Thursday, March 8, 2012

American Splendor: From Comics to Movie

"I want to write literature that pushes people into their lives rather than helping them escape...I think the so-called average person often exhibits a great deal of heroism getting through an ordinary day, and yet the reading public takes this heroism for granted."
-Harvey Pekar

The much acclaimed comic series "American Splendor" follows the average-man character of Harvey Pekar and spreads light upon how facing everyday struggles can amount to [almost] a form of heroism.  

Let's say were in math class and we are using the law of syllogism (if A = B and B = C, then A must = C). Well, Self Reflexive Nature = Reality; Reality = Heroism; Therefore Self Reflexive Nature = Heroism.

Self Reflexive Nature = Reality
The comics effectively capture the essence of an average man by having the actual average man-character write about himself. It is, in a sense, an odd loop-- almost Inception-like (but instead of it being a dream within a dream, it is a comic writer within his very own comic; catch my drift?) Well, you see, in the film we take this whole self-reflexive nature to a whole nother level. Now, my friends, we have a film within a film about an actor casted to play the role of a comic writer who writes comics about himself.  Seems like a mouthful, so let's break this down into it's pieces.  Throughout the film we cut back to the "documenary footage," which is in a sense: reality.  We have the flesh and blood Harvey Pekar standing side by side with the actor playing himself.  Now, what I have just described to you is a clear parallel to the style taken on by the comics-- they are both self reflexive, thus showing the reality of his world.  

Reality = Heroism
Within this very reality, in both the comics and the movie we follow Harvey Pekar through his everyday routines, conflicts, and sometimes trivial concerns.  In one comic (also put into the film) we listen to Harvey rant on about how there is more than one Harvey Pekar in his phone book.  He begins to question the legitimacy of who he is and the meaning of life.  Another comic follows Harvey through his average weekend-- nothing special, but to the point and real.  In the film (and also comics) there is a section dedicated to Harvey's fight against cancer.  All in all, the comics tackle down every little story that makes up his life, despite how simple and insignificant they may seem.  But, you see, the magic of making his life into a comic book (and have it later adapted to film) is that significance is placed upon the everyday ordeal of a simple man like Harvey.  This medium brings our attention to whatever we choose to show, therefore creating new meaning.  Harvey becomes a hero because we allow ourselves to realize that his simple struggles (and sometimes large ones; e.g.: the fight against cancer), are real and are big in his life.  

Self Reflexive Nature = Heroism
So: this conclusion can now be drawn because we see that it is the medium of having Harvey's life placed within a comic and then Hollywoodized onto film that causes Harvey to become a hero.  No, the comics do not glorify him, nor do they put him in a superman suit.  However, the comics, in their nature, subconsciously bring us to a realm where we know we are about to spectate upon something big.  Harvey Pekar? Not so big.  But through these comics he becomes big.  And through the film adaptation he becomes even greater.  He becomes a hero. 

Harvey Pekar is simple, average, and seemingly not a hero.  He has created himself to be a hero through his comics.  The films further that point.  I hope my "math" helps you see how! 

1 comment:

  1. Kira, I think that this is a very well-written and explorative post, yo! I think that your use of math in relation to the self-reflexiv nature of the story is very spot on and accurate. I also think it is good that you branched out into Pekar questioning the meaning of life, because it is so true to the idea of this self-reflexive idea. I think your math showed me how Pekar is considered a hero through his comics, however after reading the comics, it's hard not to consider him a hero in real life as well.