Tuesday's Top Tunes – Watchmen Soundtrack & New Contest

Now that it’s only a couple of days away, I am really excited for the release of Watchmen. Last night, my brethren and I (the men and women of the Mediaphilia dorm) had a great time picking apart various early reviews, including this stinker from Anthony Lane of the New Yorker. Now, I haven’t seen the movie and it’s entirely possible that the movie is merely ok or even bad, but a review that lambasts the movie for being pseudo-intellectual and pretentious is really ironic coming from the New Yorker.
Lane manages to load the review with comic book reader stereotypes (“leering 19-year olds” “whose deepest fear [is]… meeting a woman who requests intelligent conversation”) that are so tired they’re laughable, all while missing the point of the comic and movie so completely that it led a fellow Mediaphiliac to smirk, “It’s so much fun to see a New Yorker writer completely outsmarted by a comic book.” Lane claims that, “Whether [the] Watchmen have true superpowers, as opposed to a pathological bent for fisticuffs, I never quite worked out” and that “The problem is that Snyder, following Moore, is so insanely aroused by the look of vengeance, and by the stylized application of physical power, that the film ends up twice as fascistic as the forces it wishes to lampoon.” No shit. Congratulations, you recognized the two things about the comic book that made it stand out from the genre when it was published and for which it is beloved, and yet completely failed to understand them.
All of that was a long preamble to this discussion about the soundtrack to the film.
Watchmen-soundtrack.pngI think it’s an incredibly interesting, bordering on weird, selection of songs. I’m going to guess that “Ride of the Valkyries” is going to be used in a Comedian Vietnam flashback, considering how that usage in Apocalypse Now is so firmly ingrained in the popular culture. The Philip Glass track from Koyyanisqatsi was used in a trailer and I can see it being used in the film. Because its a cover of a classic Dylan track and that its from the only artist of the 21st century, I think “Desolation Row” will be playing over the credits. As you can see from the lyrics here, “Pirate Jenny” is the Kurt Weill song that narrates the story of the Black Freighter (which we have been promised will appear on the DVD).
Taking those songs out of consideration, we are left with a collection of songs from classic 20th century songwriters. I am a little concerned that some of these songs will be used a little too heavy-handedly. I am already imagining a wince from the line “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” in “Me and Bobby McGee.” But, in keeping with the original goal of this series, all are top tunes.
Now, the contest. In Anthony Lane’s review, he uses the phrase “cod mythology,” a Google search of which brings up only references to literal cod mythology and message boards trying to figure out what cod mythology means in reference to the review. I will give a digital blue ribbon, and a place on my new contests page, to the person who comes up with the definition of cod mythology or the most entertaining attempt. Here’s the original context:
The world of the graphic novel is a curious one. For every masterwork, such as “Persepolis” or “Maus,” there seem to be shelves of cod mythology and rainy dystopias, patrolled by rock-jawed heroes and their melon-breasted sidekicks.

5 responses to “Tuesday's Top Tunes – Watchmen Soundtrack & New Contest”

  1. Nothing much to add regarding Lane’s stupendously lazy “review”. I’d respect it more if he was honest and said “I don’t like comics so I haven’t read or researched the original”, rather than the clumsy pre-emptive excuse of “not as worthy as Maus or Persepolis”.
    Anyway, just posting because I saw some other posts on the internet who are puzzled by “cod mythology”. Perhaps it’s a question of idiom, but as a native Brit (as Lane is) the phrase made sense to me immediately, even if it’s misapplied here.
    I think it’s meant in the sense of “cod psychology” or “cod philosophy”, for which Google returns some examples. Cod psychology is when something apes the language or popular concepts of psychological analysis, but is underneath just mumbo-jumbo, or inanity trying to pass itself of as profundity. General quackery, in short. Similarly: cod science, cod philosophy … cod mythology?
    Have just realized that you probably wanted a *witty* definition of what it might mean in context of Lane’s review. Oh well.

  2. Cod mythology or cod-mythology is an invented mythology contained in a writer’s, artist’s or filmmaker’s work, but most frequently a feature of science fiction and fantasy books and movies. I don’t know the source of the term.

  3. I think “cod mythology” is a reference to the myth being propogated by the Canadian government and other interested parties that posits a connection between an increased number of seals and the catastrophic depletion of North Atlantic cod stocks. As in, “we need to kill more baby seals so the cod stocks can recover”.
    The collapse of the Northwest Atlantic cod fishery has become a metaphor for ecological catastrophe and is universally cited as an example of failed management of a natural resource(MacKenzie 1995). The denial that greeted the first reports recommending massive reductions in cod quotas (e.g. Lee 1990) has given way to a broad acceptance that the cod stocks were abused, and require time to rebuild.
    “Various hypotheses have been advanced for the demise of these once abundant stocks, some of which are related to physical changes in habitat. Cold water, reduced salinity, and other environmental parameters have been posited as components of the problem by reputable researchers (e.g. Dunbar 1993). Research on other Atlantic cod stocks has indicated that factors such as temperature can be significant determinants of stock recruitment (Ottersen et al. 1994;Nilssen et al. 1994). There is no unambiguous evidence supporting claims for such a relationship in the Northwest Atlantic, and the only statistically significant relationship that has been demonstrated ties the decline of cod simply to over-fishing (Hutchings and Myers 1994).
    “Efforts to find a culprit other than the fishery have created a great deal of confusion in media accounts of the issue. The politicians whose decisions permitted the destruction of the stock, and elements of the fishing industry that caught too many fish and is now suffering as a consequence, have been especially prodigious sources of alternative theories. Chief mong these has been the contention that seals are eating so many cod that cod population recovery is being constrained (e.g. Whiffen 1994; Jackson 1995).”
    Lane gives a nod to “Persepolis” and “Maus,” as examples of graphic novels that realize their full artistic potential. (Most people who are familiar with graphic novels, including me, would include Watchmen in that list.) But in the final clause in his opening sentence (“there seem to be shelves of cod mythology and rainy dystopias, patrolled by rock-jawed heroes and their melon-breasted sidekicks”) he consigns most graphic novels, including Watchmen, to that category of secret porn that nerd boys read late at night because their mommy’s will yell at them if they catch them reading Playboy or Penthouse.
    So, his use of the term “cod mythology” refers to the “myth” that most graphic novels, including Watchmen, are high art, when, in fact, they are nothing but drek.
    I think the real point is that if we don’t understand “cod mythology” we’re a bunch of dolts. We’re not smart enough to understand the subtle, intellectual beauty of Anthony Lane’s review, and we don’t deserve to read a sopisticated thinking person’s publication like The New Yorker.

  4. Thanks for the entries. In response to your points about the review, to everybody I’ve talked to (and both of the commenters here who have addressed the review) the reference to Maus and Persepolis seems to have struck a nerve. It seems like a feigned respect for some comic books has been a recurring theme in Watchmen reviews, but this review is particularly bad about it. For one, both novels use the graphic form without using traditional subject matter (giving the impression that the traditional subject matter is not to be bothered with) and both deal with historical events. In the sarcastic words of another one of my dormmates, “One’s about the Iranian Revolution. The other is about the Holocaust. How can a New Yorker writer not like them?”

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