LESSON The Softening of Myths

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Revision, Jun 17, 2012.

  1. The Softening of Myths

    Mythology is the collective storytelling and persistent related beliefs of a culture throughout time. Since it lasts for so long, it is only to be expected that these myths do change over time and become things unique to each culture, each generation.

    All one has to do to see this in action is to look at the difference between so many different decades of vampire obsession. From the original Dracula novel near the turn of the century to the 1930’s Béla Lugosi film of the same name, then varying to the films of the sixties and seventies starring Christopher Lee. Then on to Interview with a Vampire, then Buffy the Vampire, and now Twilight. The evolution of vampires from horribly frightening with a bit of lust to lusty with no fright potential has taken about a hundred years of media saturation, but now we have sparkly vampires.

    This same Myth Softening has happened to many creatures. Possibly the biggest hit aside from vampires are faeries. Fae were once terrifying. Even the nice ones were creatures you hoped never came around and tried to appease with offerings. The mean ones would steal children and cattle and kill people on their rides through the human land. Now we have the Tinkerbell movies. Even Disney has some pretty dark fae. Maleficent is a prime example of what an angry Unseelie will do (or even a really offended Seelie). Now look back through time and see just what horrible things fae would do: everything from tricking people into drowning to leveling curses on a whole family line to outright murder, sometimes just because humans were not seen as much more than animals to some fae.

    The evolution of these creatures from fierce to friendly stems in part from the love of being scared. When we love being scared, we start to love that which is a fear we know won’t hurt us. After all, very few adults are still afraid of the boogeyman. So we love that which scares us, and it is a natural leap to want to be able to make that which scares us love us back, or make it want to protect us, or, especially for those who love a bad boy, to want to convert the evil to good.

    Whether or not this evolution is good or a horrible literary travesty really depends on the reader. Some purists may argue that any deviation from the nightmare inducing stories of years gone by is a sin, while less fanatical folk may say simply that some modern tales take it too far. Still others openly embrace their sparkly vamps and friendly pixies and want more! One good thing, however, is that the more they evolve, the more options for roleplay come up.

    Which these spectrums of evil to good or dangerous to safe, we have a multitude of options. We can take the same creature that would only have inspired terror a hundred years ago and do a horror RP, comedy, romance, science fiction, fantasy, or parody. We can admire the beauty of the fairie at the bar in that nice love story without having to worry that she’ll curse us if we turn a night with her into a one night stand. Or. We can take our horror and myth like straight coffee, man up, and cry in the corner when we can’t get to sleep that night. The choice is yours!

    So, how do you like to RP your mythological beasties?
     
  2. Oh I love my creepy creatures. I have a weakness for anything dark and obscure really. I'm not going to rant about Twilight now, but I LOVE vampires. Well I love classic vampires. My first love was Interview with A Vampire, which is lovely, but will never beat The Historian. I am also a sucker for pretty words. So throw me a classically written Vampire tale and I'll have reached cloud nine. It was quite some time before I read Dracula though I confess. I had a hard time finding it and in the end I had to read it online. To make a really lame comparison Dracula is my Edward...I am to Stoker as what teenage girls are to Stephanie Meyer. Although I suppose it was significantly the written style that made me fall in love. In any case every word he spoke was like a symphony to me... How lame am I? Not to mention that probably makes me incredibly naive.
    Japanese mythology has some really bizarre and fascinating monsters as well. Although again with my stubborn mind I can't bring myself to love anything but their original context. So all though I also love anime I can't bring myself to watch most of them centered around mythology and contemporary plots....I hope that made sense.
    I'm not even sure if most of that was relevant so sorry it it wasn't.
     
  3. Cool article. For an example of the opposite taking place over time, look at aliens.

    Originally there was the Medieval idea that God made multiple worlds with different races of subjects, each with their own "Garden of Eden" contract. Some had, like us, fallen from grace, whilst others had remained pure and become like angels. Then, after the invention of the telescope and the coming of the Enlightenment, the media portrayed the inhabitants of other worlds as parodies or beautiful equivalents of ourselves. Everything was hopeful and the aliens were treated as cosmic brothers who, like us, would be both curious and benevolent.

    Then the Victorian Era brought us the "Invaders from Mars" cliche. And the birth of the Space Age and associated UFO sightings led to various theories about the hostility or benevolence of aliens. The Cthulhu Mythos and the Von Daniken theories portrayed them as distant and ambivalent gods. The whole Alien Myth was being pulled in both directions. Then Spielberg came along and we had a whole raft of media output that told us how aliens were friendly and curious little critters.

    Then we had X-Files and Alien and Predator and Independence Day, in which aliens found increasingly elaborate ways to fuck us over and punish our planet for being self-obsessed douchebags. I can't think of any films recently that have had friendly aliens (*punches Michael Bay in the dick*). So it seems that the "Outsider" - i.e the Monster - is being used in different roles depending on how we, as a species, feel about ourselves. Vampires used to represent the perils of infection and racial impurity. Now they represent unbridled teen passion and immortal love. Dracula wasn't overtly sexy - it was a story about male bonding. Fae used to represent the trickster element of life and the hostility of nature. Now they represent frivolous joy and prepubescent magic. Everything shifts according to our needs.

    Right now, I think most Myths are getting the dark spin, due to the angst that the world, and particularly the new generation, is feeling. There are some counter-currents of course, like the bronies, anthro and other sickly-sweet renderings. But right now the emphasis is on making things dark, sexy and glamorous, to appeal to a market that has been rendered insecure about fashion, body-image and sexuality. In such an environment, aliens either have to be sexy or flat-out instruments of horror. Doing them any other way would be artistic suicide. The same goes for vampires.

    Whether this polarization will relax itself as time goes on, remains to be seen. But as a GM I have to play to the market. So my myths/legends will either appeal to the affection/humour of the players, or be blunt mechanisms of horror/obstacle. They are either there to stand in the hero's way or compliment his personal journey. There's no time for anything inbetween.