[Ansteorra] Warthaven-The Movie

Peter Schorn peterschorn at pdq.net
Sun Jun 22 11:35:51 PDT 2008

OK, so it's actually called "Kung-Fu Panda," but see it and tell me it
doesn't have Blackfox's ectoplasm all over it.  Because what's best in the
movie is what was best in Blackfox's comic: the humor, and the caricature.


The humor is what you notice first: "Panda" finds plenty to laugh at in the
foibles and enthusiasms of kung-fu movies, just as Blackfox did in the SCA.
But in neither is the humor derogatory.  Quite the opposite: the parody
proceeds from, and leads to, a sympathetic appreciation of the thing being
parodied.  And that is a fine and difficult thing for a parodist to do. It
is quite easy to make an audience see the absurdity in some character who
takes a pratfall while striving to be Bruce Lee or Sir Galahad.  It is much
harder to make an audience see and *like* the ideal of Bruce Lee or Sir
Galahad that the character was striving towards when he slipped.


The caricature does essentially the same thing as the humor, but in a more
subtle way: it takes a bundle of human traits and parodies them, amusingly,
by putting them in animal form.  But it works with them in that form, that
parody, to make those traits more understandable and sympathetic in real
people. Blackfox's caricatures at their best were not just, say, a bear
wearing Lord X's tunic and glasses. They made manifest what was bear-like
about Lord X: the stolidness, hardiness, strength and courage, the capacity
for grumpiness or jollity, all signified by a set of the ears or a lift of
the muzzle.  "Panda" doesn't work with individuals but archetypes: some
people approach martial arts straightforwardly like tigers or through
subtlety like serpents and so on.  But these archetypes are based on
observations about how real humans behave in real life.  The movie does for
these archetypes what Blackfox did for the people who sat for him: it puts
them in animal form in such a way that those who look on the images will say
"Hey--I know that guy!"  


As I did.  I don't need to tell you who reminded me of Duchess Rowan: you'll
know as soon as the character opens her mouth (of course if you were a
Caidan, you'd see Mistress Eichling, and right enough: that's how archetypes
work and why artists use them).  But I will tell you that I saw an awful lot
of Blackfox in the main character, Po--who is, really, just Jack Black in
anthropomorphic form. So I guess what I'm really saying is that I see a lot
of Blackfox in Jack Black.


Now I know I'll get some grief over that, because Jack Black is often loud,
vulgar, coarse and jocose, as Blackfox never was.  No, never ("What,
never?"...).  Nonetheless if you look at Jack Black's body of work--movies
like "Shallow Hal" and "Nacho Libre"--you'll see he has this uncanny ability
to find the grace, the goodness and the dignity--in short, the nobility--in
a wide variety of weird and essentially dysfunctional characters, and to
make that nobility manifest in the images he creates.


Which is exactly what Blackfox did for us.  


That was why we loved him, and why he was worthy of that love.



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