Friday, October 28, 2011


"Horrid mockery of the equal rights of humanity! Vile lordlings! who would fain compromise the rights of fellow-beings to pamper pride! What think ye? Were ye born on other soil that that where Freedom was purchased at the point of the bayonet and the cannon's mouth, and the doctrine of "equal rights," sealed with blood, ye need not blush so deeply with shame! But here, shame on the vile being who would fain raise an aristocracy to curse the land! The wrongs of Factory Girls shall not always sleep forgotten, and the instrument of high handed monopoly go unchecked!"
--Ariel I. Cumming's The Factory Girl, 1847


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vamping Up the Lives of the Poets

Somehow I ended up on the Internet Movie Database yesterday morning and learned the official trailer for The Raven has been released. I had heard rumors that this film was in production, but I knew very little about it aside from the fact that John Cusack had been cast as Edgar Allan Poe. Here's the trailer:

I didn't like the trailer as much as I wanted to. First of all, I'm disappointed that the film is going to be a Sherlock Holmes-style thriller (only, it seems, bloodier) rather than a strict bio pic. (NOTE: For the record, I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes immensely and I look forward to the sequel.) Second of all, I'm questioning why anyone would cast John Cusack as Poe since he looks nothing like any known picture of him. True, I'm glad they didn't cast Hollywood's token weirdo, Johnny Depp, to play the role. But I can't imagine that John Cusack was the first name that popped into their heads when they were thinking of how to cast the movie. 

And why the goatee? Did Cusack not look enough like Poe with just mustache. 

Of course, I can understand why the filmmakers made the film a thriller. Despite popular belief, Poe's life was not really that exciting--unless you consider the work of a literary journal editor exciting. So you'd have to vamp it up a little bit if you wanted to appeal to more than just the art house crowd. 

And vamp it up they did, it seems, with The Raven. It even looks as if Poe gets a new love interest, which is also an understandable departure from fact since the details of his real-life love life make him sound like a pedophile. 

I guess my problem with The Raven is not that the filmmakers bend the truth a lot and fictionalize Poe, which doesn't bother me at all, but rather that they do the same tired thing with Poe. I mean, whenever you see Poe represented in culture, especially pop culture, he is always made out to be like one of his characters. You never see him as he was--or even close to as he was. Instead, you get a character out of his imagination. Or the imagination of whoever it was who appropriated his image. 

Incidentally, the same thing is happening with Shakespeare right now with the film Anonymous. Here's the trailer:

I'm trying not to get too bent out of shape about Anonymous as well. Again, I'm not opposed to freely adapting history and literature for film. I just want whoever is doing it to do so with a little bit of originality and insight. Do we really need someone else, particularly the director of such filmic gems as The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, telling us one more time that Shakespeare didn't write his plays?

I can already imagine the decade-long headache this will give high school English teachers.