In his monumental 728 page book (Kindle), “The Seven Basic Plots”, Christopher Booker gives us a plot outline:
- peaceful village
- arrival of monster
- of supernatural power
- weeks of fear and confusion
- attacks one victim after another
- arrival of hero
- climactic underwater fight
- monster slain
- peace in village again
Is this Jaws (1974) or Beowulf (eighth-century epic) ?
Quoting the author, “In terms of the bare outlines of their plots, the resemblances between the twentieth-century horror film and the eighth century epic are so striking that they may almost be regarded as telling the same story.”
Thirty-four years ago, Booker took five wildly diverse stories and saw the same general pattern: an emerging hero, early success, the mood darkens, everything goes wrong, the original dream becomes nightmare.
A final effort against the odds, the hero emerges victorious and peace reigns again in the village.
Macbeth, Lolita, the myth of Icarus, etc.
Booker cast his net wider, as it were, and this general pattern kept fitting all too well. Why was this so?
And why did he have a collection of stories that did not fit the general pattern? At that point, he realized he had a new pattern, which he called ‘Voyage and Return’.
(Here I will interject my discovery of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s journey” and that George Lucas knew that author personally. Is it any surprise that the original released “Star Wars” film fits the Campbell pattern?)
Booker observes that the “accumulation of parallels and links between the folk tales of hundreds of different cultures has turned into a major academic industry.” And later, certain critics abdicate the field.
“The sigh of relief that one no longer has to think about such difficult matters is almost audible! However, the fundamental riddle remains.”
Booker references other researchers like Adolf Bastian with his ‘elemental ideas’. Dr. Bruno Bettelheim analysing the appeal of old fairy tales to today’s children. Freud who became preoccipied with part of the picture. His colleague, Carl Jung, who saw a deeper level of psychological construction in everyone. Campbell, of course, with The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Masks of God. Northrop Frye. Leslie Fielder. John Vyvyan for his The Shakespearean Ethic.
Shakespeare is good fodder for the movie realm. 1956 “Forbidden Planet” film’s plot came right out of “The Tempest”. It was the first A-list SF movie ever.
Kurosawa’s “Ran” gives a nod to “King Lear”.
More? The Lion King. 10 Things I Hate About You. West Side Story. Get Over It. O. Men of Respect. Warm Bodies. She’s the Man. The Banquet. A Thousand Acres. My Kingdom. King of Texas. Scotland, Pa. Haider. Maqbool.
A random sampling of plots
Overcoming the monster
Perseus, Theseus, Beowulf, Dracula, The War of the Worlds, Nicholas Nickleby, The Guns of Navarone, Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven), James Bond, Star Wars.
Cinderella, Aladdin, Jane Eyre, A Little Princess, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, The Prince and the Pauper, Brewster’s Millions, The Emperor’s New Groove.
Voyage and Return
Ramayana, Alice in Wonderland, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Orpheus, The Time Machine, Peter Rabbit, The Hobbit, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Mad Max: Fury Road, Brideshead Revisited, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Gone with the Wind, The Third Man.
Now for the webpage title:
On Steam, if a game gets wildly popular, you can be sure the negative commentary about ‘the toxic fan base’ will soon appear. It’s always a small cabal that never tires of raining on someone else’s parade.
The cliches get trotted out almost on a timetable. “X has been done before” or “the old fourth wall break”.
Sure, just ask Aristophanes who believed that the fourth wall existed to be broken. In The Wasps (422 BC), one guard starts to indulge in some “As You Know” about what they are guarding; the other guard is annoyed because they both know it; and the first guard points out that I know and you know but do they — indicating the audience — know it?
Aristophanes broke the fourth wall so often, playgoers didn’t know what to do when it was intact. “Please Citizen Arie, what’s this other fellow’s play about?”
And finally, Y is a ripoff of X. Ahaha. It is to laugh. There indeed is a toxic element around, and it’s not the fan base.