Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beowulf

S. T. Karnick sees the new Robert Zemeckis adaptation of Beowulf as including commentary on two recent presidential administrations, as well as the original poem’s subtext of the conversion of Europe to Christianity. The Clinton administration: “These changes clearly characterize Hrothgar’s court as analogous to the Clinton administration and point out that a people who indulge themselves and fall asleep to the perils around them are asking for trouble. Several dialogue lines make the point explicit. Just as President Clinton emboldened Muslim haters of America by ignoring or, worse, responding feebly to attacks on Americans and American property, so Hrothgar’s choices bring on disaster.” And GWB: “Beowulf, for his part, declares victory over Grendel’s mother far too soon, and his false claim of ‘mission accomplished’ wins the loyalty of his people but dooms them to future disasters. Here, too, the relation to current events is quite clear.” He ends with noting the way the film implies the possibility of future cultural transformation in the lessons of the past.

(My wife, the English grad student, says that she still can’t help wondering, whenever she hears Beowulf in the original Old English, whether the poem was Jim Henson’s inspiration for the Swedish Chef on the Muppets.)

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