Saturday, March 23, 2013

Op/Ed: Who Deconstructs the Deconstructors?

About a week or two ago, I was doing the usual Twitter bullshit. You know, dicking around, not accomplishing anything of note. This is when I come across a discussion where one participant basically says "how does this horror film even work in a post-Cabin in the Woods world?" It brought back a question lingering in the back of my head for a while now.

What is with these people who think a deconstruction automatically destroys its target genre?

This is not to single this person or instance out. It's not unique. I've seen similar comments for years. I could swear I've even seen Alan Moore quotes from back in the day where he seemed convinced he'd just destroyed superhero comics with Watchmen, but don't quote me on that. It might have just been the journalists of the time. If you've been paying any attention at all, you're aware that prediction was exposed as bullshit a long time ago.

Cabin in the Woods, for the unaware, is a deconstruction of the horror genre. It's pretty distinctly a Joss Whedon thing, but it's also a fairly slick skewering of horror films. The basic gist is that every so often, a bunch of asshole scientists have to get together and kill off a group of teenagers in gruesome ways to appease some higher beings, or else the world is destroyed. Since it's a deconstruction, you've probably put two and two together and realized the higher beings are meant to be us as we partake in these displays of wonton murder. They manage to break the cycle and doom the world in the process just by virtue of surviving.

Like Watchmen, the effect on the long term health of the genre is going to be jack and shit. Slasher flicks already go in and out of vogue as it is; you'll get a period where there's a glut of them, then you don't see much for a few years and then suddenly ghosts are popping out of televisions and Rob Zombie is, for some reason, given the keys to a bunch of slasher icons. But they don't die out completely.

I wonder, what is it about a deconstruction that causes people to think the targeted genre or tropes are irreversibly broken? Everyone is different and that's probably true for some, but for the most part it's just another story looking at these things in a different way. It doesn't suddenly make the type of stories it positions under the microscope unenjoyable.

Watchmen is a classic, but if you think it ruined superhero comics, I've got a bridge to sell you. They've been trucking right along for twenty five plus years since that story came out. There have been bad times, but they've survived despite Moores magnum opus. There have been some amazing stories with superheros since then. That doesn't make Watchmen any less important a story. It just means that it's not a genre killer.

Cabin in the Woods will end up in the same boat. Maybe it will go down as a classic. Maybe it will even force slasher films to evolve*. But it won't destroy them, because there's a demand for those type of films.

Anyone else see the Nightmare on Elm Street remake from 2010? Every time some interesting twist is added to the plot, it's shot down ten minutes later. I've seen worse, but it was still a waste of time. Didn't matter. Even adding in a decent figure for advertising, it still made over twice its budget. Before you say anything, I get that it came out two years before Cabin. Doesn't make a difference. Freddy's a horror icon and people want to see him. Cabin was only a modest success anyways, so you have to wonder just how many people saw it.

Noir has been deconstructed. The femme fatale trope has been torn to hell and back. They're still here. So can we stop pretending deconstructions are all important? It's a valid avenue to explore, no question. But just because you can tear something down doesn't mean someone else can't build it back up.

* It sounds like this is what Whedon was shooting for. I guess it was meant to take a shot at torture porn too, judging by his comments. I can agree with that. I'm far from squeamish, but some of those films end up going too far.

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