Monday, April 25, 2011
[Title: Etymology; alt text: For some reason, my childhood suspension of disbelief had no problem with the fact that this ancient galaxy is full of humans, but was derailed by language. There's no Asia OR Europe there, so where'd they get all the Indo-European roots?]
Jesus fucking Christ, Randall.
Listen, we get it, you're quirky and nerdy and live in a rich fantasyland with the well-developed imagination you never bother using on your webcomic. You don't need to keep making comics about these made-up quirks you have in order to get your fans to fellate you.
No matter how you look at this strip it is fuck-off terrible. At first it appears to be advocating that science fiction movies should not use Earth languages if Earth does not exist in them. If the alt text is to be believed, Randy has always thought that such things were implausible! "Where do they get the Indo-European word roots?" asks child-Randy. "Why do these people speak English?" he demands. It would appear that he has never read the Lord of the Rings and doesn't understand the basic narrative convention that, in stories where the characters are meant to be speaking another language, they frequently instead speak English (or whatever language is native to the speaker), so that the native speakers will understand. In some stories, like the Lord of the Rings, the "translation" is actually mentioned as happening. In others, it's just assumed to be completely irrelevant.
This convention isn't unique to speculative fiction. Fiction that's set in a non-English-speaking culture or time period does it as well. Films like Gladiator, TV series like Rome. I'd compile a list if there weren't so goddamn many examples out there. I'd be willing to bet Randy didn't even consider this possibility when filing this arbitrary complaint, however--but if SF bothers him, this should bother him just as much. And yet!
Once you're ready to dismiss Randy as a complete moron, however, you realize that the nature of the complaint is weirdly specific. He isn't complaining that they are using English, but that they are using words with Indo-European word roots, because these roots come from Earth, and there is no Earth in Star Wars. Except--EXCEPT! Every single word on Earth comes from an Earth-based etymology. THEY ARE WORDS ON EARTH. So why is he complaining about this weirdly specific thing which ultimately means the same thing as the broader "they aren't speaking alien languages" complaint?
Some have suggested that maybe he's only complaining that their proper nouns aren't alien, but that's at least as stupid--more so, I think, because it's arbitrary. He doesn't mind them conversing in our language, but he objects to them not making up words to refer to their proper nouns.
Click that link I just made, if you haven't already. Remember when Randy complained that books that make up a bunch of words are dumb? Now notice how he's complaining that sci-fi movies don't make up a bunch of words--either all of them, or just some arbitrarily chosen ones, depending on your interpretation of his fuck-off idiocy.
I'm going to be honest: I agree with the sentiment in 483. I find it offputting when my SF stories contain a bunch of made-up words. Or even just randomly changing English word conventions! One of my biggest complaints about A Song Of Ice And Fire is how he insists on "ser" instead of "sir," and "Your Grace" rather than "Your Majesty" to refer to a royal, and some other things that don't immediately spring to mind. Their only purpose is to say "wooo, you're reading faaaaantasy" and it's just obnoxious.
And a huge part of the reason this bothers me is because the narrative convention where foreign and alien languages are translated into English is so necessary to storytelling, so embedded and taken for granted, that when you constantly throw out these random made-up words and needlessly different conventions you shatter the suspension of disbelief by constantly reminding them of the fact that they are reading a story.
But I shouldn't be so hard. This is just another attempt by Randy at making people think that he's quirky. He doesn't actually advocate this position, he's just pretending to adopt it because he thinks it makes him more endearing or interesting as a person.
Or maybe that's worse? I don't know. Is it worse to be stupid enough to actually be annoyed by the use of English in Star Wars, or to disingenuously pretend to be that stupid so people will like you more?