Welcome to the T-Rex of the RealMarch 9, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Posted in pop culture, simulacra | 5 Comments
Hello again! I apologize for my lengthy absence from the blogosphere; upon returning from Vegas I proceeded to get horrendously ill for several days, and then the deadline for my Weil/Bataille paper came upon me and I had to spend another week getting that together. You’ll get the cliff-notes version of my definitive Weil/Bataille thoughts in the not so distant future. For now, some laughs at a dead man’s expense.
It seems to me that the March 7th installation of Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics can be read as a commentary on the death of Jean Baudrillard. In the first panel, T-Rex declares, “Okay! I am going to write a story and it is going to be BRAND NEW. It will be the most
staggeringly original story ever. It will feature action and characters that COULD NEVER HAVE BEEN CONCEIVED BY ANYBODY BUT ME.” T-Rex, T-Rex, T-Rex. If he hadn’t died earlier that day, Baudrillard would have told you that there are no new stories left; the best you will be able to do is re-assemble the cultural ideas to which you have already been exposed. But T-Rex’s defiant cry is especially poignant in the wake of Baudrillard’s death — now that the prophet is dead, maybe we can pretend his message was never true.
In panel 2, T-Rex, of course, fails utterly. The name of his “staggeringly original” story is “Tuggy the Tugboat Tugs . . . In Space.” Not only is it a ripoff of the beloved children’s book Tuggy the Tugboat, but the “In Space” calls to mind some of the worst sequels of all time: Leprechaun IV, Jason X, etc. Oh simulacra. In Jason X, for example, Jason is cryogenically frozen (because, of course, he can’t be killed) and then discovered by a team of explorers a thousand years in the future, after Earth has been destroyed by warfare and humans have been dispersed throughout the galaxy. He is taken to their spaceship and unthawed where he proceeds to — you guessed it — butcher teens who are getting drunk or having sex. At one point, in order to distract him, some of the crewmembers lure him onto the holodeck, where they project a simulation of Camp Crystal Lake, site of the original Friday the Thirteenth massacres, and some simulated well-endowed teen girls gigglingly ask him if he’d like to smoke some pot or have some premarital sex. Cut to the crewmembers: “I think he’s buying it!” Cut back to Jason: he is beating one of the girls with the other one, whom he has stuffed in a sleeping bag. Nope, there is nothing new under the sun.
In panel 3, Dromiceiomimus advances the formalist position that “there’s only 10 or so stories, and all narratives are just variations on these themes,” but T-Rex calls shenanigans. By panel 5, he has leapfrogged over 50 or so years of literary criticism and discovered Baudrillard’s hyperreality: “But then you might as well treat EVERY story as as sequel, prequel, or rewrite of Terminator II!”
The consequences are obvious: “Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most disappointing Terminator sequel yet.” Welcome to the desert of the real, T-Rex, where the copy has replaced the original.
But the desert of the real has always been T-Rex’s abode. Every single Dinosaur Comics is exactly the same. The dialogue changes from day to day, sure, but the infinitely repeated drawings ensure that the same basic structure repeats itself again and again: T-Rex proposes something ludicrous in panel one, it has hilarious consequences in panel 2, he scorns Dromiceiomimus’ reasonable suggestion in panel 3, he fights with Utahraptor in panels 4 and 5, and in panel 6 we inevitably find him persisting in error, and shouting into the void.
Aren’t we all, aren’t we all.