Monday, January 18, 2016

Trickster Redux

However inaccurate,patronizing, and misguided your early elementary school introductions to First American culture and attitudes may have been, it left you with a lifelong appreciation of an archetypal presence that has remained with you over the years to the point of being a significant characteristic.  Placed in context with your father's authoritative narrative and your own, hard-wired Imp of Perversity, the presence of The Trickster goes at some lengths to define you.

Your first introductions to The Trickster were of animals such as The Coyote, as distinguished from a mere coyote, appearing in the world the way some of your comic book heroes appeared in story, to wreak mischief and in a real sense keep the world honest and, of much importance to you, not boring.

You can remember numerous times as a youngster when frustrated by t..  he clashes of power between your desires and the self-proclaimed adult authority, you took yourself to your nightly sleep with dreams of the revenge The Coyote would wreak on your enemies.

Happenstance, in the form of two Los Angeles neighborhood movie houses presenting frequent reruns of classic comics such as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and one Julius "Groucho" Marx, helped you articulate in your own landscape the situations and circumstances where a Trickster would be necessary.  You were in effect raised as an ordinary boy and in a secret world, by The Trickster.

By the time you found yourself pursuing the pathway of the English major, you were delighted to discover such cultural Trickster potentials as Feste, the jester, in Twelfth Night along with the growing knowledge that kings actually hired jesters to make fun of them and everyone around them.  This was followed by your discovery of Master Owlglass, Tyl Eulenspiegel, and Reynard, the Fox.

A required course in anthropology brought you to a point of wanting to change majors because so many cultures had Trickster equivalents, beings who were Coyotes rather than coyotes, individuals who were able to impersonate Tricksters at communal rituals, making fun of everything, including the ritual itself.  

This was heady stuff for a nineteen- and twenty-year-old, taking sustenance from the writings of satirists of such acute restraint that, had you not been told some of their work was a satire, you would have taken it only at face value.

Remember, the Tricksters seemed to be telling you, there are coyotes and there are Coyotes.

Then came the times where the work of Julius Marx began to make more sense to the point where you had memorized entire scenes from such films as A Night at the Opera, Duck Soup, A Day at the Races.  You were taken with Groucho's persona of Captain Geoffrey Spaulding, a film-flam, but there was more to his film-flammery, his unrelenting attack on the affected and affluent, his usual goal a modest score, a decent meal, and an opportunity to ridicule nonsense that had become established rule.

You particularly liked the way Groucho appeared, his eyebrows and mustache a thick, simple blob of greasepaint.  None of the other characters were allowed to reflect any awareness of this makeup being in any way abnormal.  The surreal became real, opening the doors for you to see other absurdist drama and fiction in your own terms, which means your ultimate need to take your inspiration from Geoffrey Spaulding, then create your own targets, your own landscape, your own appearances.

One of the first things you do involves conflating Capt. Spaulding with, in your opinion, one of the great Trickster pretenders, Wile E. Coyote, who would in effect like to be Capt. Spaulding but cannot.  Captain Spaulding, through his attitudes and behavior to his targets, manages to topple them in our eyes.  Wile E. Coyote is doomed to humiliating himself.  He has such a fierce intensity of purpose that you cannot help rooting for him, however aware you are of his hopeless prospects.

You admire this coyote's single mindedness of purpose.  You admire Spaulding's purpose.  You admire all those beings and individuals out there in their respective cultural landscapes, focused on their purpose of exposing the institutions and types who prey on us.  

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