Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Seeing Through Many Sets of Eyes

Reva Wolf’s article, Homer Simpson as Outsider Artiest, or How I learned to Accept Ambivalence (Maybe) discusses the layering of comedy found within the Simpsons carton (specifically “Mom and Pop Art”). This layering leads to a diverse set of humor that winds throughout the plot. Ranging form simple slapstick comedy where Homer drops all the grill parts in the cement to more complex humor where homer uses his wife’s story to describe his early connection to art which emphasizes the importance and difficulty of distinction in a rather absurd way. Maybe, the most interesting layering of humor occurs when there is a conversation between the cartoon and reality by the inclusion of events and people who exist in the physical world, playing with the notion of what is reality eluding to the fact that we are watching a mockery of reality which in it’s own way is a reality.

The movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, directed by Jamie Uys contains a similar network of humor interwoven throughout its plot. The Gods Must Be Crazy centers on a collision of several cultures, primarily the bushman tribe in the Kalahari Desert and the western culture (or African governments that have been more westernized). This collision originates in the form of a Coca-cola bottle, which is tossed out of an airplane and falls into the bushman territory, the bushman conclude that the coke bottle is an evil presents sent on a carless whim of the gods. Accordingly Xixo, the bushman leader, decides to destroy the bottle by dropping it off the end of the earth. On his quest he gets into trouble because as result of his ignorance of land and animal possession rights. He is rescued by an English scientist and in turn helps save a group of school students and an American schoolteacher taken hostage by a gorilla terrorist group in the area. Throughout the film there is this wonderful clash of differing cultural values and ways in which different people understand the world and accordingly the misunderstandings that arise out of the clash. The humor like the Simpsons cartoon ranges form slapstick in the fumbling scientists attempts to court the school teacher to the more complex and serious, like when Xixo shoots the lamb of an African farmer and then tries to explain to the farmer how they could cook it and share it together, the farmer not understanding the bushman dialect call the police who shoot Xixo in the leg.

Another interesting point that Reva Wolf brought up was how the Simpsons carton had the ability to place the audience into specific perspectives, that they might not face in a real life situations which allows them to become, if not entirely sympathetic with, understanding of that particular view. For instance, in our doubt if Homer’s final conceptual piece was a good idea, allows us to sympathize with individuals who are skeptical or against large scale public works. In a similar way The Gods Must be Crazy drags us into at least three different groups exposing at least three different values systems: Xixo the bushman, the terrorists, the scientists, the teachers the tore guide. In the end we find ourselves looking at the bushman’s mentality as the most reasonable and straight forward, as well as the kindest. Yet, ironically theirs it the culture culture that has become virtually extinct because it principals and simplistic views are incompatible with those of the western culture which has penetrated that part of Africa.

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