From Mav: I saw an interesting movie this weekend, Brightburn. For those who haven’t seen the trailers it’s basically the story of Superman as a horror movie. Actually, not basically. In fact, it’s exactly the story of Superman as a horror movie. A couple finds of spaceship in the woods with a baby in it. They raise the baby as their own child and he eventually develops super powers. Only instead of becoming a superhero, when he hits puberty he becomes a sociopath and kills everyone because 12 year olds are little shits, and giving one unbridled power would be… well… bad. From there on out what we get is a horrific story of body horror and hopelessness as ordinary mortal beings are forced to confront unchecked superior power wrapped up in the mentality of a selfish child with no remorse and no motivation to really develop it.
Basically, what we have is a tweak to the familiar Superman narrative. There’s not really any spoilers here. What you see in the trailer is exactly what the movie is. It’s not really about discovering a plot or solving a mystery. It’s about exploring the idea of a Superman gone bad as it unfolds before you. You’re sort of expected to understand an intertextual link between this story and the actual Superman. It only really works as a comparative text. If you were somehow unaware of the traditional Superman narrative, I don’t think you’d see much of a point in the movie at all.
This is sort of common in the comic book world. You have DC’s Elseworlds and Marvel’s 1602 lines which take familiar characters and stories and tweak something to explore a different possibility. But you also have the same sort of thing happening in other literature. Pride+Prejudice+Zombies comes to mind. I’m thinking of things that are different from a regular reboot or remake. This isn’t the same thing as Mallory, Tennyson and White all doing their take on King Arthur. This is Mike Barr taking Arthur into the future with Camelot 3000. This is the recent (bombed attempt at a) reboot of Robin Hood where he is transported into a “modern” storyline. These are texts where you as the reader are being asked to consider them in relationship to the original rather than as their own standalone narrative.
In a sense, they share something with fanfic, but there’s a particular twist that sets it apart. These aren’t just extending the further adventures of the characters to explore new ideas, it is the exploration of ideas by explicitly changing the established canon. What does it mean to have Superman be a killer? What does it mean to have Lizzie Bennet fight zombies? Why is it interesting to think about these things? What happens if we try to take this narrative on its own WITHOUT the association to the base source text. Can anyone really enjoy P+P+Z without relating it to Austen’s original? That’s what I’m interested in exploring on this next show. What are some of your favorite remixed narratives? Why do we like them? What do they accomplish? What other thoughts do you have that I’ve missed?