I watched the movie Cowboys and Aliens a couple of days ago with my husband and young son after being voted-down on my Return to the Planet of the Apes pick. The majority ruled and the boys got their cowboys. As I reluctantly sat down to watch “this bomb” as I put it, I rolled my eyes at the absurd notion of mashing-up cowboys with aliens.
How ridiculous, I thought. But within the first few minutes of the movie, I was hooked.
Watching dirty, scruffy cowboys running out of their local saloon firing their tiny pistols at massive alien space crafts whizzing above seemed completely absurd, and yet somehow worked.
I’m currently reading Steve Hockensmith’s Dawn of the Dead (prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and am so glad I finally picked it up from my stack of growing books. Although I’m familiar with the characters of the book, I have found a new admiration in the character of Mr. Bennet. I visualize him to be the identical Mr. Bennet that we all know and appreciate in Pride and Prejudice, but it is by placing him in this absurd environment (amongst zombies; the unmentionables), that he is able to stand out more brilliantly than ever before with his ultra- dry wit shining through the bloodiest of moments.
The normalcy surrounded by the absurd is what I’m finding so wonderfully amusing.
I came upon this quote by C. S. Lewis from his “Note on Jane Austen” in which he conveys the importance of normalcy within her stories. Placed within the touchstone of the norm, the absurd (albeit less absurd than aliens and zombies) is able to bring about the type of everyday humor in which we all can easily relate.
The hard core of morality and even of religion seems to me to be just what makes good comedy possible. ‘Principles’ or ‘seriousness’ are essential to Jane Austen’s art. Where there is no norm, nothing can be ridiculous, except for a brief moment of unbalanced provincialism in which we may laugh at the merely unfamiliar. Unless there is something about which the author is never ironical, there can be no true irony in the work. ‘Total irony’ – irony about everything – frustrates itself and becomes insipid. — C.S. Lewis
What do you think about the balance of normalcy with the absurdity?
*Photo: take a rest cowboy by pj_vanf, obtained through Flickr.