Sunday, 13 June 2010

Prizes | Mini Essay | Ironical Action, Killing In The Name Of, and Spring-Heeled Jack, by Jon Ware

"A towering achievement in human creative expression." An Imdb 'User Review' on the 'cult classic' Birdemic: Shock and Terror

I was delighted today to read about Sherlock Holmes, Asylum Studios’ latest low-budget effort to cash in on a movie blockbuster. Apparently this version features Spring-Heeled Jack, a villainous brother of Holmes himself, and steampunk robotic dinosaurs. Asylum Studios, in case you haven’t heard, purportedly stay in business through customers buying their straight-to-DVD-releases in the mistaken belief that they’re actually buying the movie the Asylum version rips off.

I don’t buy that; people who buy movies look at the stars’ names, even if they don’t read the DVD description. And every Asylum rip-off, by its very nature, is going to be ripping off a movie with a big-name star. Not enough consumers are going to mistake Lance Henriksen for Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Treasure. No, the real way Asylum will make most of their money has got to be through ironical appreciation. Ironical appreciation? Bothering, for example, to sit through an awful hour-and-forty minute film just to guffaw at how dreadful it is and how you’re wasting your time. It’s a big market, and it’s growing. Maybe it’s a symptom of an age when we can watch great atrocities and disasters for ourselves, at a distance, through a screen; perhaps we are indeed (as I keep predicting, to anyone who’ll listen) heading for the second-hand world of H.G. Wells’ The Machine Stops. Perhaps not. But the ironical act, I think, is no longer just for hipsters who watch Plan 9 From Outer Space. Remember the 20,000 Jedi worshippers from that census a few years ago? How about the band Rage Against the Machine’s exceptionally un-jolly Christmas No.1? I might even suggest, if I’m feeling cynical, that there were one or two people who voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger or our current Mayor of London because they thought the notion of it was funny, and absurd.

There’s something wonderful here, and something dangerous. All four of the examples remind us that when public opinion – righteous, honest anger – is likely to be ignored by a set-in system, and when we’re all a little too lazy to - I don’t know - burn down Parliament, or Simon Cowell, then we can far more easily express the ritual of protest through ironical action, so much more English than its so-called cousin, ‘Direct Action’. “Fuck you; I won’t do what you tell me,” indeed. The corresponding danger is that an ironical action will be treated as a serious one. It didn’t happen with the Jedi, of course- but it did in every other case. “The English people have spoken,” might well be the shrugged refrain, when we vote David Jason into office. So please, watch out. And if you must use irony in public, try to accompany it with a hefty wink and nudge somebody in the ribs at the same time.

By Jon Ware
Fiction Editor

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