Skip to main content

The Negative Superman


The Negative Superman

The Obscene Jester is a pretty interesting performance art blog I read from time to time. While I was catching up on my blog readership yesterday, I came across an intriguing idea in the blog describing a musical art performance.



The blog was talking about Peter Lorre, who inspired the album performed. The blog suggested that the character actor who had been typecast as a villain was an example of a “negative superman,” sharing such ranks with Vincent Prince, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff—the famous somewhat tragic villains of early horror.
The term "negative superman" has the ringing tone of film theory about it, but I haven’t been very successful tracking it down.

Still, it’s a compelling idea—the negative superman. The ubermensch evil one? The archvillain? I think what is perhaps most interesting about the character is the idea that these actors—aging, fallible typecast actors—play these larger than life mustache/cape twirlers.

I suppose for me this idea presents as a duality, a diptych. On one hand, the superhuman, the epic villain—and I suppose I would depart from a Milton-esque Satanic monologue here and maybe list or catalogue actions/narrative. (Maybe I think that’s what makes a villain.) A suggestion for this part: I just began reading an article from Comparative Literature entitled "Negative Comparison in the Literary Narrative Epic" and I see the negative simile, which poets will be familiar with as "describe what is by what it is not" or "what it does by what it does not" as being very potentially helpful here in describing the negative superhero. The formula sets up like this, x is not a, nor b, nor c, x is d.
And then in the second section, you pull back the Wizard of Oz's curtain. No longer a giant floating head, smoke, and thunder, a small, ordinary person is revealed. A person struggling, in the way that Mary Shelley understood: “No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for the happiness, the good he seeks.”
For me, I see this second section something like the movie Ed Wood, where Bela Lugosi becomes a figure of pathos.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Women and Myth: Margaret Atwood and Circe

Circe, by Wright Baker "One day you simply appeared in your stupid boat," "Circe/ Mud Poems," Margaret Atwood, from You Are Happy I was alerted to this poem series by Estella Lauter's great chapter, "Margaret Atwood: Remythologizing Circe" from Women as Mythmakers. If you have the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, there is an excerpt in Vol. 2. And here is some interesting discussion of the text as well.

Armantrout's Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity

Because it doesn't seem to exist in digital form AT ALL, here's my annotation for this totally foundation feminist poetics essay. Rae Armantrout’s foundational essay “Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity,” offers a way of understanding the social in experimental poetry that is critical of a particular type of lyric subjectivity, described as univocal, closed, Romantic, imperial, and appropriative. For Armantrout, the stable poetic subject is inherently appropriative, serving epiphany demanded by mainstream form, constructed by metaphor’s appropriative nature. Armantrout specifically calls out the type of poems that most agree constitute conventional poetry of witness: “The conventional or mainstream poem today is univocal, more or less plainspoken, short narrative, often culminating in a sort of epiphany” (Armantrout 288). Elaborating, Armantrout argues that “such a form must convey an impression of closure, and wholeness, no matter what it says” (288). Closure an…

Feminist Ekphrasis: Margaret Atwood and Manet's Olympia

Margaret Atwood confronts the male gaze directly in her poem, "Manet's Olympia."