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About Deviant Member James FlaxmanMale/Australia Groups :iconmachete-girl-ezine: Machete-Girl-Ezine
 
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Shell of a Hedgehog by jflaxman
Shell of a Hedgehog

Though many doomsayers imagined a dystopian future under one world government, none predicted the old institutions would fall to the Global Gamers’ Union. This almost bloodless revolution was in hindsight not surprising. The greatest gaming franchises had already transcended national and cultural boundaries; and when playing in a team, people from all kinds of backgrounds were united by a common goal. In the eyes of many gamers, characters and mascots were more real than their parents’ gods and their exploits more exciting than stories from an age long gone. Respect and loyalty to others was now based less on race and class than their individual merits and ability to work in a team. The dystopian nightmare never ensued; the world under the GGU was a richer, fairer, safer one, ignoring the virtual carnage of wars now fought in cyberspace.

As old borders grew less relevant new ones came to matter more. This process was rarely violent – refugees from any group had little trouble finding others – but more dangerous schisms appeared within certain franchises. Unlike such longstanding feuds as Call of Duty vs. Battlefield   which, for all their savagery, rarely left the Internet – these internal conflicts spilled out into the real world.

The massive Sonic fanbase – which already suffered from deep rifts due to a convoluted canon and opinionated followers – was affected worst of all. Purists and revisionists, fundamentalists and heretics, sectarian and ecumenical groups fought with medieval savagery over minor differences in supposedly infallible but often contradictory lore. As outsiders watched in disbelief, the minority of Sonic fans who still showed signs of sanity tried to win the franchise back from extremists. In a desperate bid to save it, they abandoned everything except its central character, believing only Sonic could end these pointless and destructive wars. Even this was problematic, as Sonic himself had changed over time and his different incarnations made divisions even worse.

The Sonic Reformers’ final solution was a mere shell of the famous hedgehog, but one they said was necessary. As countless lives had already been lost over opinions of Sonic’s arms – which some traditions said were blue and others said were flesh-coloured – the Reformers avoided the issue by removing his arms altogether, though his white gloves were retained. Due to the potential for a schism based on leg colour they removed his lower limbs as well. The old problem of Sonic’s eyes – best expressed in the question “How do they work?” – had historically provoked less violence than inconclusive speculation, but the Reformers solved it the same way. The sole supporting character was a balloon called Helium, who spoke a high-pitched gibberish that could never contradict the statements their new Sonic made. When they unveiled their creation they were certain it would heal all wounds, eliminate all differences, and unite all Sonic fans.

Few actions have gone so disastrously wrong. Some people warmed to the new Sonic but the majority did not. The “Shell,” as it was derisively known, fostered new divisions among those who could afford no more. The resulting purges and reprisals were bloody but predictable. Most of the Sonic Reformers paid for their ideals with martyrdom, but few mistakes can be unmade and their infamous spawn lives on.

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I’m not posting so much work these days but I’m putting more time into it. This seems to be paying off; “The Desecration of Adam” went down much better than expected. I’ve had a hard time keeping up due to limited net access but I’m still amazed at the response. Some suggestions have been interesting – ADeviantRogue thought the picture would be improved if my Adam was holding a handful of money while TheRizz and DedHampster thought a less sinister clown would be more appropriate. I’m sure more talented artists could take these ideas further but I think I’ve done enough and have no urge to draw cherubs again.

 

Any piece so widely viewed is going to get negative feedback and some of it’s been justified. I was too hard on Michelangelo, though I was only criticising one small aspect of his work and have great admiration for the rest. As I explained to one viewer ancient Hebrew mythology describes cherubs as awe-inspiring creatures that look more like griffons or manticores and I’d find these more interesting than later interpretations. The chubby baby “cherubs” are more properly called “putti” and show up more often in Baroque and Rococo art, but that doesn’t change my preference for lion-eagle-human hybrids.

 

I don’t think my piece is incredibly deep or says anything original. The image seemed so obvious I looked for others like it online before I started work on it. Sure enough I found a few (though my Clown God and Fat Adam are firsts). It belongs in my “Lost and Forsaken” collection (black humour and pop culture parodies) more than “Allegorical” (darker and more serious work). One viewer thought it was pretentious, which suggests he’s new to modern art – if he really wants pretentious he should look the statements made by Rothko/Pollock imitators. The positive responses I’ve had show just how effective more traditional art forms can be. I might not be saying anything new, but I’ve made a statement in a powerful and accessible way that makes wall text unnecessary.

 

Moving on from criticism, my work has encouraged some worthwhile discussion about our attitudes to food. I’ve always been a bit confused when people say fast food is cheaper. In my experience it’s not, but I speak from an Australian perspective and things may be very different elsewhere. It’s certainly convenient and unless you’ve planned ahead it’s sometimes your only option. I spent six years in Ashfield, Sydney, a few minutes’ walk from a Nandos, McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Subway and KFC, and I wasn’t above the odd fix (just as I’m not above it now). I don’t think fast food should be banned, and as I’ve hopefully made clear, our choices make a difference even when they’re limited. I was pleased to see some viewers noticed one important detail – the clown’s offering fries to a man who obviously doesn’t need any more but is reaching for them anyway.

 

I doubt I’ll cause such a stir again soon but it’s encouraging to see a satirical piece go down so well. I’ve given more thought to satire after the recent Paris attacks. I’ve never had to deal with death threats and most likely never will but I’ve noticed my satirical work gets the craziest responses. None come close to VishnuofVideogames’ comment on “Pachuatl Manipochtli” which might be textbook schizophrenia or the work of an inspired troll. I never bothered to reply but it’s a fascinating read.

 

Most of the angrier comments I’ve had are much less imaginative and remind me of the claim “psychos have no sense of humour.” I don’t agree with this myself – plenty of psychotics laugh, if at times inappropriately – but some people react to satire in borderline psychotic ways. This might be expected when their beliefs are ridiculed – more so if believers have real political grievances, as many contemporary Muslims do – though shooting cartoonists is infantile and does nothing for their cause.

 

I’ve seen similar infantilism in pop culture devotees, though I doubt anyone will ever be shot (or sliced with a katana!) over Sonic the Hedgehog or My Little Pony. I know I’ve upset some fans, just as I know I’ve entertained others; “I’m a brony and I laughed” shows there’s hope for humankind. My best advice for those offended draws on better work than mine: the music of Rossini and Wagner and its later influence on Warner Brothers animators.

 

I’ve never had the patience to sit through hours of opera but I like some orchestral scores. Rossini’s mostly light and upbeat and it’s been good listening when my moods were the opposite. Wagner’s more dramatic and there’s a time and place for this too. People who don’t care for either might still appreciate parts of William Tell (which isn’t typical Rossini) as the perfect theme for galloping horses and The Ride of the Valkyries (which is quintessential Wagner) as great music for an air raid. I’ll always associate Rossini’s Italian Girl in Algiers with an adventurous ex-girlfriend and Wagner’s Faust Overture with the dark and stormy nights I preferred when working graveyard shifts. It’s worth comparing the composers: Rossini set out to entertain and quickly made a name for himself, wrote much less in later life but gave younger musicians help and support. Wagner struggled with debt, the law, and personal relationships but eventually had great success with the four operas of “The Ring” which appealed to German nationalists and humanist philosophers. His influence can still be heard in the film scores of today.

 

Rossini and Wagner have also inspired Bugs Bunny cartoons – “The Rabbit of Seville” and “What’s Opera Doc” – and you don’t have to like classical music to enjoy these parodies. A bit of background knowledge makes some moments funnier – Bugs’ line “O mighty warrior of great fighting stock,” addressed to Elmer Fudd in the latter, could be aimed at Nazism as much as Wagner’s incestuous storyline (Wagner was Hitler’s favourite composer and Warner Brothers employed many Jewish animators). I’ve often wondered what the composers would make of these cartoons. Given his sense of humour and his music’s wide appeal Rossini might appreciate them, but given his more serious themes and infamous anti-Semitism Wagner might be deeply offended. Anyone with strong attachments to more modern entertainment should at this point ask themselves “am I a Wagner or Rossini?” Should pop culture parodies be considered blasphemous or acknowledged as a source of fun – for others, if not for ourselves?

 

There’s another way to look at things and it’s possibly the best of all. My enjoyment of Rossini and Wagner hasn’t been affected by a cross-dressing cartoon rabbit and I appreciate all three. Parodies of things we like don’t always claim they’re bad or wrong and should not be taken personally. Even if some parodies are in poor taste we can ignore them; and enjoying parodies is not the same as hating those who like whatever has inspired them. This goes further than pop culture. If we all were less attached to the notions that divide us, more open to the views of others, and more able to laugh at ourselves our world would be a better place.

 

Thanks for your time,

JF

  • Mood: Joy
  • Listening to: Hollywood Persuaders - Drums a Go Go
  • Reading: Emails
  • Watching: DA Dramas
  • Playing: Nothing
  • Eating: Occasionally
  • Drinking: Mostly water

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jflaxman's Profile Picture
jflaxman
James Flaxman
Australia
Current Residence: Hobart, Australia
deviantWEAR sizing preference: L
Print preference: Varies
Favourite genre of music: Metal, classical, dark ambient
Favourite photographer: Archival
Favourite style of art: Surreal, imaginative, visionary
Operating System: Crappy old PC
MP3 player of choice: Loud
Shell of choice: Armed and mechanised
Wallpaper of choice: Skin
Skin of choice: Metal
Favourite cartoon character: Too many to name
Personal Quote: "So much work, so little time."
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:icontabeabd:
TabeaBD Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, what an incredible gallery! I especially love your allegorical works :)
Reply
:iconjflaxman:
jflaxman Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2015
Thanks heaps! The allegorical stuff's not always the most popular but I think it's my best work.
Reply
:icontabeabd:
TabeaBD Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm inclined to agree! It seems an artist's favorite works are never their most popular. And you've got yourself a new watcher.
Reply
:iconunholyoska:
UnHolyOska Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2015
You sir, are strange and it shows in your work - I love it!!!
Reply
:iconkindergartenteacher:
KindergartenTeacher Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2015
I watch way too many people already but I greatly admire your work. Add satire, *intelligent* satire at that, and one more watch is just irresistible. :+devwatch:
Reply
:iconrjbg:
RJBG Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2015
Incredible!
Reply
:iconstuff-by-jack:
Stuff-by-Jack Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2015  Student Filmographer
Hey there. Your art is absolutely amazing. I really like the dark pieces, some remind me a bit on Giger's work. 
Great job
Reply
:iconjflaxman:
jflaxman Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2015
Thanks! Giger's been an inspiration from the moment I first saw his work.
Reply
:iconflippythekiller:
flippythekiller Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
You know James I find the amount of detail that you put in your darker pieces of art quite remarkable, do you think I could steal a moment of your time?
Reply
:iconthecunningcondor:
TheCunningCondor Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2015   Artist
I feel like you and I may get along unusually well. We should talk sometime.
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