For those lucky few living in Chicago, where everything that ever happens happens (eat your heart out, Mr. Kitchell), note that, this weekend, Landmark’s Century Cinema is digitally projecting midnight screenings of Space Jam, yes, Space Jam. I mention this because I really want to direct your attention to Michael Castelle’s write-up on the film, courtesy of the weekly movies email Cine-File (which is well worth subscribing to):
While conventionally considered a film of little theoretical interest, former Chicago gay rights activist and linguistics professor Michal Brody has cogently argued (in the proceedings of a 2001 conference) that Space Jam bears many unusual correspondences to the thousand-year old Popol Vuh mythology of the Quiché Maya kingdom (now the highlands of western Guatemala). Consciously or unconsciously, the film’s writers have developed a narrative in which a pair of heroes (Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan) 1) are summoned to play a high-stakes underworld ball-game against a variety of frightening villains, 2) manage to defeat those villains through the heroes’ summoning of extra-human ability, and 3) ascend from the underworld with a glowing orb, all of which occur in the Popol Vuh. While the details vary (in the Popol Vuh, the heroes intend to retrieve the head of their father, Hunahpu; whereas in Space Jam, the villains have stolen the talent of NBA stars such as Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing), the congruence is remarkable. Brody also shows that the well-known phonetic irregularities of, e.g., Daffy Duck and Sylvester are quite analogous to those of ancestral characters in a variety of native cosmologies. Otherwise best known for its perpetuity of wince-inducing composite effects work and the controversial, heteronormative “Lola Bunny” subplot, the film additionally includes the R. Kelly quiet-storm ballad “I Believe I Can Fly.”
Brody’s 2001 paper on the topic (“Invoking the Ancestors: Edward Sapir, Bugs Bunny, and the Popol Vuh”) is here (PDF).
I will now leave you with the obligatory link to the original Space Jam movie website.
Tags: Cine-File, Michael Castelle, Michal Brody, Popol Vuh, Space Jam
And I can’t tell you how conflicted I was to find that no one else at HG has written anything so far regarding Space Jam. Let a bold new day dawn.