[DWJ] Re: Heyer and Ghibli (now with Mononoke spoilers)

Kyra Jucovy klj at sccs.swarthmore.edu
Sun May 13 12:51:39 EDT 2007


On Sun, 13 May 2007, Ika Willis wrote:

> Kyra asked (after spoiler space for *Princess Mononoke*):
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> Ee! Interesting! This is something I notice a lot, actually (cf the
> Harry Potter books) - films/books which appear to me to be very
> clearly black-and-white in terms of morality being praised to the
> skies for their 'moral ambiguity'.* But I *think* what people mean
Hmm.  That one I don't think I've heard.  I can see why it would be
annoying!

> when they say that Jigo doesn't affect the moral complexity of the
> film because he's a minor character is that, although it's obviously
> possible for individual people to be straightforwardly *bad* in the
> fictional universe of *Mononoke*, the film itself doesn't use its
> narrative to answer the larger ethical questions that it raises. The
> universe itself - the way that cause-and-effect functions in the
> universe, the consequences that people's actions have - isn't pressed
> into service to make sure that a straightforward distinction between
> 'good' and 'evil' holds all the way through.  I mean that the
> ambiguity is on the level of the fit between narrative and universe,
> not on the level of the characters.
>
> So you could compare *Mononoke* to, say, Hollywood movies where the
> narrative rewards characters for making the 'good' choice - say
> Strong-Jawed Leader X refuses to abandon the weakest member of his
> team in order to safeguard the rest of the team, and instead of
> EVERYONE DYING (as you might expect), something intervenes which means
> that they all survive and X is feted as the best leader ever rather
> than being dismissed the Service. The whole machinery of the universe
> becomes complicit with the narrative's demand for good guys and bad
> guys. *That's* what doesn't happen in *Princess Mononoke*.
>
> I think, anyway. I'm still trying to figure this out - thanks for your
> thought-provoking post!
Thanks for your thought-provoking answer!  I think I find it reasonably
convincing - it makes sense, although I would be happy to hear your
further comments on the issue.  Now I am just trying to figure out why
that kind of an idea didn't occur to me.

I suspect I may have a very simplistic bias when I hear that something is
"not black and white" - it means that I expect the villains to be at least
potentially sympathetic (I give things a pass if all of the villains are
at least potentially sympathetic except for God, probably because of my
Gnostic tendancies).  But you are completely correct that the moral
philosophy behind a universe can be morally complex without all of the
characters necessarily being so.  For example, even in the real world, I
don't actually find certain people at all sympathetic and suspect I
probably still wouldn't even if I knew much more about them.  But the real
world is certainly morally complex.

So I definitely need to do some thinking about this particular bias!
Next question - and ObDWJ - take _The Homeward Bounders_.  They are
clearly pure evil and have no redeeming figures whatsoever.  Is THB still
morally complex?  Definitely; that's part of the reason why I've been
completely obsessed with it for the past two years.  Would I be bothered
by Them if someone told me that it "was not black and white?"  I'll have
to think about it.  It may be that my lack of interest in certain aspects
of _Mononoke_ is caused more by either a lack of a particular style of
characterization that I like or a lack of interest in the particular
complicated moral problems that it raises (or both) than by what I've
always thought.

> Love, Ika
>
> PS: I love your .sig! I have such beautiful visions in my head now!
You are predictable!  I thought you might like that one ;-).

							---Kyra

---
"I was there when Lacan first set his guitar on fire.  I was there in
Florida when Walter Benjamin flashed his willy to the crowd.  But I'm
losing my edge to the kids."
					---Luther Blissett, _The Valve_




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