Wednesday, October 24, 2012


In my film class the other day, we watched To Kill a Mockingbird to focus on title sequences in a unexpected but wonderful divergence from the planned syllabus. When the title score began to play I sudden had a strange realization: I have had this main theme stuck in my head for years, appearing and disappearing sporadically, so that the simple melody is recognizable but I can't place where I've heard it but when it appears, so do a long stream of memories. Then I rewatched this film and was finally, finally able to place where the earworm had come from. And suddenly things began to make a lot of sense, considering I first saw this film when I fourteen or fifteen and music was beginning to take over my life.

Contrary to where this blog post seems like it's headed, this is not a discussion of my musical tastes (that would just be confusing and strange and would be utterly irrelevant and get us nowhere). No, this is a discussion of the unusual instances where something becomes important to us but its source or appeal wanes and fades from us until one day, something triggers our memory of it and we remember how important it is to us. If there is a word for this experience, I would love to be enlightened and aware of its existence because I have no idea what this could be called.

Much like the haunting theme for To Kill a Mockingbird that has hovered in my mind for the past several years, torturing me with its importance and elegance but evading its origin, there are a number of cultural texts that have waxed and waned in importance in my life, only to return with an explosive realization of "aw, yeah, that!" One of these, of course, is Sherlock Holmes. I saw The Great Mouse Detective when I was four and proceeded to fall in love with the movie (so much so that through much of kindergarten and first grade, I daydreamed that everyone I knew had mouse surrogates of ourselves, living mirror versions of our life in underground, only in mouse form. I take it I was a rather unusual child). Which of course eventually led to me falling in love with various mystery series until I came across Sherlock Holmes in my teens. For much of my life, my love for this sort of detective has been bouncing around in the back of my cranium but it wasn't until the recent revival of interest in Holmes with the Guy Ritchie films and the BBC show that it hit me how much this particular fictional character means to me.

But there's another example of this strange phenomenon that has hit me with a vengeance: that of my love for superheros.
When I was growing up, Batman made a big hit in film with the Tim Burton version (okay, I realize that this was made before I was born. But sometimes it feels like I was actually born in the late 80s for unexplainable reasons, which is mildly unsettling) and then the Val Kilmer version and the George Clooney versions, which we really shouldn't mention because while Clooney may be a great actor, Batman and Robin was pretty awful. Because my parents didn't emphasize that certain interests were for "girls" and others were for "boys," I thought nothing of having both a fascination for both Disney Princesses and Batman (even if my grandmother did insist on making me a Batgirl cape instead of just a Bat... person, shall we say). And thus I spent a lot of time between the ages of six and seven or so playing with Batman action figures and coming up with evil schemes for the Riddler to throw at Batman.

For some reason or another, I left this interest behind me and moved on to other things (Star Wars, mostly, and then other Disney films). It wasn't really until the film X-Men was made that I found myself thinking, "Oh yeah, superheros, awesome." But I didn't have the quite the same fansqauee reaction to X-Men or The Fantastic Four or Spiderman that'd I'd had for Batman; there was no sense of glee and utter enrapture. I thought it was specifically Batman that fascinated me and thus Marvel and the rest of the DC universe didn't appeal. This was partially reaffirmed when Batman Begins and The Dark Knight came out. But these were darker, not like what I grew up with. So while I enjoyed seeing Batman again and loved the Joker, it was different, much different. It wasn't that I didn't like it; it was just that my fansqueeing "yay, superheros!" watching experience was much different. Mainly because my favorite character was the Joker, the villain, and I found myself complicatedly enraptured by the antithesis of whom I was supposed to be rooting for. Oops.

And then came Iron Man.
I was not very familiar with the Marvel universe when I saw this film (other than X-Men, from what I had seen in the films, and what I'd seen in the first Spiderman film) but Robert Downey Jr. being badass was enough for me to fall head over heels for both Downey and the film. This was pre-internet involvement and pre-college so my fansqueeing stayed mostly in my head. Then Iron Man 2 came out and I was reminded that, hell yeah, this was pretty awesome.

And then the consecutive Avengers movies started being released. Somewhere between seeing Captain America and finally renting Thor before The Avengers was released, I remembered my childhood fascination for Batman and realized I'd returned to it. Only this time the focus was on Marvel. But my favorite character, like when I'd watched The Dark Knight, wasn't necessarily the good guy.

In some mad combination of my earlier love for Batman and my new appreciation for the Joker in The Dark Knight, both Thor and The Avengers found a way to blend two aspects so that, I suppose, it was inevitable that I would A) become an Avenger fan, B) develop a great admiration for another British actor known for his kindness, intelligence, and cheekbones (what, is this a thing now?) and C) fall into the same boat that it seems 50%* of other Sherlock fans are in.

* This is not an actual statistic. I did not do an actual survey to come up with this number. I am actually a really terrible psychologist/statistician, FYI.

I would blame Tumblr for leading me down this road but I'd been shown millions of images of Tom Hiddleston and Loki before and it didn't really affect my interest. But something about rewatching The Avengers changed this. Maybe it was because I'd seen Thor again and realized Loki is an absolutely brilliant character. Maybe because I have the tendency to really like Byronic heros/anti-heros and lo and behold, Loki's pretty Byronic. Maybe I'm just doomed to like very talented British actors known for their cheekbones.
Yep. Resistance is futile.

I also think there might be something to the overlap between Avenger fans and Sherlock fans. A certain perception on Tumblr seems to be that Sherlock fans have gotten a bit antsy in waiting for the new season and thus have started "invading" other fandoms. But I think it speaks more to something along the lines of whatever caused me to feel about The Avengers in the way that I used to feel about Batman when I was younger. Whatever caused the writer of this very entertaining Avengers fanfiction to make Loki a Disney princess and caused Gingerhaze to think of the utterly brilliant idea of making The Emperor's New Groove and The Avengers a crossover (it seriously works, trust me). Whatever causes people to think of crossovers in the first place and causes fans to fall into certain communities and share certain interests and talk about similar things. Not all fans are the same but it's astonishing to me when I look at someone's Tumblr blog and realize how much we have in common. Perhaps it's an overused sentiment that "birds of a feather flock together" but it seems that there's something about these cultural texts that draw people to them. While I may be a fan of The Avengers while someone else is a much bigger fan about X-Men, we could easily have a conversation about our love of the two because A) It's the Marvel universe and everything overlaps and B) our passion for both said comic movies would likely be similar and we could easily discuss our fascination with both. There's something to be said about what exactly makes a fan; all fans may be different but they also share a whole heck of a lot. 

However, none of this explains why the them from To Kill a Mockingbird was stuck in my head for years and secretly influencing my life without me even knowing it. Alas.

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