Earthlings are passé

In my youth, a comedy film meant watching a little mustachioed man in a tight fitting black suit and black hat, twiddling a cane. The man was a genius. In a short span of time, he could make you smile several times, laugh uproariously and occasionally moisten your eyes ; all this without uttering a word. Alternatively, I watched a fat man and a thin man carry out their antics. Interspersed with banana peels and pants ripping was some good, clean, fun.

By P G Bhaskar

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Published: Sun 18 Sep 2011, 9:35 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:56 AM

Animation involved a cat and a mouse. For variety, there was a duck with three nephews, and a mouse and his girlfriend. The common link between these? All characters inhabited the earth along with you. Humans, mice, cats, dogs, ducks …..

Likewise, the books we read were about normal children who had adventures or mysteries. An occasional robbery, a detective story, that sort of thing. Everything was real and earthly.

Which is why when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, the whole world stopped and listened. And, of course, pored over the grainy pictures that were beamed and published soon after. It was such a novelty, so flamboyantly different from what we saw, did and heard in our daily lives.

A few years later came ‘Star Wars’ and with it whole new genre. They called it science fiction. Possibly a passing fad, one thought and stood aside to let it pass. It didn’t pass. It grew bigger and bigger, became more vivid in its imagination and more perverse. It formed branches. It developed tentacles, mutated and now it has, for all practical purposes taken us over. The cat and mouse, incredibly, have survived. How they have done this is something for case studies to delve into. We will merely stand up and salute Tom and Jerry for having outlasted a human generation. But everything else is disappearing. And this new era’s literature, games, toys and films are all merging into one.

Kids just out of kindergarten collect and trade pictures, stickers or cards of Korean monsters and such. When my son was born towards the end of turn of the millennium, we kept away from him everything that we had not ourselves experienced as a child. That included Pokemon, mutant Ninja turtles, video games and the like. It lasted six to seven years. Then, we gave up and I think he started making up for lost time.

After a series of innocuous experiments with various things, he first latched on to something called Bakugan. It is a game/toy/TV series (a case of one leading to another, I guess), which involves aliens from another galaxy that have come to earth and can only survive in the form of a ball. Then there are fights involving these creatures and ‘battle brawlers’ and that’s where I stopped understanding the thing. From there, he moved on to Ben 10, a story about a teenager with an ‘Omnitrix’, watch involving a whole series of creatures with names like Chromastone, Swampfire, Ghostfreak, XLR8 and so on. The boy apparently turns into these various creatures in a bid to save the earth. Of course, once my son turned ten, he had eyes and ears for nothing except Wizards, Muggles, Mad-Eye Moody (whose one eye rotates like a ball enabling him to look through himself and behind) and dementors (evil creatures that suck the soul out of people). The obsession lasted over three years. Not just books, but movies, Playstation games, a Harry Potter theme birthday party and Potter ‘top trumps’.

If you don’t understand any of this, please don’t worry. It will not kill you. It may simply be that you don’t have a 7 to 12 year old child.

But I’m not done yet, unfortunately. A couple of years back, he started collecting Match Attax (spelling intended) which involves buying and trading cards with pictures of football players with relevant statistics. This was followed by a whole series of books about a young boy who is half human.

I’m informed that the latest rage is re-hashing of classics. Our heroes and heroines of old now appear in new, more acceptable forms; as zombies, witches and the like. Welcome to the new world of entertainment.

Any day now, a half human David Copperfield or a one eyed Martian Snow-white with magical powers will emerge and become immensely popular. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

P G Bhaskar is a freelance writer

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