I’ve got two comments that are ‘meta’ to yesterday’s post on Porco Rosso.
Funny Animals, NOT
Somewhere near the middle of that post I observed that, while talking animals are a convention often used in cartoons, the fact that Marco Pagot appears to be a talking pig cannot be attributed to that particular convention. Miyazaki is doing something else in Porco Rosso and is not calling on that convention. He’s just calling on the normal license of story tellers to include fantasy elements in their stories.
That seemed obvious to me when I drafted it and it remains obvious in retrospect. I note here that that observation didn’t occur to me until I drafted it yesterday, and that despite the fact that I’ve been thinking about this film off and on over several years and had written perhaps 20 or 30 pages of notes and correspondence prior to writing that post.
Why’d it take me so much time and effort to arrive at something so obvious? Perhaps it’s because I simply don’t think of Miyazaki in the context of thinking about “Three Little Pigs” or Porky the Pig. They’re different worlds. As such it simply didn’t occur to me to deny the convention of one world (funny animal cartoons) in the course of thinking about a film in a different world (Miyazaki features). Whatever the reason, I do think it useful to have made the connection and thus to have pointed out that different conventions apply to Porco Rosso.
My other comment is a bit obscure. It has to do with thinking about fictive worlds, which is common enough. That is to say, it’s common to think about the characteristics of the world invoked in this or that narrative. In doing so we separate the world from the particular narrative and ask: What kinds of things exist in this world? What kinds of actions and events can take place? I’ve done a post doing just that kind of thing for the worlds in most of Miyazaki’s feature-length anime.
I think that can be misleading. In the case of Porco Rosso it led me to ask whether or not it would be possible to have other pigmen in this world, or perhaps donkeymen or foxwomen. Yes, the story we’ve got has only one such creature; but could the imaginative world in fact admit of others? To be sure, I didn’t mention such questions in that post, but I asked them of myself as I was thinking about this film. And I had the sense that somehow they’re beside the point.
This anomalous person, this Marco Pagot slash Porco Rosso, exists not simply as a character in some imaginative world floating around in the imaginative ether, waiting for us to tell tales about it. That person exists specifically as a creature of the tale Miyazaki has crafted about him. As I emphasized in yesterday’s post, that person is THE PROTAGONIST in this story and his anomalous nature is as much a function of that role as it is of the imaginative world. Though the two things can be teased apart analytically – the world, the role – one cannot understand the creature (Marco Pagot slash Porco Rosso) except in the conjunction of the world AND the narrative.
Just why that is so I attribute to the mostly invisible and unknown machinery through which we tell and understand such stories.