Wednesday, September 19, 2012
HP Lovecraft's 'The Aristocrats!'
There is a joke comedians tell each other called the Aristocrats, there was a movie about it but just in case you haven’t heard of it this is Wikipedia’s description of it;
The setup: The joke always begins with a family act going in to see a talent agent.
Those who meet the agent can include the whole family or just one family member (usually the father).
The agent asks what they do (sometimes after saying that he is not interested, and a plea from the father).
If the whole family is present, the act may be performed for the agent, rather than described.
2.The act: It is described in as much detail as the teller prefers.
While most tellings follow one of a few basic forms, the description of the act is meant to be an ad lib.
Traditionally, the description is crude, tasteless, and ribald The goal is to significantly transgress social norms. Taboo acts such as incest, rape, coprophilia, coprophagy, beastiality and murder are common themes.
3.The punch line: The shocked (or intrigued) agent asks what the act is called, and the proud answer (sometimes delivered with a flourish) is: "The Aristocrats!"
You may have heard this joke or a variation this joke and not realized it was a secret handshake for comedians. I know I had never heard of it and I had tried to be a stand up comic in my younger days. (The less said about that the better.) The idea is to have your version outdo the previous tellings in vulgarity. Bob Saget explained that the beginning and end of the joke is set, the middle joke is where you have free reign to do whatever you want.
Now you may wonder what the Hell this has to do with Lovecraft, well it occurred to me recently that in a certain way a lot of Mythos/Lovecraftian fiction follows a similar structure.
Consider the way many of our favorite stories go;
1.The setup: The story begins with a protagonist, usually an innocent academic or unlucky bystander
In many cases the story is told in the first person viewpoint.
The protagonists own tale is frequently told in a nested format with other people’s stories making up his tale. The final part of the Call Of Cthulhu is a good example of this; the main character never sees Cthulhu in the gelatinous flesh, he just relates to us what he read in another man’s journal.
The more our hero learns the more of what he thought to be the rational world falls away.
2.The investigation: The protagonist is frequently exposed to a secret society, cult or lineage that has transgressed social norms. In almost all cases worship or direct exposure to the Mythos has either been the cause or result of their transgressions.
The protagonist then either encounters undeniable evidence of the Mythos or an actual creature of the Mythos. The encounter could be with an established aspect or creature or could be a entirely new creation but this is the part that has the most elements of the author's imagination and style.
3.The Conclusion The protagonist has his worldview utterly shaken, or goes mad or dies. In some stories the world itself is destroyed which is a Hell of a worldview changer.
So, what do you think? Do you agree,? Disagree? Need a SAN roll?