Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Does gritty = good?

This is the most direct example of an irritating trend in modern science fiction and fantasy:

In a recent post with reference to the new Battlestar Galactica show on Sci-fi Daily:

All in all, these two episodes were great: Gritty, dark, real, character-driven and entertaining. What more could a sci-fi fan ask for?

A sci-fi fan can ask for a lot more. Though the comparison is not perfect, what about The Incredibles? One could hardly call that show dark, real, or gritty, and yet it was great. Probably greater than, at least in the sense that matters, anything Battlestar Galactica will ever be.

Cynicism, as Eric's blog very nicely quotes, is usually a mark of a deep cultural sickness. If science fiction and fantasy are realms limited only by the imagination, and our collective popular imagination only wants to explore stories that are gritty and dark, then what does that say about the hearts that drive that imagination?

Perhaps that is a calling. Where are they that will take up the mantle of artist and craft works of the imagination that provoke awe, mystery, and wonder?


Gunslinger said...

You make a great point. It is like everyone calling movies "riveting" It just goes back to the whole argument that movies are just about all crap these days. What about the Sci-Fi greats that werent dark or gritty, like ET? Not dark or gritty, but wonderful. I think it has to do with the idea that everything in the bleak future will be dark in color, and always rainy. Yawn, how about some new fresh Sci-Fi?

ted said...

I agree wholeheartedly. Sci-fi and to a lesser extent fantasy are all moving toward darker and darker characters and stories. It is now to the point where it is almost redundant to say "dystopian future." While it does seem moot to argue over how "real" something set in a sci-fi world is, I would say that The Incredibles was far more "real" than a lot of things I've read or watched in some time.

Take for example the members of the family. The dad works a crappy job knowing full well he's capable of so much more, yet to make sure his family is secure, he continues on. His great power is his strength and when the family is in danger, it is that strength on which they rely. The mom stretches herself. More than that, she overextends herself and is pulled in all directions. The middle school aged daughter disappears, and that is just what she wants until she develops her confidence. And the son is in constant motion and wanting nothing more than to excel. The entire family is frustrated by the confines of society holding them back, yet they are the most effective when they work in concert. That sounds far more real to me than having Starbuck get freaky or someone swearing or someone dying. That's not creative writing, that's using grittiness for the sake of grittiness to get people who think that grittiness is creative to consume your product.

Jake Shore said...

Is it any wonder that Star Wars and Star Trek are the most popular Sci-Fi franchises out there (even though Star Wars isn't really Sci-Fi)? Concepts with positive and/or uplifting themes? It seems like it took a while for the dark, gritty and violent filmaking style that began in the late 60s, early 70s to make its way to sci-fi, but once it did... Was it Alien or Bladerunner that started this trend? I think the same trend took over comics a while back, and comics have suffered ever since. Frank Miller has made a career on making comics darker and more violent. The problem is that he is a good writer and everyone's been copying him ever since. I wonder if it has to do partly with the fact that people who watched and loved sci-fi as a kid grew up and wanted to create sci-fi that was less childish and more adult oriented so that they could relate to it; unlike the original creators who did it to appeal to kids. Regardless, I agree. Its a substitute for creativity and probably a refelction of how people see the world today.