Friday, May 1, 2009

So where are you from?

I started writing Straitjacket Ninja episode 18 last night in a burst of frantic pre-sleep activity. In fact I'd already gone to bed, then sat bolt upright and went back downstairs to type.

The episode features a foot-themed villain, who is a reprised but transformed character from episode 12. I had to do a little research, as I wanted a foot-themed crime for the villainess to commit. Did you know that there is actually a museum that houses the Imelda Marcos Shoe Collection? It is in Manila, of course, but I'm sure that the collection could be loaned to a museum in whatever city the Nutty Ninja is in.

I have no idea what city Straitjacket Ninja lives in. I don't think it matters. It seems to be populated with US and UK stereotypes. Sort of a Londington, or Washpool, or Bostcastle, or Partially Recycled York. I like having a clash of cliches in Ninjaville. In some ways it mirrors my own life.

Some commentators have said that New Zealand lacks its own identity. Traditionally we have strong ties to Great Britain, but are separated by great distance. Half a world away. The US is closer, although not by much, and is the current cultural colossus, trampling over the eating, watching and wearing traditions of the rest of the world. We have numerous other influences, but the US and UK are the monsters ... even if Godzilla is beating up Kitten Kong these days.

You could say we get the best of both worlds. At least we used to where TV was concerned. There was a good screening process in the days before cable TV in this country. We may have got TV series several years out of date, but we only got the ones that lasted, the ones with a proven body of work. A strange fusion of the best of British with those American shows that rose to the surface of the polluted waters of US entertainment. Now, with an explosion of channels and the desire to show programs as soon as they are available we get anything and everything.

Suddenly we get all the unfunny English comedies ... the cancelled mid-season US shows ... the made-for-TV movies about things we don't care about ... and inside references to UK and US politics that confuse even the most ardent anglo- or americo-phile. It's a cultural free-for-all, a buffet with a million courses, infotainment overload. Maybe that's why I've reverted to watching old shows on DVD. UFO, Twin Peaks, Captain Scarlet, The Muppets, Sapphire and Steel... spiced up with some anime and some B movies.

I think that's why Straitjacket Ninja lives in an ill-defined city that could be London, New York, Wellington, or somewhere in-between (Atlantis?). That way every influence is fair fodder, every obscure reference can be included, no cultural stone left unturned.

Art copyright Simon Morse

No comments:

Post a Comment