposedly liberated culture." (441)

This is one of the few points I would argue against. James Bond at least is certainly not dead: the franchise is alive and well, although it could be argued that only now is JB on the wane. Unless I'm mistaken, most people stopped caring after Roger Moore; there was a slight but short-lived revival with Brosnan. What do y'all think about this? It is interesting to note that, at least back in the 1970s, the heroes were often sexless, that is, they did not engage in sex: Superman, Batman (Adam West), Lone Ranger, etc. Rollin mentions Star Trek, and although he doesn't mention the sexual escapades of Captain Kirk, I would argue that in most cases, his sexual escapades were portrayed as "wrong" OR he only pursued them becuase he was infected with some spirit, etc. All this leads me to my argument at the beginning: could this article be written today? It begs the question: what happened to our heroes? T.V. sucks enormously now, and even Wrestling, which showcased such positive role models as Hulk Hogan when I was a kid, is a corrupting influence. I certainly don't see any positive role models wherever I look, which makes me a little less surprised when I see out of control kids. Now I definitely look like an old fart, even though I'm in my twenties, and I may very well be lapsing into the same error as my older old farts, namely, that everything was always better back then. But in this case one can actually and objectively examine data from forty years ago and compare it with today.


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