Episode 13: Mythic Reboots

Some stories are timeless: Homer’s Odyssey, the legends of Hercules and King Arthur, the fairy tale of Snow White. These are stories that have been repeated so often that everyone knows them. They are part of the cultural consciousness. So, if that is the case, why do we feel the need to keep repeating them? Why do we make countless adaptations in comics, films and TV shows? Wayne and Mav are joined by Natalie Sheppard to discuss the power of myth and question why myths are so frequently used as the basis for new stories.

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5 Replies to “Episode 13: Mythic Reboots”

  1. Great ep! The talk of the recent advent of 20th century monster lore particularly resonated with me. There was so much that I took for granted growing up watching horror flicks in the 80’s and 90’s that I didn’t realize were VERY recent additions to popular lore. Case in point–silver bullets killing werewolves. You don’t see this anywhere in Universal horror, and I think it makes an appearance in Curse of the Werewolf (sadly, the only werewolf movie produced by Hammer), but as late as American Werewolf in London (1981), you’ve got a werewolf antagonist being taken down on the big screen by regular old bullets. You don’t see silver bullets becoming the gold standard (no pun intended) till the early-to-mid 80’s.

    And don’t get me started on vampires… The Hammer library has so many different families of vampires with different vulnerabilities that they devoted a scene from Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter to poke fun at themselves for never establishing a universal method for destroying vampires. A highly recommended watch, BTW.

    Love the show–keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you. Glad you’re enjoying the show.

      Yes, there’s lots of things like that, and the werewolf vulnerability to silver bullets is a good one. Silver is commonly used in general as a vulnerability to mythological creatures, but the werewolf dates back as a legend to at least the Middle Ages (and possibly quite earlier) and bullets (at least in a form close enough to what we would recognize them as today) weren’t really a thing until the mid-1800s (earlier guns using pellets or musket balls). They weren’t really needed until the development of the revolver, and Colt patented that in like 1836. And silver is harder to shape than lead, so it’s probably really crappy to use to make bullets in the early days. Still, you could have made a silver musket pellet fairly easily, I suppose.

      There are stories about werewolves (or werewolf type creatures) being killed with silver “bullets.” before then, the Beast of Gévaudan for instance, though that wasn’t really a “werewolf” per se in the earlier legends. It was just a wolf and probably started being conflated with werewolves in the mid-1800s as well.

      I can’t prove it, but I expect that the rise in popularity of silver bullets to kill werewolves probably had a lot to do with the rise of movies. Shooting things is just way more cinematic and it really fit the “cowboy” ideal of early Hollywood. Hollywood (and before that, the pulps) was pretty much responsible for mythologizing the cowboy… which bears little resemblance in fiction to the actual cowboys that predate it. They are almost entirely an invention fo fiction, especially to the extent that they became entirely synonymous with gunslingers. And silver bullets would have just been more “special.” In fact, they were also the calling card of the Lone Ranger, and he didn’t appear til the 1930s.

      My dissertation actually argues that they are the prototype for the superhero. And to an extent, even non-cowboy action heroes like cops, or hard-boiled detectives, were effectively built from the cowboy mold. So I expect that mid-20th century film really needed a way retrofit the vulnerability if the werewolf into the masculine realm of what action heroes of the time were expected to be able to do. Action heroes weren’t using swords… they weren’t using karate… they didn’t have laser beam eyes, magic hammers or the ability to spin webs…. they shot things… with guns… But you didn’t want to have the werewolf be vulnerable to any old guy with a gun… that’s too easy… the movie would be too short. So you make them special… silver bullets! And once that became a popular trope of cinema, it was quickly absorbed by the myth… much like sunlight and vampires or Perseus and the Kraken.

      At least that’d be my theory.

      Again, thank you for listening (and reading)

    1. Well, if you buy from the Amazon links, I get the kickback… but yes, I am fairly certain if you’re local to Pittsburgh (which you are) Wayne’s comic book store, Phantom of the Attic, has it… and it’s the best store ever so people should shop there.

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