Wednesday, May 27, 2009

American Dreamtime

I just finished the book called American Dreamtime, by Lee Drummond. Its "an anthropologist goes to the movies" angle is an intriguiging one, of which I approve. I believe it shows its age a bit, being writting way way back in 1995, with all of its defenses of choosing to study movies, but that's a minor quibble.

There are major quibbles, thought. First, Drummond doesn't mention Superman even once. What's the deal?

On a more serious note, Drummond lays out his theory of culture, which he derives from science and the notion that humanity is not a discrete species. He problematizes boundaries throughout the book. His overall argument is that"culture created humanity" rather than the other way around, by which he means that culture preceded homo sapiens and thus played a key role in evolution. There are some very interesting arguments made about myth, its nature and its importance. There's some pretty good macro-level points here.

On the micor-level, the book falls apart. The writing itself is annoying, but that's another minor quibble. Drummond chooses to focus on four films and series of films: James Bond, Star Wars, ET, and Jaws. Good choices overall. The Bond chapter is probably the most successful, and I wouldn't be surprised if Drummond is a huge fan. The chapter that follows it, on Star Wars, is simply inexcusably bad. Never before have I encountered a scholar who makes up data to fit his theories. Yet Drummond seemingly does so. Star Wars was pretty important to my childhood, so I know the films pretty well (but not the books or comics, which is why I have to say "seemingly does so"). So when Drummond puts certain scenes in the wrong movies (such as the first glimpse of Vader's face being in Empire instead Episode IV, as Drummond has it), I notice it but excuse it. However, Storm Troopers (which Drummond labels Imperial Guard but describes clearly as Storm Troopers) are not machines in the sense that he labels them--robots. He invents a scene where Han tells Luke not to worry about killing them because there's nothing inside the armor.

Everybody who's seen the prequels knows that Storm Troopers are clones. Devotees knew it a long time ago. it's not a recent idea. This is just crazy.

And no Superman. It's too bad, really. Then I might have something to say about it.

1 comment:

  1. If nothing else, one thing we can clearly say is that there's no brain inside a storm trooper's helmet.