Blade Runner’s Hong Kong (Or, How to Read Those Dull Academic Papers)

Blade-Runner-posterIt’s so frustrating to run across an academic paper about your favorite comic or movie or TV show. Academics always say one or two smart things and then spend the rest of a 20-page paper gabbling about incomprehensible theories we ordinary people don’t have time for.

It’s kind of cute, really. I picture a tenure-seeking associate professor of film or cultural studies (like the authors of 90% of these papers) tapping away on her trusty laptop — until she’s brought up short! She realizes she’s gone three whole paragraphs without citing Slavoj Žižek and she’s in danger of failing the intellectual Voight-Kampff test! TIME TO GET THEORY’D UP!!

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For a normal person, the only way to read one of these articles is according to the following rule:

If a paragraph has a lot of scholarly references, skip it.

Take this neat paper I found about how Blade Runner and other movies with a grunge-tech vibe (Ghost in the Shell, Johnny Mnemonic, Akira, Hackers) all used one particular area of Hong Kong as their template. What makes a scruffy Asian urban neighborhood more “futuristic” than a scruffy American urban neighborhood? Answers after the jump.

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To Masque or Not to Masque: Comic-Con says Yea!

masqueradeComic-Con’s Saturday night Masquerade Ball/Costume Contest is a staggering affair. Some 4,000 people attend, and another couple thousand who can’t fit into the main ballroom hang out in two secondary ballrooms watching a simulcast of the judging. If you want to take pictures, you have to apply for a pass to the “photo stage” outside the ballroom. I think that’s like the area backstage at the Oscars where the celebs speak to the clamoring press.

Pretty spiffy, yeah? Well, it hasn’t kept the web site’s description of the event from taking a rather … defensive tone:

Costumes are a vital ingredient of nearly all of the popular arts. [bold type in original] Movies, plays, comic books, fantasy art, musical performances, and even toy collectibles owe at least part their popularity to the skill in which the human form is attired. Costumes take us to characters, places, and experiences in ways words and setting cannot do on their own. Whether it’s a knight in shining armor, a colorful super-hero, a regal elf, a villain from a galaxy far away, an exotic enchantress, a robot warrior, an Egyptian goddess, or a completely original design, costumes always inspire, awe, and entertain us.

A few things:

-That first sentence has a nice imposing ring. I especially like the phrase “the popular arts.” You know, I’ve been writing about pop culture for years, and I have never, ever heard that phrase. I guess it took a comic geek to come up with something so fancible.

-“Even toy collectibles” owe their popularity to cosplay? “Even”? I don’t think the connection surprises anyone but the author.

-How did “a regal elf” make it into the mix? I smell under-the-table pro-elf lobbying. Still, as special interests go, the elves don’t have half the influence of the Exotic Enchantress PAC.

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