52 – Fantasy

coverblackRecorded May 13th.  Fantasy, faith, magic, & myth.  J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, The Great War, and Wonder Woman.  Middle Earth, Narnia, creating compelling fantasy, approaches to criticism, and overcoming disillusionment.

60 Year Old Spoiler Warning: Ending of The Lord of the Rings and portions of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

[Note: Not really a Wonder Woman episode, a companion to the last episode.  Next few episodes are more DC, less literary history.]

Answers, insights, and commentary on:

  • I. J.R.R. Tolkien (Life)
    • Orphan, Catholic, genius
    • Popular, rugby captain, acting
    • Languages, artist, marriage
    • World War I, Battle of the Somme
    • Philology
    • Beowulf scholarship
    • “On Fairy Stories”
  • II. Secondary World (Depth)
    • References condense information
    • Recall a dragon or a Robin, no citation
    • References are inherent and ubiquitous
    • Broken references organic and immersive
    • Irony, Immersion, or Identification
    • Tolkien reverse engineering patina of myth
    • Tolkien’s perfectionism
    • Superman as myth
    • DC Films epic depth in world-building
  • III. Outcasts Bond Over Obscure Interests (Friends)
    • Tolkien meets Lewis
    • Siegel meets Shuster
    • Lewis encourages Tolkien’s writings
    • Lewis’s life, atheism, studies, service
    • Connection, fellowship, encouragement
    • The Inklings
  • IV. Approach to Criticism (Reaction)
    • Critical response to The Lord of the Rings
    • Stigma of fantasy and superheroes
    • Creating stories with conscious purpose
    • Wonder Woman as psychological propaganda
    • Academic intellectual dishonesty
    • “An Experiment on Criticism”
    • Surrender, reading well, repeat readings
  • V. Disillusionment (Lies)
    • Tolkien & Lewis are counter-cultural and subversive
    • Unrealistic optimism at start of the war
    • H.G. Wells: “The War That Will End War”
    • Ways Wonder Woman could be disillusioned
    • Disillusionment after World War I
    • Fantasy as recapturing immaterial wonder
    • Good, evil, and corruption in fantasy
    • Eucatastrophe, Frodo fails, divine grace
    • Corruption in these DC films
    • Reality and realism as cure
    • Fantasy to represent magic of the familiar
    • Tolkien & Lewis believe in heroism
  • VI. Resonance (Truth)
    • Tolkien & Lewis differences didn’t divide
    • Tolkien & Lewis didn’t discriminate against works
    • Openness to Wonder Woman, picking at differences
    • Looking for truth and resonance over heresy and imperfection
    • Seeing unappreciated value, Planet Narnia
    • Imagination and emotions before intellect and allegory
    • Watchful Dragons
    • Applied to the Wonder Woman mythos
      • Secrets, Truth, Beauty, Subversion, War, Myth, Wonder

To learn more:
Myths and Legends Podcast | Jason Weiser
What is Myth? | Crash Course Mythology
Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics | J.R.R. Tolkien
On Fairy-Stories | J.R.R. Tolkien
Battle of the Somme | Wikipedia
David S. Goyer Talks Man of Steel | Collider
A Film Portrait of JJR Tolkien (1996) | Landseer
Tolkien and the Great War | John Garth
An Experiment in Criticism | C.S. Lewis
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War | Joseph Loconte
The Secret History of Wonder Woman | Jill Lepore
Walter Hooper: Life of C.S. Lewis | Socrates Society
Planet Narnia | Michael Ward
The Narnia Code | BBC
The Narnia Code | Michael Ward
Ursala K. Le Guin on Tolkien | Talk of the Nation
Superheroes Decoded | History
End notes recorded May 16th
The Bridge of Khazad Dum | Howard Shore
Wonder Woman | The Bombsters

Web: ManOfSteelAnswers.com
Twitter: @mosanswers
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  1. With clips and a Wednesday screening of Wonder Woman, I’m going dark! (I’m away for Memorial Weekend anyways, so it should be easy.)

    This was obviously recorded before the social media embargo was lifted and not timely, so no need to listen before Wonder Woman (unless you’re prone to overly high expectations maybe).

    I cut out a disclaimer about summing up lives, but didn’t mention it in the end notes. Basically, take them with a grain of salt, I have a certain thrust but it’s never my intention to endorse any individual in all aspects of their lives for all time as a perfect paragon. Originally, I wanted to play them off Marston, having just reread Jill Lepore’s “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” but their lifestyles and stories are so at odds… that the back and forth between beliefs was dizzying. You could still get to a conclusion of seeking resonance over disagreement, but a little harder to get there with how opposite their ideas overall. So I left Marston (and company) out but may revisit him down the road.

    I wouldn’t necessarily recommend “Secret History” for everyone… it’s densely biographical and comparatively light on Wonder Woman, but I like it because I’ve always followed Lepore’s Supreme Court coverage and it’s still filled with law related stories tied to Marston’s ignominious legal career.

    Anyways, next few episodes should be much more straight forwards and purely movie related… easier to produce and listen to. See you after Wonder Woman!

  2. The comic interview clips Doc used are form the new “Superheroes Decoded” documentary by the History Channel but their previous “Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked” from 2003 is better, as the character focused distinct 2nd half of the new one somewhat loses focus.
    Hulu´s recent “Batman & Bill” is also an essential must watch.

    Holy BatCast #101 – Richard Cetrone, Stunt Batman in Batman v Superman:
    is another must listen, as the interview with Cetrone unearthed new DCEU information for even me.

    Interesting to see Doc somewhat criticize The Secret History of Wonder Woman in his post script. I kinda loved it. Especially the Doctor Poison bit but i still can´t quite sign off on WW´s Golden Age series. The recent Earth One “remake” GN is recommended though.
    I further just closed my final Post Crisis comic gap for Wonder Woman, so expect a “definite” reading list next time, if you want to go deeper on her history after the film.

    The MUCH better written Injustice 2 lastly has a ton of DCEU references, so give it a go (… once they put out a Complete Edition later). The unreal facial animations deserve awards. The old and new digital prequel comics are great too.

    PS: Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is THE comic history book but not too much about DC is unearthed for obvious reasons. My holy grail for books on comics.

  3. Rebecca Johnson

    Doc, I loved this episode! I’m more of a Lewis fan than Tolkien, but I try to learn from both of them and love to hear stories about their friendship. It’s fascinating to look back at their lives and works to find the similarities in how critics treat fantasy stories today. Though, part of me thinks it’s sad that people *still* dismiss storytelling just because it’s different from the norm. The assumption around 50:22 are too real for me. That’s EXACTLY what has happened in regards to the DCEU.

    “The heroism in their stories is not defined by a single act of bravery. The hero is the product of a well-formed character. The hero emerges because of a series of choices to put the welfare of others ahead of his or her own desires.” SO GOOD.

    That story about how it took the Narnia illustrator some time of reflection to come to terms with who Aslan represents is a beautiful thing to me. That’s when stories affect me the most. When there is something deeper. Something that represents something more meaningful. What a moving story. There really *is* something to be said about how that’s not as impactful if someone TELLS you what the symbolism or allegory represents. The experience of coming to the realization ourselves can be what gives us more appreciation.

    I was also pleasantly surprised to hear you use my boy, Eric Metaxas, in this episode!

    Thank you for putting all this information in such a professional, academic, and respectful way.

  4. Heart of Steel

    Many of us already heard this, but I will post it here for those who stil haven’t heard. I don’t want my comment to be filtered by a Link so I won’t post one.

    Zack Snyder will step down from the Post-Production of “Justice League” to deal with a family tragedy. His daugther, Autum Snyder, passed away in March of this year and he and his family need time to mourn their loss. The last portions and re-shots of JL will be handled by Joss Whedon (who will carry on Snyder’s vision) and the film’s due date will remain unchanged.

    I also want to express by deepest condolences to Snyder and his family, and I hope WB gives him all the time he needs. I want to apologize beforehand to DrAwkward if this type of post is inappropriate, but I just wanted to express what I felt about this unfortunate turn of events.

  5. Wow. This could overcome “A Beautiful Truth” and “Kryptonite” to be my favorite episode ever. You have helped me solve the last puzzle of BVS, which is the “No man stays good in this world” line. I can understand Clark’s way of thinking and the context, but I have never understood Zack Snyder’s intent of adding that line. Did not expect to find the answer in Frodo, when he was at his lowest point, “The Ring is mine”. I am watching Wonder Woman this Thursday here in New Zealand. Let me know what you think of the movie once you come back from the holiday Dr. Have a good one.

  6. If Wonder Woman’s reception continues like this, I suppose you won’t have the need to answer any criticisms towards the film and thus you could focus in the analysis-only episodes.

    If you do, I wouldn’t complain, since I always enjoyed the analysis more than the apologetics. Not saying I didn’t enjoyed the apologetic episodes, though, since those are what brought me here, just saying that I think it’s better to focus on the good things.

    • I’m in no rush because positive reception means I can respond at my leisure to what interests me and that’s still apologetics. There’s still some confusion about her variable powers and lining up with BvS so I want to speak to that before going over more subjective elements. It’s great that people are passionate about the film, but if your facts aren’t straight your passions can be misdirected… as Diana demonstrates when she convicts and executes Ludendorff of a crime he didn’t commit.

  7. *knock knock* doc, where are you??

    • “I’ve been a little busy.”

      That said, I did record on the 9th. I’ve just haven’t had any time to sit and edit it down (and believe me, it needs to be edited down… when there’s 90 minutes on line movement in trench warfare, tanks in 1918, and church towers visible from the front… that needs to be cut down or out!).

      It briefly touches on the difference in reception, but the episode is mainly answering a lot of diegetic questions like: How old is Diana? Can she return to Themyscira? Why didn’t any Amazons go with her? How to reconcile her powers and statements with BvS? How to reconcile Ares losing to Diana? What was Ares trying to do? What is love? What did Diana do for 100 years? Why did Diana come back? Etc.

      Even if the answers / theories don’t pan out, as usual, I put other info in there so it’s possible to learn something regardless.

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