February 7th, 2010

friendlysketch, Thornwolf

The significance of Axe Cop

I suspect most of you know about it by now, but for those of you who don't, http://www.axecop.com. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Oh, hi, you're back. Anyway, as you've probably noticed, Axe Cop is completely ridiculous. That's probably why you read the whole thing- there's a sort of insane joy throughout the whole thing, eschewing traditional notions of a logically-consistent story in favor of, well, Axe Cop and all that it implies. And its reason for doing so is immediately obvious: the entire thing is scripted by a five-year-old, with his professional-artist brother cheerfully converting it into a full-quality comic production. So what we have is the mind of a creative yet-not-so-different-from-what-you-were five-year-old, faithfully rendered into visual form by a skilled person doing his level best to do the topic justice, and the juxtaposition is brilliant.

Here we have a five-year-old telling a story intended to be fun yet awesome, and without the fetters of standard expectations of storytelling, it's a whole lot of fun. Is it deep? Of course not. It's not intended to be. But it doesn't need to be.

This is where a five-year-old can get away with things a more mature author can't. Most stories are expected to have a point, and some sort of logical progression, and the resolution of the main conflict is expected to somehow relate to the story. This turns out not to be necessary for a story to be entertaining, but somehow, it's not usually "okay" to enjoy such things unless they do have a coherent story. It's a restlessness of the brain- a search for a deeper concept that really isn't there. But when the author is 5, you can go "oh, hey, that's why", and the brain shuts up and enjoys it- the five-year-old gets free suspension of reality. "Suspension of disbelief" doesn't seem like the right term, somehow.

I find myself repeatedly enjoying media that is shamelessly awesome- from the shallow to the deep. Axe Cop is as shallow as it gets, and it innocently revels in it, a five-year-old taking joy in imaginative stories; it is a prototypical form of Dr. McNinja, a more nuanced form of what is essentially the same thing. And here, it does benefit from its author's maturity- McNinja can honestly build up to huge amounts of awesome that sort of fade into the background for Axe Cop, while still maintaining that throughout.

The third example of this is MS Paint Adventures, which is now departing from "pure awesome" by taking extreme displays of plot-line and technical awesome and putting it in an extremely deep plot- which the awesome comes to rely on. (Five seconds of the four-minute End of Act III just completely threw the interpretation of a major artifact and a major character out the window, throwing every single action she's taken into question- a character who had been presented as unconditionally trustworthy was just exposed as catastrophically manipulative, and since she was the source of every single thing we "know" about the entire situation John Egbert is in, Andrew blew the plot wide open. That said, I hope he gets back to the plot soon.) It is based around sophisticated comic timing, deceptively excellent animation skill, and a plot that becomes much, much deeper than it seems like it should be- and it is wonderful.

Here's the thing about fantasy media: by definition, they aren't constrained to reality. Thing is, most peoples' brains have a distinct bias in that direction, and so there's a very real attempt to find logic and order in a presentation that isn't meant to honor those qualities, but instead to revel in "hey, check out how cool this is". And the thing is, "hey, check out how cool this is" is actually quite a lot of fun, not the least because we don't usually get to indulge in that. But the left brain starts looking for some sort of order, becomes restless, and eventually dissatisfied.

Axe Cop, though, shows that it doesn't take much of a reason. "because the author is five years old" is enough to make the brain stop worrying. Dr. McNinja simply plays by its own rules, but establishes those rules before it uses them, so the left brain never gets so restless. Homestuck, that third season of MSPA, revels in the disquiet of the left brain- because so many of those inconsistencies are later shown to have been very good cause for suspicion, as they get blown wide open into a chance to make the plot even more complex. So it nurtures that intelligent suspicion, making it fascinating as well as purely awesome.

Most entertainment media tries to go for a deeper foundation of concept than "excessive quantities of awesome". Perhaps those other concepts are easier to hit, because it's difficult to maintain suspension of disbelief otherwise? In any case, this seems like something useful to have thought out for if I decide to try to compose some work of fiction fundamentally based on awesome.
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