28 May 2011


Locus Focus: Take Fifty-Four

You might have noticed that I completely missed yesterday's Faerie Tale Theatre Production Smackdown post. I'm very sorry about that, and even sorrier that I can't even promise that it will be here next week. =( Due to a bunch of reasons that I don't want to get into, I've decided "to unplug" for a while.

I would have unplugged even earlier, but . . . I was really looking forward to this last Locus Focus post of May. We opened the month with the mythical high school library in The Breakfast Club; I reminded you all of my love of Horror with a look at the lake from which the Friday the 13th franchise rose to spread its evil; and most recently, I wrote of the golden Austria resurrected and frozen in the celluloid of The Sound of Music. Those cover alma mater, Mother Nature and motherland--and I was going to do Sancta Mater Ecclesia today because that's how I roll--but then I couldn't think of a single Catholic movie to feature. (Not that it really matters, as all the "Places of Prayer" settings I did in April mean my triumphalist quota is looking pretty good.)

Besides, I have to announce a Theme Challenge for June! Remember that next month is when I offer one lucky reader the chance to win a book from the Philippines. Predictably enough, it's also when all my Locus Focus settings get to be taken from Philippine literature. Of course, I don't expect any of yours to be--not if I want you hanging around (LOL!)--but I do want to extend the fun. (For, yes, it will be fun!!!) What do you think of a "Foreign Shores" theme in which you pick a setting in a country where you have never been?

The Bottom of the Ocean
The Abyss

"Raise your hand if you think that was a Russian water tentacle."

Remember when James Cameron was still all about mothers? There was a time the Terminator franchise was more the story of Sarah Connor than it was the story of the son she raised to save the future. Then there was the first new spin on the Alien franchise, Cameron turned the conflict between Ripley and her extraterrestrial adversary into a battle between two mothers for the sake of their young. And last of all was . . . The Abyss. And if you're really confused now, you know how I felt when my pesky subconscious insisted I use its deep sea setting for my last "May at the Movies" meets "May is for Mothers" post.

Well, yes, there is something very maternal--or rather, womb-like--about the ocean. The Abyss certainly plays on this connection with a symbolic "umbilical" cord and a "fluid breathing system" reminiscent of amniotic fluid. And in a great sense, the ocean is a womb--the place we crawled out of countless eons ago, trading our gills for lungs and the promise of a wider world. But like any lost genius loci, it's a place we can never go back to again--a lesson which a nuclear submarine crew learns the hard way at the beginning of the film.

But try saying the same to the real heroes of this movie, the ragtag group of oil drillers living--and thriving--on a oil platform at the very bottom of the ocean. They, too, are biological outsiders in this environment . . . but don't you get the sense that they would be outsiders in most social settings on land as well? Here, they are where they are supposed to be.

Not so the team of Navy SEALs who want to use the oil platform as a base while looking for survivors from the submarine. Despite all their rigourous training, they are simply out of their element. Almost immediately after they arrive on the platform, their team leader shows symptoms of "the shakes" . . . and it's all downhill action from there.

On a human level, the conflict is between ruthless (and increasingly paranoid) military men and slightly anarchic (but completely sane) civilians. You can find that drama in lots of movies--but The Abyss is likely the only one which sets the story so deeply under water. And there is a reason for that beyond director Cameron's desire to rise to another technical challenge. For this is a setting in which military might can fail and civilian scrappiness can save the day; a setting in which the Cold War's nuclear threats can die and a new era of peace can be born.

Yes, it's a naive dream--especially the pink and twinkly part of it. =P (There's a reason nobody ranks The Abyss as one of Cameron's best.) But it's a nice one to curl up in on a rainy afternoon, when you need some escape from the insanity of our still very warlike world.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

This week's other Locus Focus:

Terry Pratchett's Stone Circle @ What Kate's Reading

Image Source: The Abyss DVD


Kate said...

Oh my gosh, it's been ages since I've seen this film! So long that I was reading your post, scratching my head, and thinking "Hm...am I thinking of the right film?" Though I have to admit that the only things I remember from The Abyss is the pink goo and how awesome I thought Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's hair was.

I like the theme for June but I'll be restricted as always by what I have available at the house...I'll definitely play along if I can, though.

Paul Stilwell said...

"The Abyss certainly plays on this connection with a symbolic "umbilical" cord and a "fluid breathing system" reminiscent of amniotic fluid."

Now why didn't I see that before? Time to re-watch it - and see what you see.

Enbrethiliel said...


Kate -- She did have awesome hair, didn't she? =D

And the low-tech "pink goo" is somehow more memorable than that impressive bit of technical wizardry we remember as the "Russian water tentacle"! I always remember it first--along with the little rat who had to demonstrate it. =)

And there's still time to modify the June theme! I'm all set with my Philippine settings, so what really matters to me is that everyone else can easily participate. My first idea was to feature settings as close to your own home as possible (or where you've lived)--but I thought that might be even harder for everyone!

Stilwell -- You're back! How have you been? =D

Lindsey is also very motherly (almost Marian) in the part where Bud has to make that dive. But since they're husband and wife rather than son and mother, I figured it would make the post too long to explain this dynamic. (But of course I don't mind casually dropping it into the combox! =P)

What I like about Lindsey is how she subverts the "cast-iron b****" stereotype of what passed for a "strong woman" in the 80s. Her real strength doesn't come from acting like a man or an equal or (as what usually happens) a bully, but from tapping into her "feminine genius."

Enbrethiliel said...


PS--And while we're on the subject of the June theme . . . I must say that there's nothing wrong with going off-topic! ;-)

Paul Stilwell said...

I've been well, thanks!

Yes, her role in this is a refreshing one.

KW said...

We nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Stop on by to grab the badge and say hello!


Birdie said...

I've never seen this one. I'll have to add it to my list, for the gender implications if nothing else.

I'm sorry I've missed out on locus focus this week. Summer session teaching is more harrowing than I remember. *dramatic sigh*

Katie said...

Congratulations! I have awarded you The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. Visit this post at my blog, Secrets & Sharing Soda to pick up the badge and pay it forward. :-)

Enbrethiliel said...


Birdie -- That's all right! =) Life is more harrowing than I remembered, and I've unplugged for an entire week myself. No Locus Focus until next Saturday. I hope to see you there, but as usual, no pressure! =)