Irony in Postmodern Meta-Contextual Fairytales

After digging through older websites for one of my greatest inspirations, Rule of Rose, I realized a major difference between what I’ve been doing and my sources of inspiration (the aforementioned and Pan’s Labyrinth being the two that immediately come to mind).
In those, the fairytale is always told with the audience being one step removed. The audience is aware things aren’t real and that the world is possibly operating based on rules unknown to the characters, rules that the fairytale exists to escape, that the fairytale supersedes.
For example, in Pan’s Labyrinth, though the protagonist believes in the fairytale, we see the real-life, historical elements surrounding it and know that there is a rational explanation for everything. The fairytale doesn’t override reality, it exists on another level above it, as a sort of parallel story.
But in Rule of Rose, the fairytale is the only explanation given while the real-world events somehow seem even more surreal. We see the world through the eyes of the protagonist who is rational and, but is confused and is just as much in the dark as the audience is as to what to believe is really going on in the world. The only clues for which, are vague and mysteriously surreal with bizarre characters and environments that seem impossible and irrational.
In Rule of Rose, the audience is expected to decode both the fairytale and the surreal context it’s being told in, in order to piece together what really happened.
For instance, the protagonist is a much older girl than the others at the orphanage, therefore we can presume that this is a memory she is trying to come to terms with, and from the nightmarish setting and the violent abuse we see, we reckon it must have been a traumatic memory that she’s repressed, which explains why everything is so surreal and mysterious- she doesn’t want to understand it because it would be too painful for her to revisit, so she remembers everything as one would a dream. As one who has dissociated from trauma.
These multiple layers of storytelling help draw the audience in because of the tension created through the irony of knowing there is a darker subtextual story than the one the protagonist realizes, and we know that by the end of the story the protagonist will have to be affected by this difference in worldview somehow, and, most likely, the affect will be that they suffer tragically for not realizing this sooner. But this tragedy is always for the audience to bare, because the protagonists are oblivious- they are living in a fairytale and grasp even tighter to their fantasy at the point where things become clearest.
In Pan’s Labyrinth, the protagonist suffers physically because on the underlying reality, she’s mortally wounded- she dies. And kudos to Guillermo del Toro for maintaining the integrity of the parallel universes, because in the fairytale, it’s a happy ending- she’s been crowned and will live on in royalty forever in happiness. To her, this is the best outcome imaginable.
In Rule of Rose, the entire course of the story the protagonist suffers from various abuses as she struggles to come to terms with a guilt and trauma she’s trying to understand. And in the end the worlds remain fractured. There is catharsis but it remains a tragedy for the audience because of the overriding sense of loss that we feel but, like the protagonist we can’t quite understand. We’re left with clues, “I’ll protect you…forever and ever until I die…” she says, and we know that the main theme of the game is about a love suicide (the song goes “I am a love suicide”- can’t get more blatant than that), as well as the fact that she and the dog vanish into a white light after the main villain shoots himself…
In fact, it’s likely that the villain, Stray-Dog/Gregory and the protagonist, Jennifer, are the same person and the dog, Brown, is a stand-in for his son, Joshua, but that’s just my most recent interpretation.
The point is, the story remains a tragedy, even though the protagonist is blissfully unaware of it.
And that is the only way the story could work– without this meta-contextual level for the audience to appreciate the story, it would be an alienating experience for most audiences with no redeeming value, no lesson learned, because these are not likemost fairytales.
Most fairytales are morality fables. They end with a lesson like“Don’t lie,” or “Be wary of wolves,” etc.
But the fairytales here, the ones that are in multi-contextual stories, operate as an escape mechanism. They are an expression of the protagonist’s point of view, a way of characterization within the mindset of a very unreliable narrator.
An unreliable narrator whose world is better than our own.
And that’s how it works.
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Lingering

“Lingering” is a term used to describe the long, needless sections where a character is watched moving to the next area, or performing an action that’s boring to observe and doesn’t tell us anything new about them or the world they inhabit.

For instance: After a conversation, a character opens a door and then goes down a hallway, then through another door and outside, across the lawn, down the street, etc.

Unless you’re giving us some new information, a la Shawn of the Dead with the presence of zombies in the background, there’s no need to show all that.

Show them leave, then show them at the next place.

But in video games, there’s a lot of lingering. [Note: This is a side-effect of narrative. Non-narrative games don’t suffer from Lingering]

In fact, most of the game is the act of lingering, unless you’re playing a high-octane AAA FPS, but even in those, there are times where you are either backtracking or looking for the next area after you’ve already cleared out all the enemies in the current one.

Is this a problem?

I’m not sure. If people have been okay with it so far, it seems to not be an issue, but for the medium to progress, I’d argue that we should see about ways we can transition to new scenes.

Because ultimately this comes down to being able to cut to a new scene, something games are reluctant to do because it means a snapping of consciousness, a jolt to a new time and place directly for the player, whereas in film, we more easily slide into and out of projecting ourselves directly on the character.

In film we are both a character and peeper. In games, we are the character and purveyor.

The predominant solution in games is to cut to a new area directly after a goal has been reached, or transition to one at that time.

Demon’s Souls does this after you beat the boss in the Tower of Latria: winged demons lift you up in a cutscene and take you to the next level.

This doesn’t eliminate the Lingering when exploring a level, however. The needless walking through empty rooms and hallways are still a problem.

Unless they’re not a problem.

The devil’s advocate would say they support the pacing and add red-herring challenges to solving puzzles. And there’s just the general thrill of exploring, too.

Well, those same arguments can be said for film, too, but no one’s arguing for long walks of silence in those.

We need to tighten our games. We need to respect the audience’s time more. And we need to stop Lingering.

Masks: An Irony

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Masks are commonly seen as a means of concealment, of treachery, of lies and betrayal. But there is another side to them, too, for although they cover our natural face from sight, they also allow the expression of whatever we want to be without the fear of prejudice.

It is a trade of liberty, you see: the self, under the mask, is freed from societal pressures, while those interacting with the masked one have lost the freedom to associate and take stock of the one they’re engaging with- they have lost the ability to judge.

But it goes deeper than that.

The mask doesn’t just alter social interaction, but also the mind’s perception of the self. By removing the embodied self and supplanting it with the cognitive self, the mask becomes a mental gateway to a new you.

Now then, which do you think is the real you?

Connecting Silent Hill to the Kabbalah Pt. 1

“Hungry for sacrifice, the demon will swallow up the land. I knew this day
would come. And what’s more, the task is almost finished. There’s
only two left, to seal this town to the abyss, the mark of Samael.
When it is completed, all is lost.” – Dahlia Gillespie (SH1)

 

Let’s start with a basic fact: We all know the god that Alessa gives birth to at the end of Silent Hill is referred to as Samael. Now then, what some of you might not know is that Samael is a demonic god in Jewish mysticism, representing “the barren desolation of a fallen and failed creation,” or “The Desolation of God” (Notes on the Demonic Orders Adverse Sephiroth by Bill Heidrick).

Samael is also known in the Qliphoth. Stay with me here. This next bit’s a mouthful. The Qliphoth is the polar opposite, negative form of the holy Sephirot. And the Sephirot is a diagram of the holy infinite’s attributes/forms. Got that? Good.

In the Qliphoth, Samael is known as the negative form of Hod. Hod being the manifestation of subconscious desires, the embodiment of submission, hope and prayer. Since Samael is the negative form of this, Samael would be the submission into fear, being lost to curses of damnation, a hopeless plunge into subconscious woes and terrors.

While this information is interesting unto itself, my main point is that it would make sense that the god The Order was actually trying to summon was not Samael, but in fact Hod.

Samael himself is a fragmented, failed form of Hod. Just as Alessa was fractured into another self (Heather/Cheryl), so too was the god she gave birth to. This means that somewhere in Silent Hill is a heavenly paradise with the presence of Hod. It is just never revealed to us because of the greater influence of the corrupting presence of Samael.

Dahlia’s motivation, and the motivation of the cult, seems to be to summon Samael, but that is only how Alessa understands it. Remember, everything in Silent Hill came from Alessa. And Alessa was most likely kept in the dark concerning The Order’s true intentions. Her understanding of the cult’s intention had to be influenced by the torture and abuse she was put through. So she split not just herself but the people of the town into dichotomies, one of which expresses her view of them: as manipulative and evil people who want to bring about the destruction of everything. And just as we only see the negative world with the demon, we only see the negative side of these people.

However, the fact that we see both versions of Alessa means we must also be able to see both versions of the people in the town. This would explain Dahlia’s motivation when Harry asks her what the symbols he’s been seeing are, “It is the mark of Samael. Don’t let it be completed.” Up until now most players assumed she was trying to trick Harry, but I think we were just seeing the other version of Dahlia.

In fact, the fissure spreads much further than that: it explains why there are two worlds of Silent Hill (the “other” world and the foggy one). But the foggy town is still populated by monsters so it can’t be the heavenly world of Hod. At least, not through our eyes. It’s possible that that is still the heavenly world, but even though we are there, we are seeing it through the perspective of someone still under Samael’s domain, through Alessa’s perspective, because ultimately, it’s her view that controls everything, even the perspectives of the other characters, such as Harry.

To save the town of Silent Hill, then, the protagonist can’t just escape the demonic world, but instead the protagonist must try to meet the demonic world with the heavenly one, to bring the two worlds together, to make the world whole, to make Alessa whole. And because this never happens in any of the games, Silent Hill remains a split universe that traps those that wander within it in a never-ending nightmare.

On Being

The transient nature of being – “being” being the amalgam of surfacing byproducts of the biological human mind as it processes its surroundings and its own state – boiling down to the residual reality that we simply do not exist.

Existence is a myth singed by flames. And we are burning away in all the sides we turn to in an all-consuming fire fueled by anxiety, and that in turn by feeling and trusting too heartily (or mistrusting utterly) what we are perceiving entirely.

In reality (and here, we cannot speak of both the validity of reality and the validity of the subjects within said reality so we are continuing under the supposition that reality exists in its own terms even though, if the relation from subject to reality is any indication, this supra-reality to the epi-reality beyond it also doesn’t exist but to support that theory the terms of what contains it would have to be taken into account, which, as you know, we don’t know and so, returning), we are bodies. We are bodies with organs programmed to survive, replicate, and then, after a time, to die, so as to allow for adequate resources to sustain the next generation and the next iteration of human being. And so on. The cycle is in the interest of progress.

Because life is mechanical. Consciousness isn’t magic. It grew from an evolutionary benefit of either (or both) trickery (and/)or cooperation. Most likely, the first instance of consciousness was a lie – a lie that requires the belief of its perpetrator just as much, if not moreso than that of its target, for it is only when we fan the flames that the fire rises.

Consciousness is a parlor trick. 

If consciousness itself is a lie then we don’t exist in the sense that our personas don’t truthfully exist. And so, in this being state of non-being, we can adopt any consciousness we can imagine.

 


Other things to consider:

  • This is not to say that our physical form does not exist.
  • This is not to say there is no purpose or connection between us.
  • This is only to say that what’s out to get us is us.

 

To elaborate on these other topics in brief, consider a person who grew up in a house of mirrors. Everyone this person would meet would be them, but because they never met anyone outside of this house, they would believe these are other people. This person and the reflections themselves are all connected to each other through their isolation. In short, the only vocabulary we have is ourselves.

Breathing

A fish in a stream not only effects the lives of those around it (whether or not there is life necessarily near it, and regardless of it would be on the scale that it would notice, i.e. not bacteria but a visible creature– note: whether it has the capacity to notice, being a fish and so being unaware, doesn’t determine the result) by shifting the water with a wave of its tale, a mindless action akin to breathing, an action that effects the atmosphere and therefore, everything (breathing then, might be the most important thing we do), but also simply by being in the stream the fish has displaced a certain volume of water, causing the level of water to rise and changing the entire state of the world of the water and the world of the land (an analogy explaining perhaps a meaning we can’t fathom, being only a fish confined to water, but the implication is simply that we have meaning beyond what we can fathom… there’s an oceanic pun in “fathom” but I need to chase this thought before I sink). What this means is we have meaning, we matter.

If we matter simply by being, then our inactions matter just as much as our actions. Every breath changes the world. But we are not fish. We are humans. We can decide our actions (or at least attempt to, for the matter of indubitable cognition vs. amalgam of neural reactions and learned behaviors is left to theorists– see the matter of self-deception regarding regret, both the delusion that we might stand by our choice and think it couldn’t be any other way, as well as the opposing falsity that it was a mistake we should have known better than to make). But then, if plans are the ultimate form of effecting change, what should we decide?

The truth is no one knows. It’s up to you to decide what you should decide. Hell, it’s up to you decide who you are (we are shaped by experiences, certainly, but it is our perception that fills in the details) and what you believe matters (for belief in what matters alone has no effect on what matters beyond that it might guide one to make decisions that therein effect what matters). There’s a lot to decide. But that’s where plans come into play.

And I hear you, oh sullen fiend and friend of mine, “But the best laid plans of mice and men…” True, plans almost always lead to unexpected hiccups due to everyone and everything constantly changing everyone and everything– the game of life is constantly having its rules rewritten– but you formed the plan, so you can continue to shape the plan to fit through the holes in the walls you run into.

There are tools available to help you reshape those plans. I’m still trying to find them. But if I had to venture a guess, I think long nights where you think instead of dream help quite a bit.

Roach

There was a cockroach on the step. It wouldn’t move. Its black and brown body stood guard in the shadow of the cement cliffside behind it. Someone screamed. It didn’t budge. It almost looked fake.

Until it was squished.

There was a spot on the staircase. It could be oil. Black and brown, but glistening in the dim light of the morn. No one noticed…. It almost was something.

But what could it be?