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  1. #16
    Class 5 Roaming Vapor BeastieRunner's Avatar
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    Space Opera is supposed to be simple and melodramatic.

    I think of Flash Gordan, Star Wars, Buck Rodgers, Skylark, Ender's Game, and Foundation before pretty much anything else in this thread.

    Comic book GotG and MCU GotG fit. As does Starlin's Adam Warlock.

    Mass Effect, Dune, 5th Element ... are far from simple. They're sci-fi.
    "Always listen to the crazy scientist with a weird van or armful of blueprints and diagrams." -- Vibranium

  2. #17
    Mad scientist Carabas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BeastieRunner View Post
    Space Opera is supposed to be simple and melodramatic.

    I think of Flash Gordan, Star Wars, Buck Rodgers, Skylark, Ender's Game, and Foundation before pretty much anything else in this thread.

    Comic book GotG and MCU GotG fit. As does Starlin's Adam Warlock.

    Mass Effect, Dune, 5th Element ... are far from simple. They're sci-fi.
    Space opera is supposed to be melodramatic. There is nothing in the definition about it having to be simple.

    How is Fifth Element less simple than Star Wars?
    Last edited by Carabas; 04-19-2017 at 01:29 PM.
    So this Zealot comes to my door, all glazed eyes and clean reproductive organs, asking me if I ever think about God. So I tell him I killed God. I tracked God down like a rabid dog, hacked off his legs with a hedge trimmer, and boiled off his corpse in an acid bath. So he pulls an alternating-current taser on me and tells me that only the Official Serbian Church of Tesla can save my polyphase intrinsic electric field, known to non-engineers as "the soul". So I hit him. What would you do?

  3. #18
    Mighty Member Angilasman's Avatar
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    'Space Opera' was coined because westerns were called 'Horse Opera.'

    We should start calling westerns 'Horse Opera,' again. Clint Eastwood gained international stardom in the '60s with his roles in popular Horse Operas.

  4. #19
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    honestly, never head of this term before. but Star Wars is the prime modern example for me. it's an action-packed melodrama in space with mystical and fantastic elements. it even makes use of post-Wagnerian leitmotifs and musical scores (to great effect).

    Opera wasn't always considered a 'high' art form... so a certain amount of contempt being built into the phrase 'space opera' makes sense.

    operas and theater were the go-to entertainment for a lot of people before movies were available. I don't think opera really started getting taken seriously as 'high art' until the 18th and 19th century (thanks in no small part to Wagner).

    for a couple hundred years I think it was sort of looked down on by a lot of people as being philistine mass entertainment: not unlike the films of Michael Bay or Zack Snyder.

    P.S.
    first I think of "Star Wars". second, I think of "Star Blazers!"

  5. #20
    Astonishing Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    People will argue the toss about what sci-fi is and even argue that it isn't the same as science fiction, so good luck defining what Space Opera is, in a way that everyone will agree with.

    For me the root of the term is the tone and scope of the drama. The word 'opera' in this context is meant to convey the grand human drama of the genre. It is a melodramatic genre.

    Star Wars is clearly influenced by Space Opera, but it isn't clear if it is actually an example of the genre because it contains elements of a number of sci-fi sub-genres. The definitions that focus on fantasy tend to make it fit better, but Space Opera isn't about fantasy, but about grand warfare and conflict with melodramatic elements. The fantasy definition is very much a post Star Wars definition.

    Perhaps the most important part of the wikipedia article is the section on definitions by contrast. By contrast to planetary romance, which is very much a cousin of fantasy, Space Opera is swashbuckling adventure but replacing high seas with space. Space ships are the main setting, combat is close quarters, the protagonist is usually free or a maverick and the antagonist is usually autocratic. The sensibility is pulp adventure and often shaped by the notions of the time they were written.

    An important thing to remember about genre classifications is that they are entirely based on the theory that genre establishes the context and scope of the narrative, what can happen and how it will be portrayed, what are called 'genre expectations'. In many ways the term Space Opera no longer carries a lot of meaning for modern audiences. If people find genre hard to define then genre theory collapses.

    Look at the list of examples of the genre on Wikipedia. The list is far too inclusive. How can Verhoeven's Starship Troopers be the same genre as Avatar for example? They have entirely different genre expectations. This both highlights the difficulties of genre classification and the failings of wikipedia as a definitive source.

    I note for example Firefly is listed. That one show highlights all of the problems with Genre theory. People love to claim it is a Space Western for example, or claim it is a mixed genre series. Most definitions conveniently forget all the other elements of the series, and how many other influences could potentially have been brought into the mix had the series continued.

    For genre theory to work we need to very quickly understand the conventions. Firefly is almost a proof that the theory is redundant, because we have a reasonable idea of what a valid Firefly story would be, yet we can't agree on its genre.

  6. #21
    Class 5 Roaming Vapor BeastieRunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carabas View Post
    Space opera is supposed to be melodramatic. There is nothing in the definition about it having to be simple.

    How is Fifth Element less simple than Star Wars?
    5th has WAY more complicated hidden themes than Star Wars for starters. Star Wars is in your face about it. But I am willing to concede the more I think about it that 5th is Space Opera, too.

    Simple isn't bad. Simple doesn't mean "dumbed down." Simple means clear. I think in this day and age the word simple is often misused as an insult to ideas. Foundation is a great example of being simple. It's a beautifully written melodramatic piece on what is means to be human, set in space. Simple theme. Simple characters. Complex ideas abound. Set in a GIANT backdrop. Great story brings all that together. Like a good Space Opera should.

    Those aren't bad things. They are all amazing.

    I tend to often think of Space Opera has having less science fiction and more science fantasy (like Flash or Star Wars). But it can have more high sci-fi elements as well (Foundation or Ender's Game).

    Back in the day, you had pulp opera (Julius Caesar) and meaningful opera (The Bohemians). Pulp doesn't mean it's bad, just doesn't challenge you as much. And meaningful doesn't mean it isn't fun. Flash Gordon is more in the pulp end of the Space Opera genre whereas Foundation would be meaningful Space Opera (sorry I couldn't think of a Flash-era film). Modern day, Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars would be closer to the pulp end while Serenity/Firefly and Starship Troopers could be on the more meaningful side of things.

    I've noticed calling Space Opera high or low brow always pisses people off. I don't think it really matters what your like or how you assign it. People are still too hung up on genres.
    "Always listen to the crazy scientist with a weird van or armful of blueprints and diagrams." -- Vibranium

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    Look at the list of examples of the genre on Wikipedia. The list is far too inclusive. How can Verhoeven's Starship Troopers be the same genre as Avatar for example? They have entirely different genre expectations. This both highlights the difficulties of genre classification and the failings of wikipedia as a definitive source.

    I note for example Firefly is listed. That one show highlights all of the problems with Genre theory. People love to claim it is a Space Western for example, or claim it is a mixed genre series. Most definitions conveniently forget all the other elements of the series, and how many other influences could potentially have been brought into the mix had the series continued.

    For genre theory to work we need to very quickly understand the conventions. Firefly is almost a proof that the theory is redundant, because we have a reasonable idea of what a valid Firefly story would be, yet we can't agree on its genre.
    except that people can casually say that "Starship Troopers" and "Avatar" are both 'science fiction' or 'adventure' films. both take place in futuristic space settings. they both feature journeys of personal discovery, war, and alien vs human conflict. both films had pretty leaden scripting and ham-fisted dialogue and were maudlin and melodramatic. oh, and they were both essentially didactic morality plays. the biggest difference between the two is that "Starship Troopers" also attempted to use moments of parody and satire with mixed results. "Avatar", by contrast, was deadly serious throughout to the point of being silly. the genre expectations aren't as pronounced as what people expected from each director based on their previous films. apart from some personal stylistic differences on the part of each director these two films have more common attributes and features than they have pronounced differences.

    you're going to need a lot more than just one show (Firefly) to try and suggest that "Genre theory" is invalid. especially since it's not too hard to dispute your assertion that "Starship Troopers" and "Avatar" must, of necessity, be considered different genres of films. neither film could be considered 'hard science fiction'. and the concept that a single film could exist in multiple genres is hardly a new one: is "Alien" a science fiction movie OR a horror movie? it's not even a 'trick question'. it easily falls within both categories. and it's not really a big deal either way.

    if people want to call "Firefly" a Space Western that's perfectly fine. it's not an unreasonable claim to make. just because you want to see "Firefly" as existing outside of 'genre' doesn't mean that it's immune to being labeled in this or that genre for the sake of convenience.

    we're allowed to have differences of opinion. no harm done. I honestly can't think of "Mass Effect" or "the Fifth Element" as being deep or thought-provoking. if that stuff really makes you 'think' then great. more power to you.

    we don't watch films without bringing our own beliefs and experiences along with us. for some people, a movie can be profoundly moving and deeply personal in significance. for other people that same film could be tedious and unrewarding.

    sure, Wikipedia is not a definitive source. but, my frustration here, is that the people who are most quick to point this out almost never provide the 'serious research' and 'theoretical framework' to even invalidate the wiki-articles they complain about.

    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    "If people find genre hard to define then genre theory collapses."
    over-reach, of epic proportions. perhaps "Genre Theory", as you define it, collapses... but the idea of genres is still applicable. and, to be honest, apart from some film students and literary scholars most people aren't even going to think of genre in such rarefied and strict terms.

    people were speculating about how 'tonal music' was somehow 'dead' a century ago, and that it could never recover. and much of this speculation was based on the idea that twelve-tone theory would supplant more traditional tonal theories. one of the biggest failings of twelve-tone theory is that it started with an abstract theory and then imposed this on the art form of music as a whole. it was essentially trying to impose a certain type of philosophy and world view on the act of creating (and listening to) music. rather than interpret the works of music of that time and develop a sensible architecture and formal logic to explain what was happening...a lot of music theoreticians renounced tonal music as 'dead' or 'finished' because they had decided that there was nothing further of interest to be found in tonal music. (and a lot of this was motivated by ethnocentrism, nationalism, racism, etc) the theory wasn't based on observing patterns and practices in music... but rather it was attempting to dictate the forms, practices, and techniques to be used in all future music... regardless of whether it was what people wanted or not. that's asking for quite a lot from a theory!

    this new form of music required a tremendous amount of theoretical knowledge to even comprehend. most people simply could not rise to the challenge, shrugged indifferently, and walked away. it was, simply put, too unpredictable and beyond the mental scope of most people to understand. and so, here we are a century later, and 'tonal music' is still the almost absolutely dominant form of music in the Western world. and the working definition of tonal music has only been slightly modified since that time.

    in a similar vein, I believe arguments that 'genre is dead' are equally misguided and destined to fail. somebody will want to choose Westerns over Sci-Fi. others will pick Adventure over Romance, etc. still others will contemptuously turn their noses up at the idea of superheroes but love slice-of-life stories or autobiographies. people, by their very nature, are prone to categorize, discriminate among, and organize things; to apply labels. this desire/need will never go away.

    now, perhaps you're only criticizing 'Genre Theory' in some very particular sense. but it sounds like you're trying to argue that genre is meaningless as a concept. and that's a quest that I believe is bound to fail.

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