Today’s TV show, tomorrow’s ‘everybody knows’

The Headless Horseman, according to the new Fox television show Sleepy Hollow, is none other than the first of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” from the book of Revelation.

That premise calls for an indefensible exegesis both of John’s Apocalypse and of the short story by Washington Irving — two of the many texts enlisted and reinvented to serve the show’s convoluted premise. The Wikipedia entry linked to above refers to the show as “a modern-day retelling” of Irving’s story. Nonsense. This is not that story and very little of that story can be found in Sleepy Hollow, apart from the words “Sleepy Hollow” and “Headless Horseman” and “Ichabod Crane.” Irving’s story is just one of the many bits of raw material reprocessed to create the new fantasy/horror/mystery/romance story the show wants to tell.

Katrina Van Tassel might have had second thoughts if this were Ichabod Crane.

It’s unfair to the storytellers producing this new story to criticize them for infidelity to Irving’s tale. They’re just trying to make an entertaining TV show. So we should first set aside concerns about whether their story is compatible with Irving’s — or with John of Patmos, or with American history — and just ask if the show is any fun.

Judging by the pilot episode, I’d say, well, sort of. The two leads seem to be likable characters, and they’re played by two very likable actors — Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie. Creators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci — who helped bring us Fringe — still have a knack for creepy atmospherics and occasional touches of humor (my favorite fan-service gag was their casting The Kurgan as the sheriff). But it’s also a bit of a mess, like a big stew with way too many disparate ingredients. It’s like The X-Files meets National Treasure, with big chunks of Highlander, Supernatural, Warehouse 13, The Da Vinci Code, Buffy, Beauty and the Beast, New Amsterdam, Charmed and Millennium tossed in. I like most of those things, but I’m not sure they can all fit together.

I’ll cut the show some slack for having to cram so much implausible exposition into its pilot and agree with David Sims of the AV Club that it’s got some goofy appeal, despite being “catastrophically silly.” Even so, though, it wasn’t nearly as much fun as the other couple of pilots I’ve seen this fall — Agents of Shield and The James Spader Show (The Blacklist — which I’ll try to keep watching just for Spader’s delightfully weird line readings).

But I’m not trying to write a TV review here. What I’m interested in here is not the way that a TV show like Sleepy Hollow reprocesses the raw material of literature, scripture and history, but rather the way that our understanding of literature, scripture and history can be reshaped even by a weird little TV show like Sleepy Hollow.

Let’s take history first. History teachers watching Sleepy Hollow will be in the same uncomfortable position they found themselves in watching National Treasure or Warehouse 13. These stories incorporate bits of real history and mix them with a heavy dose of fantasy, and it’s not easy for history teachers to sign up for that ride without some misgivings.

George Washington is a character in Sleepy Hollow. Or, rather, “George Washington” is a character in Sleepy Hollow. This “George Washington” bears many similarities to the historical figure of the colonial general and first American president. “George Washington” looks just like George Washington. But “George Washington,” unlike George Washington, is also part of the convoluted mythology of Kurtzman and Orci’s show — apparently a leader in an ancient secret society, aligned with a coven of good witches (or “witches”), and dedicated to preventing the forces of evil from bringing about the end of the world.

I imagine some history teachers tuned in to watch the first episode, hopeful that it’s time-traveling hero’s Rip Van Winkle experiences in modern-day New York might do some pedagogical good. But then they got that familiar sinking feeling — probably in the scene with the ominous close-up on the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill — as they began to realize that their students would be absorbing all sorts of new “knowledge” about “George Washington” that it will be frustratingly difficult, later, to separate from what those teachers are trying to teach about George Washington.

What’s interesting to me is that this won’t just be a problem with the relatively few students who watch this show. It may be, as Sims writes, that Sleepy Hollow is “so delectably silly … it’s practically guaranteed a swift death by cancellation,” but if the show finds its footing and endures for a full season or two, or lives on in syndication, then its mythology will begin to influence the culture far beyond its core audience. Future storytellers enlisting George Washington will also incorporate bits of this “George Washington,” and it won’t just be young students who will have a hard time distinguishing between the two.

The show’s literary influence could wind up being just as pernicious. One of the lead characters is named “Ichabod Crane,” but he is a revolutionary soldier and spy, not a superstitious schoolteacher. This “Ichabod” is woefully misnamed — his glory is quite intact (the name Ichabod means “the glory has departed”). The climax of Irving’s story involved Ichabod Crane fleeing the Headless Horseman, but on the show, “Ichabod Crane” runs toward the Horseman as the only soldier brave and strong enough to face him in battle. Irving’s Ichabod Crane never looked like he was about to say, “I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, and I believe your fight’s with me.”

My guess is that more than a few students are in for some embarrassing grades after trying to bluff their way through a quiz on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” based on what they’ve “learned” from this show. I’d also guess that some future fans of the show may later come to dislike or even resent Irving’s story for besmirching the honor of their hero. After getting to know “Ichabod Crane,” meeting Ichabod Crane is bound to be a disappointment.

Which brings us to the show’s conscription of the symbols and language of the book of Revelation. Here again we have the same problem of familiar words and symbols enlisted for different purposes and invested with different meanings.

But the problem here is more complicated than the problem frustrating history and English teachers. Those teachers may be troubled by the show’s blurring of “George Washington” and “Ichabod Crane” with George Washington and Ichabod Crane, but they’re fully aware of the distinctions and they’re working to maintain them. The relationship between popular theology and popular culture, alas, never involves such clear distinctions. Pop-culture mythologies that work their way into what everybody “knows” about various religious symbols or biblical passages inevitably wind up influencing the way some people preach and teach about those symbols and passages. Those new meanings invented by storytellers thus become, for others, something they heard in church or in Sunday school, and for them the fanon becomes the canon.

The pilot of Sleepy Hollow presented us with a host of ideas and assumptions about the devil and the book of Revelation. Most of that comes from earlier such stories — earlier fantasy/mystery/thriller/romance stories that drew on those symbols, reinventing or elaborating as required by the story being told. Kurtzman and Orci aren’t really starting with the biblical book of Revelation, then reinventing it for their purposes. They’re starting with the pop-cultural mythology of the book of Revelation and then further reinventing it for their purposes. And their reinvention will, in turn, influence future revisions and reinterpretations.

That same endless cycle is also at work in other aspects of this show. The starting point for Sleepy Hollow’s “George Washington” isn’t only the historical George Washington, but also all the previous “George Washingtons” from all the previous popular stories invoking his name and image. Or consider the “witches” of Sleepy Hollow and the near-impossibility of trying to sort the popular mythology of such “witches” from any actual women who may or may not have been anything at all like what the show means by that term.*

When it comes to “Revelation,” there’s a century-old industry feeding off this endless cycle of storytelling appropriation and reinvention. The “Bible prophecy” business involves thousands of speakers and writers, many of whom are guilelessly ingesting all manner of popular reimaginations while themselves imagining that all those stories are somehow a part of the actual text. Others seem to do this intentionally — the “Bible prophecy” biz is highly competitive, so you need an edge. If people like The Omen, then they’ll enjoy it if you work that into your shtick and start pretending that Revelation has something to say about Damien Thorn.

It’s too soon to say much about how Sleepy Hollow will feed the endless cycle of what “everybody knows” about the book of Revelation, but already we can see one way in which it reinforces the pop-mythology of what everybody knows and one way in which it seems to challenge it.

For the storytellers of Sleepy Hollow, Revelation is a book of prognostication — a collection of predictive prophecies foretelling the future and describing the end of the world. That’s such a widely accepted notion and such an essential part of the mythos of everybody knows that it’s very, very difficult to read John’s Apocalypse today without reading it through that interpretive lens. That’s so much the case that even the word “apocalypse” has come to mean that, and only that.

But that’s not really what John of Patmos and the many other apocalyptic writers were trying to say. An apocalypse isn’t about the future of the world, but about the meaning of the world. In order to say what a story means, of course, you have to know how the story ends, and so it’s common in apocalyptic literature for writers to portray an ending to their story that accords with their meaning of it. But such portrayals are not predictions, they are assertions. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” is an apocalyptic statement. It’s not a prediction of the end of the universe, but an assertion about what the universe ultimately means.

By reinforcing the everybody-knows idea of Revelation as a predictive bit of coded fortune-telling, Sleepy Hollow steers us further away from being able to understand John’s Apocalypse.

Yet there’s another sense in which the show’s mythology seems to steer us back toward a more constructive reading of Revelation. The role of the heroes in Sleepy Hollow, apparently, is to save the world — and thus to prevent the “apocalypse” foretold by the “biblical” soothsayer. They see all the destruction and chaos and the “end of the world” supposedly “predicted” by “Revelation” and they ask the hero’s question — the same question asked by Buffy and Giles and Crowley and Aziraphale — “How do we stop it?”

That’s the opposite question from the one asked by the “Bible prophecy” industry. It reasserts something else everybody knows but that the “Bible prophecy scholars” seem to have forgotten: heroes and Good Guys try to save the world, not to facilitate its destruction.

Here I find it interesting that Sleepy Hollow’s Good Guys — “Ichabod Crane” and “George Washington” — are revolutionaries. That steers us closer to what John of Patmos was on about. It’s not about the End of the World, it’s about the end of the empire — revolution, liberation and a new beginning.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* I’ve been distinguishing between the show’s “Ichabod Crane” and Irving’s Ichabod Crane by using quotation marks, but that over-simplifies things by implying only one layer to this ever-repeating cycle. We can’t really say that Sleepy Hollow gives us a “book of Revelation” based on the book of Revelation. It’s reinventing and reappropriating symbols that have already been endlessly reinvented and reappropriated. Conveying that with quotation marks would get unwieldy — a “””””Revelation””””” based on “”””Revelation”””” based on “””Revelation””” … This is also an over-simplification because it implies a too-direct genealogy of this-begets-that, while the truth is that Sleepy Hollow’s “Revelation” draws on a popular mythology that has a myriad of sources, each of which, in turn, was also shaped by a host of different sources.

 

  • Kirala

    Best kind, at least for thriving stories. New baby ones might need a little, ah, sheltering from the enthusiasms of a highly active fandom. (And by “sheltering” I mean keeping canon control limited; I can’t think of a case where the existence of fanfic or fanon would seem likely to hurt a story.)

  • Aine

    oh I LOVE the Bernard Cornwell ones SO MUCH- I’ve read a lot of them and that’s one that really really stuck with me.

    There’s a good collection of short stories edited called An Invitation to Camelot; it’s not long, but the stories are really, really good.

  • Aine

    Weeeellll, King Lear is based on a story that did have a happy ending, originally. SHakespeare was smart enough to see that it worked better as a tragedy.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Shakespearean endings are usually depressing. I mean, Hamlet might as well be “rocks fall, everyone dies”. :(

  • EllieMurasaki

    What’s his comedy:tragedy ratio? I forget.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That’s what’s kinda been making me wonder if I should start watching it at all, with the tendency to (in some corners of the media) hagiographically portraying the 18th-century USA as some kind of bounteous land of Eden.

  • Kirala

    And this sums up MY chief objection to Twilight vampires. Without weaknesses, there is absolutely no plausible reason why the egomaniacal control freak Volturi didn’t take open control of their world back in ancient Rome. I’m not sure real modern humans with flamethrowers and nukes could pose a serious threat to sparklepire control; Twilight helpless-humans in the Iron Age would definitely be easily held off.

    …Yes, I know, easy target, but it’s one of those things that is at the top of my grievance list and so far down the list for most other people that I don’t get to air it out much.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Well, there’s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth that all count as varieties of “rocks fall, everyone dies”, so I’m expecting it’s a pretty bad ratio. I would imagine 1 out of every 5 or 10.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Now I have to go look this up.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare%27s_plays#Canonical_plays–sixteen comedies, twelve tragedies. Ten histories, I don’t know where or whether to count them.

  • Alix

    they don’t get too detail-laden about things that are supposedly in “our” world

    That works. And honestly? If the story even bothers to give me a vaguely plausible reason, I can buy it – I was (still am) a big fan of the Animorphs series, for example, which at least tries to think through the whole “secret war” and “aliens have been stopping by Earth for ages” thing – and promptly takes all this stuff to its logical conclusions in the later part of the series, veering off into a divergent reality.

    But the stuff that’s all “oh, these people are so powerful yet somehow never alter history” or “oh, this major epic event happens but somehow never gets noticed” – no. Especially when the author goes on and on about it, which is what tends to bother me most with urban fantasy.

    …Even Harry Potter got annoying for me, once I started to think through the history there. (I can’t help it! And I still maintain it was the advent of gunpowder in Europe that led to wizarding seclusion, but that’s another ramble entirely. XD) And frankly, I’m not the biggest Potter fan, but the books were a fun enough read that if you treated them like, well, kids’ books or fairy tales, they worked because so much of the worldbuilding was silly and illogical.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Huh, so almost 1:1. Well, that’s way better than I expected.

  • Alix

    Some serious studies have been done (and if I hadn’t lost the links, I’d link them) showing that the people who are most fantasy-prone in real life are usually not the people who like and consume fantasy as entertainment – the vast majority of folks who do enjoy fantasy essentially exercise their imagination and their mental ability to, hm, understand when things are imaginary.

    This kind of goes hand-in-hand with how a lot of conspiracy theorists are really unfond of fantasy literature – many of them get a lot of the supports for their theories from out-and-out fiction, and admit it’s fiction but “there must be something to it.” As someone else pointed out once, the folks on Ancient Aliens, for example, are really unimaginative, in the sense of being unable to appreciate human imagination or imagine humans doing things they can’t, and that plays into their desperate theorizing.

    I also tend to think we need imaginative breaks, and if we aren’t providing them ourselves, that’s when we can pop a spring, so to speak, and find that bleeding over into other areas of our life/reality.

  • Kirala

    I’d argue that Sherlock is losing touch with history as we speak. Two popular TV series are modernising him in radically different but still recognizable ways, a major movie series which modernised him 70+ years ago (and solidified the most stable visual conception of Sherlock), any number of recognizable adaptations with none of the Sherlock dressing (House and Doctor Who spring to mind) – the story is clearly capable of divorcing from its setting.

    But as I look at it, I like my earlier criterion more, the one for fairy tales. Everyone knows Sherlock, and the story “everyone knows” is fairly consistent while also noticeably inconsistent with its source material. It’s simplified into less nuanced, more archetypal characters and plots and tropes.

  • Alix

    I do the same, but my personal writing preferences are … pretty obviously fantastic (in the “I write fantasy” sense, not the “my writing preferences are awesome” sense), so anyone who thinks my stories are set anywhere close to the real world … really weren’t reading my stories. So.

    And I can totally buy that sort of premise that you do – this world’s off. It’s not our world. My problem is when the author keeps trying to insist it is really, truly our world – and botches it. It throws me right out.

  • Kirala

    Seconding Alix – the series got hints of foreboding with the 8th book, dark with the 9th, downright bleak by the climax of the 10th, but somehow the ending felt good enough to be worth it. And I don’t generally do tragedy.

  • Alix

    That sounds like a pretty cool story, actually.

  • Lorehead

    Scrooge never goes to his nephew’s Christmas party instead of the Cratchetts’ any more, either.

  • Kirala

    I THINK I read Cornwell and then entirely forgot his take on it – I know I at least started The Winter King. Maybe I should look it up again. Sutcliffe I’d like to read, and the idea of someone creating a comic book of futuristic Arthurania sounds like cracktastic fun. Thanks for the recs!

  • Lorehead

    Um, if Shakespearean tragedy depresses you, you might not want to read Julius Caesar or Richard III.

    Richard III is another example: when archaeologists found his body and he made it back into the news again, all the stories said that everybody thinks of Shakespeare’s play whenever they think of him, but it took drastic liberties with the truth. Then reminded everyone just what Shakespeare wrote about him.

  • Alix

    Yes. And it is the first book I ever failed to finish (I used to be pretty big into the “always finish a book” idea; this cured me), and it is the first book I ever literally threw at a wall. I then promptly put it in the “free book” box at my college and never read anything else by MZB, even though people tell me her other stuff is good.

    …People told me that about Mists of Avalon too. >.>

    And for me, there’s the added annoyance of every single Pagan I knew pushing that book hard for a very long time (and some still do), to the point that I started feeling very alienated. It was somehow fine to say I’d never watched Charmed or didn’t like the paranormal-witchy romance novel of the day, but if I even simply stated I didn’t like MoA I got blasted for it, because dontcha know that book revolutionizes Paganism and shows how the evil Christians took over the world from us and it’s an important work of Pagan identity… GAH. And if people found out I usually liked Arthuriana – seriously, I’ve read most of the books we’ve mentioned in this thread and am noting down all the rest to read immediately because there’s no faster way to get me to read a book than to say it’s Arthurian* – the badgering and outright shaming got even worse.

    Pointing out that a) I am not anywhere near Wiccan, b) I don’t actually incorporate Arthurian elements in my personal religion, and c) I know too much history and mythology to buy the “ancient Mother Goddess toppled by the Christian God” shit got me “well, you’re not really Pagan then, are you?” And a lot of me storming out of Pagan spaces. Aaaaaand I just realized that the fallout from all of this is one reason I don’t associate with most of the local Pagan groups. :/

    *sigh* Sorry, epic rant is over. MoA is totally


    *or mythological.

  • Kirala

    Gillian Bradshaw! How could I forget Gillian Bradshaw, the only contemporary writer I know of to remember that Lancelot’s triangle was predated by Bedwyr’s! Oh, I adore her.

    Tangential to Arthurania, her book “The Wolf Hunt” is an amazing retelling of the Marie de France’s Bisclavret. More importantly, it’s an amazing novel that I love to pieces and wait a sec WHY DO I NOT OWN THIS? *goes to Amazon*

  • Alix

    I was just thinking that the idea that there is One True Version of a story is … really modern. And not even all modern people hold to that idea.

    It’s something I’m discussing with a history group right now – the idea that even with history, where we do (in theory) try to deal in real facts, there’s no One True Version of how it all went down, because nothing ever goes down the same for everyone involved.

  • Kirala

    Wikipedia counts JC as a tragedy, not a history. And I note that it doesn’t have a proper category for “romances” set apart from “tragedy,” “comedy,” or “history,” which I think skews the count. Separating the romances may be academically controversial, but for mood-categorization I think it works much better. Even if the name is misleading to the modern ear.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Regarding the Kurgen: as I was watching the opening credits, I said to myself, “Hey, Clancy Brown! Well, there’s at least one thing in this show worth watching!”

    SCHNICK!

    “Alrighty. Nevermind, then.”

    It didn’t really improve from there.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’ve read Julius Caesar.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    MZB wanders between extremely good and crushingly dull or heavy-handed. I was introduced to her with Lythande, a fantasy tale about a sorceress masquerading as a man. I absolutely loved it, so I thought I’d get more of the same with her other books.

    Consequently, I don’t read her books. It’s too frustrating. There are some good ones, but for every good one I’ve found, there were three that I just couldn’t finish.

  • Alix

    Oh, I know, though I have to admit I find the “but the bow has no arrows!” thing … rather a stretch, given that you’d think that if the rider had no arrows it’d get mentioned. What’s more logical: assuming that someone carrying a bow has arrows to go with it, or assuming he doesn’t?

    Conquest, imperialism, plague, the false religion identification Invisible Neutrino makes above … all those I can see. The whole “this one’s the Antichrist” thing doesn’t really make sense to me, because it breaks with the theme of the rest – that they’re not actually individual people.

  • Alix

    Firehouse Subs is awesome. That is all. XD

  • Kirala

    With this and the Arthurania stuff below, I think we need to compare book recs. Because I am finding that most of the stories you mention liking are also stories I like.

    Though if you LIKE the ultimate ending of Animorphs, there may be major discrepancies. I appreciate the ending and don’t know how else it could have ended, but I still pretty much hate it.

  • Alix

    …Apparently my last sentence got cut off. It should read “MoA is totally my berserk button, though.”

  • Alix

    SPOILERS BELOW for the end of Animorphs, if anybody cares. XD

    “Like” is … probably not the right word. It was fitting. There’s not really a way things could’ve gone much different, given all the setup. The cliffhanger/everyone dies (depending on how you read it) ending annoyed the crap out of me, and still does.

    But it seemed fitting, as I said. In a rather harsh, uncompromising sort of way, that sits rather oddly but somehow rightly with the optimism underlying the arc of the series.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I could see conflating false religion and the Antichrist as a collective persona and calling that the fourth horseman. Certainly, evidence abounds for how people are happy to fall in line behind the oppressive regime so long as the regime assures them how pure and sanctified they are.

  • Isabel C.

    Lord, I’m sorry.

    And likewise. I’m slightly more Wiccan, not particularly Arthurian, but…I’d been identifying as pagan and feminist by early adolescence. When I got to the point in my life where people were coming up to me all “…oooh, have you read this?” about MoA, I was already cynical, and Larval Feminists/Pagans made me tired.

    And that was eleven years ago.

  • Kirala

    Which pretty much matches my opinion. This is the sort of fiction which reminds me that for all I demand consistent internal logic of plot, setting, character, and consequences, I often hate to see it played out.

  • Alix

    for all I demand consistent internal logic of plot, setting, character, and consequences, I often hate to see it played out.

    Haha, well put.

    It was jarring for me because, in addition to all that, I usually also insist on hopefulness/optimism in my stories. (Not pie-in-the-sky unearned crap, but I … am not a fan of depressing fiction, and do. not. get. me. started. on folks considering depressing stuff more “realistic.”)

    Animorphs had both, and kept both up – and then bam, the consequences all hit, and ouch. And it’s still sort of hopeful/optimistic, but from a less immediate-to-our-protagonists view. From their perspective, it’s damn depressing.

  • Lorehead
  • Arrendis

    Pfft. It wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive at all. All they’d need to do is hire 1-2 people to ‘moderate’ a set of ‘official discussion forums: talk about the show! What does it mean??’

    Then you get exactly these discussions on those forums, and the moderators harvest the best ideas, filter them back to the writers, and you wind up with a more engaged fandom and a serious conspiracy thread of people on the forums going ‘are we that good, or are they stealing our ideas?!?!?’

  • Arrendis

    Well, keep in mind that for Narnia, you’ve got very specific time-frames being viewed through lens of children who are purposefully being kept from knowing about the Blitz.

  • Kirala

    I was thinking of the cost of the time and box-checking for getting the extra round of approval. Although I don’t know all that much about TV; maybe they’re more flexible than I think.

  • Kirala

    I know the 2005 movie emphasized this point, but I’m not sure it’s in the text. The Blitz always felt like a narrative convenience in Narnia, a way for children to be away from close adult supervision without having a tragic family life. “And this is from that one summer they were away from home and parents. Because of Reasons That Sound Plausible.”

    Which is not to say it’s not a great angle to use in thinking about the story and/or reimagining it, but I just don’t see it in the original text.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But given other narrative conveniences in Narnia–specifically the ‘all the Narnia time is an instant of England time’–the absence of close adult supervision hardly seems to matter.

  • Alix

    Part of my problem is I get really twitchy about the ancient matriarchy crap, and I get twitchy whenever Wiccans try to push their religion anachronistically on ancient cultures. I don’t think Wicca’s somehow invalid ’cause it’s new, but I’m a historian – I take issue with folks screwing with the past to support their own agenda, whether they’re “on my side” or not.

    The idea that being Pagan somehow means embracing the values of only a particular subset of paganism and throwing out actual history … annoys me. (See also: my annoyance at the damn Burning Times myth.) It’s very reminiscent of how a lot of fundie churches police their members, actually, which is probably what really sets me off.

  • Alix

    This is what’s both beautiful and frustrating about that first horseman for me: John’s image fits so beautifully with so many potential disasters and causes for the subsequent slaughter/collapse/death … and yet I get the distinct impression he had something specific in mind, and we can’t figure it out. Odds are pretty good someone’s hit on what John meant to convey at some point, but we’d never be able to know.

    That’s one of those verses that shoots literalism dead: you cannot read Revelation 6:2 without interpreting it.

  • Kirala

    The first sentence is literally the only time in the story when the Blitz is mentioned, and the children never mention their parents or family or home.

    On the other hand, it would be impossible for the question of Narnia’s reality to remain a quarrel between equals if close-supervising guardians were around. The stage of sibling rivalry, uncertainty, and doubt would have gone from an epistemological puzzle to Lucy Versus Sane Adults, or Implausibly Credulous Adults Versus Incredulous Children, or the adults would have had to become well-rounded characters with an actual role in the story which would not be forgotten by the children and readers upon spotting a Beaver.

    I think it’s telling that in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when set with the same problem, Lewis sends the parents off to America – but it is only Susan whom her siblings miss. The story really is trying very hard to keep responsible adults out of the picture.

    Just because one can imagine other narrative conveniences for the free-adventurer child, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the narrative convenience chosen was deliberate or meaningful. I’d say the Blitz is less meaningful to the Pevensies in-text than familial child abuse is to Harry Potter.

  • Kirala

    Actually, I was impressed at how quickly Nick learned those lessons compared to similar characters in other shows. By the end of the first season (and he has a steep learning curve in general distracting him through that season), he’s trying to come completely clean to his significant other and is clearly actively CONSIDERING the question of telling his secret in any situation where it would be beneficial.

    Contrast Smallville, contrast Heroes, contrast Chuck… after the second season, the way Grimm deals with the stupid-secrecy trope is one of the things that makes me love it. (They also got points for keeping relationship tension mostly more plausible than a soap opera in the first season, and I think by the end of the second season made up the ground they lost for the first bit.)

  • Kirala

    This is one of the things I love about Elementary. However, they’ve only had one season; I am apprehensive about whether they will continue this practice if they get to a fourth season.

  • Kirala

    As a heterosexual female, I approve of this spitting upon the hallowed Disney version of Ichabod’s visage.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I wish he’d lasted until the second act.

  • EllieMurasaki

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70vzf8WOfys –bonus content for Sleepy Hollow says the execution of witches in the US didn’t end until centuries after Salem. So I think we can safely say we’re dealing with an alternate timeline here.

  • Jamoche

    Speaking of free-adventurer children – I’m having trouble with the new Avatar, Korra, because the world is settled enough now that she can’t just go off on her own, but it seems like the adults are stifling instead of encouraging her growth. Yeah, it’s the common teenager coming of age story, but somehow it’s not working. She’s the Avatar, she should be taking on more responsibility than the usual teen does. When she whines that nobody told her about a big important story – well, on the one hand she’s making it “all about me” and dismissing the people involved, but on the other, Avatar.


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