Saturday, August 15, 2015

an afterthought on the recurring problem of Reed Richard's hubris in a Fantastic Four origin story

It has been noted in a few places that there's this problem with Fantastic Four movies where the heroes are dealing with a menace they explicitly created.  It might be said in objection by some fans of the franchise that critics don't get the exigencies of the 1960s or genre tropes.

Well, no, maybe they do.  Critics have to deal with broad swaths of artistic creations that get pigeon-holed into genres and types.  You might have heard of these distinctions called "drama" and that there's things called "tragedy" and "comedy". In the Fantastic Four franchise we're expected to root for heroes who make decisions that in some sense mess up their lives.  Now it's not that there aren't tragic heroes but, you know ... Oedipus. 

Whereas in comedies it's not the same thing.  We can accept that within the realm of comedy a disaster can be caused by the protagonist and the protagonist can still in some sense be sympathetic because we're going to be both laughing WITH them and laughing AT them in a comedy where things will come back to some kind of normal.

In other words, we aren't required by the conventions of drama and comedy and tragedy to automatically view Reed Richards' over-confidence as a heroic virtue.  We could ask why on earth he didn't think anything could go wrong.  It'd be fair.  Conversely, take this exchange from "Sea Tunt"

Lana Kane:  Do you think maybe we're walking into a trap?
Sterling Archer: No! .... but then I never do ... and it very often is.

See we're not exactly startled if the majority of the disaster and mayhem Sterling Archer and his not-quite-friends deal with is self-inflicted by way of their incompetence, corruption, ignorance and nastiness.  A central engine of the comedy as a comedy is that they stubbornly refuse to see themselves as the worthy victims of their own stupidity and vice. They get to be comedic heroes because no matter how badly they botch things they return their world to some semblance of "normal".  When the Fantastic Four imperil the world as we know it and they save the day it's not played for laughs overall and so the "rules" are a bit different. 

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