A Gun for George offers the new Walter Mitty for a 21st century.
Terry Finch is a frustrated pulp fiction author and eternal loner looking for brutal revenge on the mean streets of East Kent.
This short film offers a fascinating (and funny!) look at a few tropes that are instantly recognisable to any film fan. It has a vintage look, but takes place now(ish), deliberately mashing up past and present to embody those colliding impulses.
Hard-bitten, gritty, pulpy crime narratives: British television used to rule on this front, as Mr B has written about a few times here and there. It’s a trend that’s exploding again lately: tough, he-man grit, but it’s often one that can seemingly only happen in fantasy — either hedged around with nostalgia or set in an unquestioned past.
The appeal rests on the idea that average men, who once had the unquestioned assumption of male power and privilege, find that has been taken away or at least become complicated. Some blame the usual targets (women and minorities rather than patriarchy and capitalism), but these films and similar books show a world that many long for — one with uncomplicated interactions where good triumphs over evil even if it has to bend the rules to do so (think Dirty Harry and Charles Bronson films). It’s not purely a male fantasy.
However it has often been a genre without women, except as easily-discarded sex partners, dames to be rescued or mirrors for their manliness, and as well as one where the Other can be easily distinguished by visible markers (i.e. race or ethnicity). It’s a genre I’m writing in a lot lately, so I’m intrigued by all this backward splashing of nostalgia and modernity. Sometimes it is deliberately set in the past (like my story “Chickens”) but other times it’s happening right now (“Bill is Dead”). It’s about world building in either case: that’s what a lot of mimetic fiction writers don’t always get — it’s all about world building.*
[Need I add that most of the writers I’ve met working in the genre are not like Terry Finch, fine gentlemen and ladies who play nice and prove generally kind and inclusive to everyone? Naah, you know that.]
Let me get back to the film (instead of writing what will probably be my next PCA presentation on gender and nostalgia in noir fiction judging by this >_<). Yes, the film examines the place of the displaced 70s man of action. It’s also hilarious! It’s pure Dunning-Kruger in action (oh dear, another paper that wants to be written) because Terry Finch thinks he’s really an awesome tough-guy writer and everything we see demonstrates that he is not.
East Kent Grit: what a lovely concept.
Best laugh perhaps comes when a doctor cautions him, “If you must write, do it away from the sick and the vulnerable.” And his caravan! HAHAHAHA!
See the site for The Reprisalizer, Terry Fincher’s pulp star (“Real Name: Bob Shuter”). While it’s a bit neglected of late, it provides dead on, awesomely realistic creations of vintage pulpy goodness. The whole created world of Terry Finch shows such care and attention to detail. Wonderful!
See Todd’s blog for the round-up of overlooked gems.
*One of the reasons I have to spend so much time getting my students to visualise the medieval world; without a lot of explanation, my students tend to see history as just now with a hat on (a funny medieval hat in that instance). A lot of mimetic fiction neglects world building and often readers assume they know the world in which a story takes place only to be brought up short when they stumble across something that doesn’t fit their own experience.