The Politics of Fantasy

Here’s a talk I gave at Berry College on the politics of fantasy films, broken into six parts.

I begin by talking about the fantasy boom in the last decade, in which the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Shrek, Chronicles of Naria, Spiderman and Pirates of the Carribbean franchises became Hollywood’s top worldwide grossers.

I continue by looking at the parallels and differences between fantasy and science fiction. Fantasy and science fiction are both forms of myth, I argue, and thus speak the archetpyal language of the unconscious. SF, however, dresses up this irrationality with the clothes of scientific empiricicm, while fantasy embraces the irrational logic of dreams through the trope of magic.

Here I talk about to magic as a metaphor for our alienated relationship with technology.

I quote and unpack Arthur C. Clarke‘s famous line, “Any technology sufficiently advanced from our own would be indistinguishable from magic.”

I also discuss:

– The parallels between the fantasy trope of manna and the medical/spiritual concepts of chi/prana.

– The parallels between spellmaking and computer programming.

– The fantasy genre as the realm of the unconscious.

– Jung vs. Freud

Here I get to Carl Jung’s influence on America and Hollywood via Joseph Campbell, George Lucas, and screenwriting guru Christopher Vogler.

I also talk about the limits of Jung and the ideas of post-Jungians such as Andrew Samuels and Christopher Hauke.

I end by discussing the psychology and politics of the Lord of the Rings books and films from a post-Jungian perspective.

The talk ends at 8:30, followed by the first 1:30 of the Q&A.

In this portion of the Q&A, we discuss:

– Star Wars as an SF/fantasy genre hybrid.
– The roots of both SF and fantasy in the mythic tradition
– SF as “fantasy in techno-drag”
– Fantasy as the language of the unconscious
– Horror as the return of the repressed
– Jung’s analysis of Nazism as the projection of Germany’s collective shadow onto the Jews
– Critiques of Jung’s essentialism & the value/limits of social constructionism/anti-essentialism
– Feminist critiques and reworkings of Jung
– Archetypes and cognitive psychology
– Critiques of Campbell’s universalism
– Jungian cognitive psychology as an alternative to naive empiricism

In the final minutes of the Q&A, topics include:

– Why fantasy is still underrepresented on TV
– Comic book superhero stories as fantasy/sf hybrids
– George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire
– The politics of the hero’s journey in Star Wars & Lord of the Rings

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