Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Tin Foil, Bad Teeth and Easter Eggs
I finished reading this yesterday:
The story was okay, but what interested me more is the story behind the story. This book provides a somewhat fictitious backstory for James Hampton. Hampton is an artist not many know by name, but he created a work of assemblage art that is now displayed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Hampton, who was a janitor, would scavenge his materials from people's trash cans and discarded furniture, using burned-out lightbulbs, old cardboard and scraps of tin foil to create his vision of Heaven:
I love finding out about hidden artists. People who create in order to express their own truth, or just for the sake of being creative, rather than seeking celebrity and money.
The other thing that amazed me happened just this morning. I've mentioned my 6th grade Scary Stories class more than a few times, and today I showed them an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? that I hadn't ever used before. This episode, "The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner" centers on a kid named Ethan who wants to become a comic book creator. An extremely rare comic book which introduces a super villain known as the Ghastly Grinner falls into his possession, and he unwittingly brings the supervillain to life. His classmate, an awkward, nerdy girl named Hooper Picalaro ends up being his sidekick in the battle. But before the viewer even knows anything about the villain or what is to come, we meet Hooper:
With that first glimpse of the character, one of the kids remarked "She's wearing a cape?", because of the way her sweater is fastened around her neck using only the top button.
He thought he was just making a wisecrack, but afterwards I told him how impressed I was by his observation. It's an entire story about comic books, good guys and bad guys, and the power of creativity, so it makes perfect sense! I wonder if it's just a coincidence, or if it was intentional. Based on the way she is introduced, we would never think of her as being a superhero(ine), but after Ethan defeats the Grinner, she ends up having to save Ethan.
I shared with the class how much I enjoy watching these episodes with them and talking about them because since they are watching them for the first time with completely fresh eyes and no knowledge of the endings, they tend to notice things that I don't.
And as I was watching the Ghastly Grinner in action, I couldn't help but notice his unsightly smile:
It goes back to my theory regarding how dental health and appearance can be a metaphor for what's inside a character.
I'm not alone in my observations either, because there are plenty of Are You Afraid of the Dark bad guys who need a good flossing.
But another cool thing about this character is that he appears in other episodes of the show in subtle allusions.
In "The Tale of Station 109.1", one of my favorites because it features Gilbert Gottfried and a young Ryan Gosling, there's a poster of the Grinner on the bedroom door:
And in "The Tale of C7", Jason's little sister Lisa is seen reading a Ghastly Grinner comic book:
Who doesn't love a 90's, cult TV show Easter egg?