This is just an impromptu post inspired by the debate going on at Ferretbrain.
Way back when I was a younger reader, I got into the Harry Potter fandom on LiveJournal. Back then I was known as kaskait (the name I still use on IMDB). I loved the wacky and sometimes serious discussions about the series. It was also a good place to grumble when the series took a strange left turn from book 5 onwards. Towards the end of the journey, the big topic du jour was Alchemy. This was originally written about by the Hogwarts Professor, if I remember correctly. Anyway the Alchemy craze had begun with everyone delving into arcane esoterica in order to further understand Harry Potter's journey.
I was skeptical of the whole idea at first. Because it was strange to me that a symbolic structure should dictate what a story should do or how it should end. It seemed inorganic to me. To this day, I still find it insane AND I think it is disturbing that it should be inserted into almost every fantasy and science fiction film/book.
Why? This is what I want to know. Why should this structure be used? Are creators told to use it? Or do they just stumble upon it, think it rather cool and then build their work on it? One commentator on IMDB told me that he noticed many fantasy/science fiction genre films used Inverted Gnosticism. He just wanted to know why, if there was anyone who would be willing to explain why these motifs are continually used. If he was told it was just for depth/interest whatever, he could understand it. There would be a reason however wacky. But to this day no one has acknowledged Inverted Gnosticism. For that matter no one has acknowledged the use of Alchemy structure in art (books, film, art, music etc) either. Like the person who wrote to me on IMDB, I just would like to know a reason for the Alchemy. If someone said to me they add it because of the challenge, the interest, the fanciful imagery...I could say that those were valid reasons and move on. But since no one has, I only have my small amount of research on Alchemy and Artist context to sort out the intentions of individual pieces of work.
When I left Harry Potter fandom, I pretty much stopped reading about Alchemy. Until I began to notice it in other genre works. The one thing I noticed for ALL alchemy works was that the stories were prisoners to the Alchemical paradigm. That in order to fit to the structure, the writer/filmmaker had to do cartwheels to force stories onto the Philosophical wheel. In turn, this led to disturbing twists to stories that were once benign. Harry Potter is the philosophers' stone, the philosophical child in that series. He is, for all intents and purposes, pure love...the embodiment of the 5th element...quintessence. But in his books he engages in torture and near negligent homicide, he celebrates bullies (his father and friends, the Weasley twins), questionable tactics (Hermione giving a teacher to Centaurs or Mind wiping her own parents). In regards to his own misdeeds he NEVER apologizes. In fact most other characters fall over themselves to tell Harry that he has no blame. He is a font of pure love no matter what he does. And because of the Alchemy structure this is so without question.
However I can't blame Alchemy for questionable story lines. The art of Alchemy itself seems rather benign to me. It is what people want to use it for that isn't. So that led to me questioning WHY JK Rowling thought Harry's torturing ways was a good example of the Alchemical hero. In regards to my debates on the film Prometheus at IMDB and Ferretbrain, I would like to know why Ridley Scott thought that it was ok that his hero David 8 should kill Charlie Halloway. Was this all just to fit into their interpretation of Alchemy? Not only that, what paradigm of Alchemy are they following? There are many Alchemical sects, one of the more popular is Rosicrucianism. So do the Rosicrucians think it is ok for Philosophical Children to torture or murder? If so, why? Is it because they have magical blood/ are royalty etc?
I would like to know.
On the flip side there are alchemical works that hold their characters responsible to their actions.
In Henson's Alchemical tale "Labyrinth", Hoggle poisons Sarah. In the process she forgets her quest. But when she comes back to herself, Hoggle faces her point blank, admits his crime and apologizes. She in turn accepts his apology. That is 100% in the spirit of the Alchemy I read about regularly.
However at the time of its release "Labyrinth" was a horrible failure. While the torturer Harry Potter is a mega success.
Why? Why are the elitist versions favored over the merciful? That is why I continually study the structure and continue to question what Hollywood and the Publishing industry spew at the public.
Labels: alchemy, art, books, commentary, culture, filmmaking