Home > previews, trailers > The Movie of the Trailer

The Movie of the Trailer

April 21st, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Thanks to Jason Mittell for drawing my attention to this, thereby absolutely requiring that I come out of a mass grading-induced blogging break. As Jason said in his email, it’s paratext and parody together: all the things I like in one small clip.

I love how it plays with precisely what drew my interest to paratexts/extratexts, testing the limits of how much we’re prepared to see something that we’ve been told is peripheral as the core of the thing itself. So, here, it’s the trailer as the original text.

Yet, of course, it’s actually a bit more complex than that, since the clip doesn’t purport to make the trailer precede Iron Man as comic book character. Thus, in its play with the idea that the trailer’s “active fan base” are expecting to be let down by the actual movie “adaptation,” it brilliantly captures the odd paradox of many paratexts, namely that since many of them sell anticipation and small flavors, oftentimes the text exists in its purest and best state when being anticipated, and before actually being made.

This makes me think, then, of a chapter I wrote for Will Brooker’s The Blade Runner Experience: The Legacy of a Science Fiction Classic (Wallflower, 2006), for which I interviewed several active fans of Blade Runner about their hopes for the release of a Final Cut of the film (a cut that has since finally hit the market). There, I found the seemingly odd situation of several fans, who had loved this film for over twenty years, so much so that they were still on BR list-servs and discussion sites … and yet who felt that they had never seen the full and proper version of this object of love. Using the language of BR, I said that the text they’d fallen in love with was something akin to a replicant, and just as BR examines Deckard’s love for someone that both is and is not a human, so too did this project show how fandom can be (or, I’d argue, is always) for both a real text and an absent, second, idealized text. With the BR study, several of the people I talked to therefore both wanted a Final Cut and didn’t, since while the Final Cut remained hypothetical, it could perfectly approximate their ideal text, whereas they seemed quite worried that once it became real, that text might fail to live up to their replicant beauty.

Herein lies the dilemma with almost any textual proliferation, right? I went through the exact same crisis of faith before the release of the new Star Wars trilogy. I was intrigued to know more of the story, to have the world filled in, and yet at the same time, the world – I feared – was better in my head than in Lucas’s hands. Ditto with the announcement of the Lord of the Rings films. And many other films, television shows, and so forth. And yet in each case, the pleasure of anticipation is wonderful, so that imagining what a Lord of the Ring film might look like, for instance, is a better game when you know it’s actually going to happen, as the stakes go up.

This is about anticipation, but it’s also about what the text is, at its core. All that anticipation, after all, feeds into the consumption of the eventual text, and all that anticipation is part of the joy that the text provides. Thus the paratext or extratext as an absolutely vital, often central, part of the text. And The Onion’s example here is wonderfully apt, since the Iron Man trailer is indeed very enticing (see below), thereby raising the bar for what I expect, and what I hope for. Somehow, come summer, I’ll need to square away that idealized text and the replicant text (or, perhaps, that big hunk of scrap metal) in front of me.

There’s so much more I could say about this Onion clip. Very amusing, and well done. But I’ll call it a day here.

Tags: , , ,

previews, trailers , , ,

  1. April 21st, 2008 at 15:47 | #1

    Any day I can distract someone from grading is a day well spent…

    And your comments remind me of this interview with Lucas & Spielberg about the new Indiana Jones film. Lucas mentions that fans come to such films with so much pre-written imagined storytelling that its bound to be a letdown. He concludes with this brilliant quote: “I have walked through the valley of death on highly anticipated sequels.”

    Now why can’t he write dialog so evocative in his highly anticipated sequels?

  1. No trackbacks yet.