When you hear talk of globalisation, the winners and losers have become fairly set categories: the “winners” are the hyper-mobile, global class that are capable of picking up and putting down almost anywhere, whether that is London or LA, Tokyo or Berlin, Moscow or – well, maybe not Moscow, at least not at the moment.
These winners are the beneficiaries of the most dynamic economy that has ever existed in history before, in such a way that – even if we cannot put a hard date on it – I think it is pretty clear that the modern global economy defines the contemporary era of mankind more than anything else. We are living in the “global age” and there will inevitably be those for whom that age is good.
And then there are those for whom that age is bad. These are the majority of people whose lives are usually spent in one place, from school to work and, if they’re lucky, a few years of retirement. They might be more mobile than their ancestors, for whom life was inevitably spent in the same village, whilst they travel around their county or district but, broadly speaking, never stray too far.
These are the losers, we are told. They have suffered the effects of globalisation – declining industry, evaporating investment, creaking and groaning infrastructure – but are powerless to do anything about it, as they get caught in a cycle in which power follows money and money flows away.
So why not go where the money is? Why not travel abroad, where the work is? Part of the reason is that the last thing the “losers” have left is each other. The day before the In/Out Brexit Referendum, news vox-pops of people on the street saying they would vote to Leave, when asked why, gestured and said “look around. What do I have left to lose?” The backdrop of shuttered shops and boarded windows was the answer, and it wasn’t a very compelling one.
But the answer off-screen was one that the Remain camp had tried to buy into – they had their families, their households, their communities. When David Cameron claimed Brexit would “put a bomb” under the British economy, and George Osborne’s treasury pumped out statistics on the damage it would do to the average household, they were trying to speak to the rational brain that fears material loss. It made sense – it was the same brain they had been speaking to for six years with messages of necessary spending cuts, tax breaks, and increasing job opportunities.
Except this did not work because that audience was not there. The average person did not have the material loss to be threatened, and at a time when fatherlessness was rising, families were breaking down, and over three million households were single-parent; even that small amount to lose was felt to be lost already.
The one thing that the losers had left was their community – and by and large, these were communities that had been decimated by the austerity years. So, they stayed, because their families might be thin and disappearing but their community remained fairly strong.
When Karl Marx decided that the slow transfer of people from the countryside to the cities meant that the “proletariat” would emerge, he was attempting a scientific analysis of what was already happening. As people moved from field to factory, leaving behind their old places in the world and attempting to take up new ones, they forged bonds of solidarity to replace the ones they lost. Human beings are deeply sociable, both from an inherent reality, and an existential need; we can only come into this world as a result of others, but we need to be seen and recognised while we’re here.
So, Britain especially saw the rise of industrial communities – and not just the political conscious-raising efforts of Trade Unions, for politics is tiresome and boring, really. There were also football clubs, local churches, free schools, civic action groups, and so on – in Bristol, there were 400 alone. I’m sure Marx’s miserable mind was able to only imagine the political, but in truth the personal is so much more interesting and enriching than the political. Don’t be fooled that they are the same thing.
This is an excerpt from “Nuclear”.
To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.
You Might also like
By Jake Scott — 1 year ago
‘The idea is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off’ – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
We are all Blairites now. It is a horrible thought, especially to those of us who despise the Blairite constitutional project: from gutting the Lords to the creation of the devolved assemblies, and the paradoxical tension between the move towards localism and the edictal erasure of British ways of life. The sad reality is that we live in Blairite Britain, more than we live in Thatcherite Britain.
Such a thought, as uncomfortable as it is, must be the starting point of all conservative discussions, whether they are concerned with strategy, identity, or even over what we aim to ‘conserve’, because we can only begin to know where to go by knowing where we are. David Foster Wallace once gave a talk to a graduating class in which he told the following story:
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “morning boys, how’s the water?” and the two young fish swim on for a bit and eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “what the hell is water?”
The story is intended to remind us of a simple truth: that the most obvious realities are the hardest to talk about, because they are so essential and taken for granted in our daily lives. Blairism is the cultural water we swim in, and the current that drives us inexorably towards the next crisis we cannot resolve, because Blairism holds the conflictual beliefs that government should be in every part of our lives, but that it should be so completely and utterly impotent. Think about how difficult it is to do anything in modern Britain, but that you absolutely must do it whilst holding the hand of the government.
Regardless of Blairism’s inherent contradictions, we must not ignore the tide, even if only to swim against it. How do we do this? In Modern Culture, Sir Roger Scruton wrote that we cannot
return to a pre-Enlightenment world because the Enlightenment is so inherent to how we think about society, Man, government, culture and so on. Even those of us who are believers in faith must accept that the draperies were torn down; but only by realising they were torn down can you put them back up. So, rather than deny the legacies of the Enlightenment, Sir Roger says, we must accept that they are with us, and instead ‘live as if it matters eternally what we do: to obey the rites, the ceremonies and the customs that lend dignity to our actions and which lift them above the natural sphere’.
The philosophical movement that took this lesson to heart the most, in my opinion, was the Romantics. They did not pretend that the legacies of the Enlightenment were so easily eradicable nor so easily deniable; instead, they accepted that they lived in a changed world, but sought to use that change to re-suture man’s relationship with himself, to correct the deficiencies of the Enlightenment and the empty rationalism that it loved so irrationally.
The Romantic movement, by virtue of its own logic, was not universalist. The Enlightenment sought to be universal, to find laws and rules that governed Man in every circumstance and every place; but Romanticism, in reaction, favoured particularism, rootedness, and the cultural significance of place and people. In fact, so many of the nationalist movements of the nineteenth century owed more to the Romantics than they did to the Enlightenment (but again, only in the sense that the Enlightenment showed us that all humans are deserving of dignity and respect, they just choose to express that dignity in varied ways).
One such example of Romanticism that has always fascinated me emerged in Russia in the 1830s, more than anything because I believe that Russia then holds a multitude of lessons for Britain now. Early-nineteenth century Russia experienced what could only be described as an existential crisis: the Napoleonic Wars had damaged Russia’s understanding of herself as the great military power of Eastern Europe, and brought many ideas of universal brotherhood into contact with a society that did not even have the intellectual framework to accommodate such thoughts. But the crisis went deeper: as much as one hundred and fifty years before, Russian society was shaken by external ideas, more than any invasion could have hoped for, under the Reforms of Tsar Peter the Great. The Petrine Era of Russia saw cultural changes from the top – governmental reforms, military reforms, and technological innovation, much of which modernised Russia and made her into a Great Power; but these changes did not go unquestioned. In fact, many of the influential groups in Russia rebelled, sometimes violently, as in the Moscow Rising of the Streltsy in 1698.
The legacy of Peter’s reforms, however, were not felt until much later. Of course, all major cultural and social changes take time to really be felt at all, but the ‘short eighteenth century’ was a time of such rapid and dislocating change – across all of Europe, but especially in Russia – that many generations found themselves intellectually and culturally cut adrift from those who came immediately before them. Peter, pursuing a programme of Westernisation insisted, for instance, that the Russian court speak French, a language thought of as ‘intellectual’ (with good reason); dress like the Prussian court; rationalised the military along the Western European lines; built an entirely new town on a North Italian design (St. Petersburg – of course); and, in one of my favourite little quirks of history, outlawed beards in that city’s borders.
Cultural issues grow like pearls grow – a single grain of sand works its way into a mollusk, and irritates the mollusk in such a way that bacteria and calcium grows around it. Cultural changes irritate the social fabric of the community it works into; but we don’t have bacteria to grow around it, we only have each other. Yet we can understand cultural issues in the same way as a pearl – an irritant works its way in, and we grow that irritant into a recognisable tangible entity, by coalescing around it and growing it in such a way that it becomes instantly recognisable.
This is what led to the Slavophiles. Petrine Russia thought it was undefeatable – and from the Great Northern War onwards, it very much was – until Napoleon came roaring in. But the Napeolonic Wars did two things for Russia, both with the same outcome; the first was importing many ideas into Russia that challenged the existing understanding of Russian political and social structures; the second was, in the same way Soviet soldiers pushed Nazi Germany back into Europe, Petrine soldiers followed Napoleon back into Europe. In both instances, educated Russian men saw the way Europeans lived, and realised that their society was not the improved form that their reforming leaders dreamt of.
And just as with a grain of sand in a pearl, the cultural dislocation of Peter’s reforms that had long irritated the reactionary elements of eighteenth-century Russia, was seized on by many of the early-nineteenth century intelligentsia as a means of explaining the situation in which they had found themselves. This fermented a series of backlashes, intellectual and cultural, that led to an explosion of political movements, such as the terrorists, the socialists, the populists (narodniki), and – most importantly – the Slavophiles. The Slavophiles looked at the state of Russia in the 1830s and considered the Petrine reforms to be an unmitigated failure: they had not kept Russia at pace with the rest of Europe; they had dislocated the cultural and social elites from the people over whom they ruled; and worst of all, they had severed the Russian people from their own past. Peter the Great had made the mistake of proto-enlightenment liberalism, that there were universal standards of humanity against which peoples’ behaviours, cultures and laws could be judged, and in doing so, he had not attempted to “reform” Russia’s venerable history, but deny its very existence, and begin from scratch.
Instead, the Slavophiles urged a return to pre-Petrine, Muscovite-style Russianism, an embracing of folk styles, food, clothing, language, and so on – not to petrify them into a living museum of nostalgia, but to rectify the mistakes of the previous century, and offer an alternative direction into the future. This precipitated many of the following century’s movements: for instance, the emphasis on the folk of Russia encouraged the nascent populism into radicalism; the embracing of the Russian commune form of land management gave Russian socialism a concrete model from which to work; and the idea of Russia taking an entirely unique path of development to Europe created the intellectual condition for Lenin and the communists to believe Russia could “leapfrog” past the bourgeois liberalism of the continent and move straight to socialism. This is not to say the Slavophiles were socialists – to even say so is to misunderstand the subtle relativism that denies such universalist theories in itself. Indeed, many Slavophiles were ardent absolute monarchists, with the famous Memorandum to the Tsar by Alexei Aksakov in 1831 claiming that Russia’s unique place in history stems from its Orthodox Christianity, the invitation by the Kievan Rus to the Varangians to rule them, and the steppes shaping the Russian mindset to one of boundless opportunism (something that Berdayev later used as a comparison to the American prairies and Manifest Destiny).
The consequences of the Slavophile movement might not be palatable, but their inspiration is something that Anglo conservatives need to pay attention to. Their movement began by an important moment of clarity: the political reforming project of the previous age had failed. It is no secret that the emerging conservatism in Britain despises the Blairite consensus, and in many ways that means we are already doing as the Slavophiles did: only by recognising that we are in Blairite Britain can we undo its disastrous effects. But we need to go further; we cannot simply throw our hands up and accept Blairism as the present condition of Britain, but we need to see it for what it truly is. It is a complete and utter separation of Britain from our past, a denial of that past’s validity, and an attempt to create a new political identity on entirely alien lines.
Moving into the future requires acceptance of the present circumstance; one of the silliest phrases is that the clock cannot be wound back, when the truth is, if the clock is showing the wrong time, it is imperative that you wind it back. And just as taking the wrong turn and continuing down the wrong path will only get you further from where you want to go, so too must you turn back. We are all Blairites now; and just as alcoholics have to admit they’ll never recover from their alcoholism, we have to admit we will likely never recover from Blairism, but will always “be” recovering.
But I do not want to be defeatist; the first step of recovery is acceptance. We need to accept that we live in Blairite Britain, and only then can we begin tearing it apart. We need to start ripping out its core parts: the communications act (2003); the equality act (2010); the Supreme Court; the devolved assemblies; the abolition of the hereditary aristocracy; the fox hunting ban; the smoking ban; in short, all of the components of a foreign way of life that have been foisted upon the British people by our own misguided maniacal reformers. It is time to go to war; but you can only do that if you accept the war is already going on.
Post Views: 592
By Dustin Lovell — 1 day ago
A new film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy, Joel Coen’s 2021 The Tragedy of Macbeth is the director’s first production without his brother Ethan’s involvement. Released in select theaters on December 25, 2021, and then on Apple TV on January 14, 2022, the production has received positive critical reviews as well as awards for screen adaptation and cinematography, with many others still pending.
As with any movie review, I encourage readers who plan to see the film to do so before reading my take. While spoilers probably aren’t an issue here, I would not want to unduly influence one’s experience of Coen’s take on the play. Overall, though much of the text is omitted, some scenes are rearranged, and some roles are reduced, and others expanded, I found the adaptation to be a generally faithful one that only improved with subsequent views. Of course, the substance of the play is in the performances of Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, but their presentation of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is enhanced by both the production and supporting performances.
Production: “where nothing, | But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile” —IV.3
The Tragedy of Macbeth’s best element is its focus on the psychology of the main characters, explored below. This focus succeeds in no small part due to its minimalist aesthetic. Filmed in black and white, the play utilizes light and shadow to downplay the external historical conflicts and emphasize the characters’ inner ones.
Though primarily shown by the performances, the psychological value conflicts of the characters are concretized by the adaptation’s intended aesthetic. In a 2020 Indiewire interview, composer and long-time-Coen collaborator Carter Burwell said that Joel Coen filmed The Tragedy of Macbeth on sound stages, rather than on location, to focus more on the abstract elements of the play. “It’s more like a psychological reality,” said Burwell. “That said, it doesn’t seem stage-like either. Joel has compared it to German Expressionist film. You’re in a psychological world, and it’s pretty clear right from the beginning the way he’s shot it.”
This is made clear from the first shots’ disorienting the sense of up and down through the use of clouds and fog, which continue as a key part of the staging throughout the adaptation. Furthermore, the bareness of Inverness Castle channels the focus to the key characters’ faces, while the use of odd camera angles, unreal shadows, and distorted distances reinforce how unnatural is the play’s central tragic action, if not to the downplayed world of Scotland, then certainly to the titular couple. Even when the scene leaves Inverness to show Ross and MacDuff discussing events near a ruined building at a crossroads (Act II.4), there is a sense that, besides the Old Man in the scene, Scotland is barren and empty.
The later shift to England, where Malcolm, MacDuff, and Ross plan to retake their homeland from now King Macbeth, further emphasizes this by being shot in an enclosed but bright and fertile wood. Although many of the historical elements of the scene are cut, including the contrast between Macbeth and Edward the Confessor and the mutual testing of mettle between Malcolm and MacDuff, the contrast in setting conveys the contrast between a country with a mad Macbeth at its head and the one that presumably would be under Malcolm. The effect was calming in a way I did not expect—an experience prepared by the consistency of the previous acts’ barren aesthetic.
Yet, even in the forested England, the narrow path wherein the scene takes place foreshadows the final scenes’ being shot in a narrow walkway between the parapets of Dunsinane, which gives the sense that, whether because of fate or choice rooted in character, the end of Macbeth’s tragic deed is inevitable. The explicit geographical distance between England and Scotland is obscured as the same wood becomes Birnam, and as, in the final scenes, the stone pillars of Dunsinane open into a background of forest. This, as well as the spectacular scene where the windows of the castle are blown inward by a storm of leaves, conveys the fact that Macbeth cannot remain isolated against the tragic justice brought by Malcom and MacDuff forever, and Washington’s performance, which I’ll explore presently, consistently shows that the usurper has known it all along.
This is a brilliant, if subtle, triumph of Coen’s adaptation: it presents Duncan’s murder and the subsequent fallout as a result less of deterministic fate and prophecy and more of Macbeth’s own actions and thoughts in response to it—which, themselves, become more determined (“predestined” because “wilfull”) as Macbeth further convinces himself that “Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill” (III.2).
Performances: “To find the mind’s construction in the face” —I.4
Film adaptations of Shakespeare can run the risk of focusing too closely on the actors’ faces, which can make keeping up with the language a chore even for experienced readers (I’m still scarred from the “How all occasions” speech from Branagh’s 1996 Hamlet); however, this is rarely, if ever, the case here, where the actors’ and actresses’ pacing and facial expressions combine with the cinematography to carry the audience along. Yet, before I give Washington and McDormand their well-deserved praise, I would like to explore the supporting roles.
In Coen’s adaptation, King Duncan is a king at war, and Brendan Gleeson plays the role well with subsequent dourness. Unfortunately, this aspect of the interpretation was, in my opinion, one of its weakest. While the film generally aligns with the Shakespearean idea that a country under a usurper is disordered, the before-and-after of Duncan’s murder—which Coen chooses to show onscreen—is not clearly delineated enough to signal it as the tragic conflict that it is. Furthermore, though many of his lines are adulatory to Macbeth and his wife, Gleeson gives them with so somber a tone that one is left emotionally uninvested in Duncan by the time he is murdered.
Though this is consistent with the production’s overall austerity, it does not lend much to the unnaturalness of the king’s death. One feels Macbeth ought not kill him simply because he is called king (a fully right reason, in itself) rather than because of any real affection between Macbeth and his wife for the man, himself. However, though I have my qualms, this may have been the right choice for a production focused on the psychological elements of the plot; by downplaying the emotional connection between the Macbeths and Duncan (albeit itself profoundly psychological), Coen focuses on the effects of murder as an abstraction.
The scene after the murder and subsequent framing of the guards—the drunken porter scene—was the one I most looked forward to in the adaptation, as it is in every performance of Macbeth I see. The scene is the most apparent comic relief in the play, and it is placed in the moment where comic relief is paradoxically least appropriate and most needed (the subject of a planned future article). When I realized, between the first (ever) “Knock, knock! Who’s there?” and the second, that the drunk porter was none other than comic actor Stephen Root (Office Space, King of the Hill, Dodgeball), I knew the part was safe.
I was not disappointed. The drunken obliviousness of Root’s porter, coming from Inverness’s basement to let in MacDuff and Lennox, pontificating along the way on souls lately gone to perdition (unaware that his king has done the same just that night) before elaborating to the new guests upon the merits and pitfalls of drink, is outstanding. With the adaptation’s other removal of arguably inessential parts and lines, I’m relieved Coen kept as much of the role as he did.
One role that Coen expanded in ways I did not expect was that of Ross, played by Alex Hassell. By subsuming other minor roles into the character, Coen makes Ross into the unexpected thread that ties much of the plot together. He is still primarily a messenger, but, as with the Weird Sisters whose crow-like costuming his resembles, he becomes an ambiguous figure by the expansion, embodying his line to Lady MacDuff that “cruel are the times, when we are traitors | And do not know ourselves” (IV.2). In Hassell’s excellent performance, Ross seems to know himself quite well; it is we, the audience, who do not know him, despite his expanded screentime. By the end, Ross was one of my favorite aspects of Coen’s adaptation.
The best part of The Tragedy of Macbeth is, of course, the joint performance by Washington and McDormand of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The beginning of the film finds the pair later in life, with presumably few mountains left to climb. Washington plays Macbeth as a man tired and introverted, which he communicates by often pausing before reacting to dialogue, as if doing so is an afterthought. By the time McDormand comes onscreen in the first of the film’s many corridor scenes mentioned above, her reading and responding to the letter sent by Macbeth has been primed well enough for us to understand her mixed ambition yet exasperation—as if the greatest obstacle is not the actual regicide but her husband’s hesitancy.
Throughout The Tragedy of Macbeth their respective introspection and ambition reverse, with Washington eventually playing the confirmed tyrant and McDormand the woman internalized by madness. If anyone needed a reminder of Washington and McDormand’s respective abilities as actor and actress, one need only watch them portray the range of emotion and psychological depth contained in Shakespeare’s most infamous couple.
Conclusion: “With wit enough for thee”—IV.2
One way to judge a Shakespeare production is whether someone with little previous knowledge of the play and a moderate grasp of Shakespeare’s language would understand and become invested in the characters and story; I hazard one could do so with Coen’s adaptation. It does take liberties with scene placement, and the historical and religious elements are generally removed or reduced. However, although much of the psychology that Shakespeare includes in the other characters is cut, the minimalist production serves to highlight Washington and McDormand’s respective performances. The psychology of the two main characters—the backbone of the tragedy that so directly explores the nature of how thought and choice interact—is portrayed clearly and dynamically, and it is this that makes Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth an excellent and, in my opinion, ultimately true-to-the-text adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Post Views: 28
By Andrew Trovalusci — 1 year ago
Samurai Jack was an American animated TV series that premiered on Cartoon Network in 2001 and ran for, eventually, five seasons. The story follows the adventure of an unnamed samurai travelling through a dystopian future governed by a demonic wizard named Aku. What makes Samurai Jack unique is the moral paradigm that can be read into the central premise of the plot, neatly summarised by the tagline of the opening sequence: ‘Gotta get back, back to the past, Samurai Jack.’
The world that the samurai fights to destroy – a world corrupted at every level by Aku’s evil – is unambiguously modern in character. When he is cast through a time portal at the end of the first episode, he falls out into the squalid depths of a futuristic inner city ghetto. He drops out of the sky into a world of towering black skyscrapers, massive electronic billboard advertisements and sky-streets jammed with flying motorcars. The thunderous roar of the city’s traffic disorients and terrifies him.
After barely surviving his dramatic entrance, he is greeted by some locals who give him the name ‘Jack’ and speak to him in what is easily recognisable as a modern urban patois. ‘Yo, Jack! That was some awesome show!’ ‘Word! Jack was all ricochetically jump-a-delic!’ Their manner of speech contrasts heavily with Jack’s own old-fashioned and deliberately measured standard English. When Jack hesitantly asks where he is, he is told by these odd strangers that he is in the ‘central hub’ of Sector D. This is a placeless place, devoid of history or culture and labelled a ‘hub’ of a ‘sector’ in familiarly modern and soulless bureaucratic fashion.
Jack then stumbles into a seedy nightclub where he becomes even more distressed than before. He holds his hands to his ears, desperate to block out the loud, thumping techno music, and looks around wild-eyed at a room full of scantily-clad dancers and hideous aliens with bionic body parts. This new world is too bright and too loud for Jack. The world he came from is tranquil, soft and full of flower-filled meadows, rolling hills and beautiful snow-topped mountains. Aku’s world is vulgar, harsh and obnoxious. Jack is a man out of time, questing through the future in order to return to the past. He fights to turn the clock back in order to prevent the world around him from ever existing and to save the world he once knew. The tale of Samurai Jack is a reactionary, luddite Odyssey.
The first scene of the first episode is like something out of a bad psychedelic trip or a nightmarish fever dream. Everything is uncanny – the sun and moon are too large, the landscape is barren and red and the lone piece of flora in the scene is a twisted black tree. The giant moon eclipses the sun, shooting red lightning through the sky as the tree twists and morphs into the demon Aku. This terrifying moment, complete with deliberately unsettling sound effects, masterfully introduces the show’s main antagonist. It is also a prime example of Tartakovsky’s use of the environment instead of dialogue to evoke emotion and convey information about his characters.
Aku is able to see Jack through a magic mirror at all times, he can shapeshift endlessly and is immune to all physical weapons. Aku is more than a demon wizard – he is a malevolent god. He is informed instantly of Samurai Jack’s arrival in the future by his informant network that, throughout the show, seems to extend into every nook and cranny of the universe. Aku’s armies are inexhaustible, dwarfed only in size by the intergalactic mining operation he employs to sustain it. The entire universe is in the grip of an Orwellian state in the service of a quasi-Gnostic demiurge. The central premise of the show itself implies the extent of Aku’s dominance – dominance so complete as to be completely insurmountable, and able to be defeated only through time travel. Genndy Tartakovsky’s finest creation is a kids TV show set in a world that is incomprehensibly awful, where the main character faces completely hopeless odds and the main antagonist is all-powerful. Jack stands alone, armed only with a magic sword and the power of righteousness, and yet it somehow feels as though Aku fears him more than he fears Aku.
For the first four seasons Jack is an unchanging constant as the setting around him is repeatedly changed in line with his journey. Dialogue and character development are conspicuously limited in contrast to many other shows, but this speaks to the genius of Samurai Jack’s unique formula. The relationship between the main character and the setting are reversed – Jack is the unchanging stage. The story takes place around him but he stays the same, dressed in his characteristic white robes, forever a fish out of water. The only exceptions to this rule are the first episode, where Jack’s character is established, and the final season on Adult Swim, which takes a different and more mature tack.
Genndy Tartakovsky’s work for Cartoon Network is understandably constrained by limits of what is appropriate for children to watch before school, but when the show was moved to Adult Swim it became free to explore darker themes. For the first four seasons, Jack turns his deadly sword on his robotic and demonic enemies only. This allowed Tartakovsky to showcase Jack’s skill, defeating hordes of enemies that sometimes cover the entire horizon, without any graphic violence. The fact that Jacks opponents until the final season remain the minions of Aku, which are overwhelmingly robots, rather than the flesh-and-blood inhabitants of his fallen world is another way in which Aku and his evil are made to seem industrial in character, in opposition to noble, agrarian Samurai Jack.
The entire show is hand-drawn without outlines so that characters blend into their backgrounds. Lineless drawings give the animation a rudimentary, child-like appeal as well as greater flexibility with regard to proportions so that all of the characters’ movements feel powerful and dynamic. Action scenes are one of the great strengths of Tartakovsky’s cartoons – evident in Star Wars the Clone Wars (2003) earlier in his career right through to Primal, which aired just recently in 2019. All of this combined with the use of comic book-esque screen framing make the series feel more like a graphic novel come to life or an anime series than a Western kids cartoon. What’s more, Samurai Jack accomplishes this without sacrificing childish entertainment value.
However, what makes Samurai Jack stand out in a sea of well-animated cartoons is the story. Jack is a unique character that represents a sentiment not often explored in visual media – the sense of longing for a world you’re not even sure exists, or ever existed. The world around Jack is fetid and evil – but the world he remembers, was it ever truly as good as he remembers it to be? Was the world that was ever free of the corruption and evil that so disgusts him about the world – the ‘world that is Aku’ – that he fights to undo? Jack’s sense of alienation is deeper than that of a stranger in a strange land – he is a man trapped at the wrong place in time entirely. Not only is the world foreign, but everything is laced with and governed by Aku’s evil. The very ground on which he walks, the air through which he moves, is hostile to him. In our world where seemingly nothing can escape the plastic-coated grip of modernity, this cartoon asks whether it really is so crazy to feel like you’ve gotta get back, back to the past, Samurai Jack.
Post Views: 607