The Movie of the Trailer
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, itâ€™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 weâ€™re prepared to see something that weâ€™ve been told is peripheral as the core of the thing itself. So, here, itâ€™s the trailer as the original text.
Yet, of course, itâ€™s actually a bit more complex than that, since the clip doesnâ€™t purport to make the trailer precede Iron Man as comic book character. Thus, in its play with the idea that the trailerâ€™s “active fan base” are expecting to be let down by the actual movie â€œadaptation,â€ 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 Brookerâ€™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 â€¦ 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 theyâ€™d fallen in love with was something akin to a replicant, and just as BR examines Deckardâ€™s love for someone that both is and is not a human, so too did this project show how fandom can be (or, Iâ€™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 didnâ€™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 â€“ I feared â€“ was better in my head than in Lucasâ€™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 itâ€™s actually going to happen, as the stakes go up.
This is about anticipation, but itâ€™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 Onionâ€™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, Iâ€™ll need to square away that idealized text and the replicant text (or, perhaps, that big hunk of scrap metal) in front of me.
Thereâ€™s so much more I could say about this Onion clip. Very amusing, and well done. But Iâ€™ll call it a day here.Tags: Blade Runner, Iron Man, Onion, parody