June 21st, 2004

breaking bad

'Hooray for us'

This lineage of stories:

- Jason and the Argonauts
- Robin Hood
- The Seven Samurai
- The Magnificent Seven
- Star Trek
- Blakes 7
- Alien

This lineage extends into the present through Farscape, Lexx, X-Men etc. As you may have noticed I am watching Firefly at the moment, which is obviously another example. I was struck by the exchange

Mal - 'Good shot'
Jayne - 'I was aiming for his head'

Which is surely there to link Firefly with Magnificent Seven and Blakes 7 (although Serenity holds a group of nine).

In all these stories a group of well-differentiated characters functions as an aggressive unit. I think this type of story is strongest where (as in the Argonauts and Star Trek) the group moves, contained in a ship, into strange territory. For this reason it finds its modern expression best in science fiction, I believe. Though one could argue that shows like Buffy or CSI manage to achieve similar effects without the ship-convention.

Our delight in this type of story does not rest on realism. The characters must be stylised, the plots must be implausible. The trappings must be glittery and exaggerated. But the atmosphere of these stories ain't exactly one of unrelieved joy and success.

Are these stories compelling because they dramatise inter-personal dynamics? Or because they dramatise the conflicting and co-operating parts of our own minds?