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Hey Greg! Hope that you're doing well, and that the holiday season is treating/did treat (depending on when you read this) your family happily.
What follows is a paper I recently submitted to my Contemporary Political Theory class at Pomona College, interrelating several of the concepts from the book we discussed that week ("You Are Not a Gadget" by Jaron Lanier) with the notion of namelessness in traditional gargoyle culture.
My professor (unfamiliar with the show, but very intrigued when I explained it to her) really got a kick out of the piece, and I earned a more-or-less "A-" equivalent for it. But as long as I've got it sitting around, I figured you might enjoy giving it a read as well.
[NOTE: You may want to review this post you made on Ask Greg in 2004 beforehand, as it is cited frequently: http://www.s8.org/gargoyles/askgreg/search.php?rid=387].
Now, without further ado, the essay. It has been edited from the submitted version only by rearranging paragraph breaks...
The 1994 animated television series Gargoyles posits a highly intelligent species which dominated the Earth prior to human genesis and ascendance.
These gargoyles possess a unique culture which predates humanity's by a significant period, but the first on-screen depiction of the gargoyle species takes place in the 10th century, after millions of years of convergent evolution between the two cultures.
Indeed, the pilot episodes depict the essential death of one lingering component of gargoyle culture, at least for the series protagonists: that gargoyles lack personal names. This idea is first discussed in a conversation between two gargoyles and a human boy:
TOM: I'm Tom. What's your name?
GARGOYLE #1: Except for Goliath, we don't have names.
TOM: How do you tell each other apart?
GARGOYLE #1: We look different.
TOM: But what do you call each other?
GARGOYLE #2: (shrugs) Friend.
For context, "Goliath" is the leader of the clan of gargoyles to which the protagonists belong, and their liaison to the humans with whom they share an uneasy alliance; those humans felt incapable of dealing with a nameless entity, and Goliath did not bother to reject the name they selected for him.
Still, he does not use the name in communicating with his own clan until a betrayal by their human allies and a magical curse cause the protagonists to sleep as statues and then reawaken in 20th century Manhattan.
Here they meet and befriend Elisa Maza, a police detective who is both confused by and - for reasons she has trouble articulating - uncomfortable with this traditional lack of names. The following exchange takes place between Elisa and the clan's elderly mentor:
ELISA: Are you coming on the tour…uh, what do I call you, anyway?
GARGOYLE: Must you humans name everything? Nothing's real to you till you've named it, given it limits!
ELISA: It's not like that! It's just that…well, uh…things need names.
GARGOYLE: Does the sky need a name? Does the river?
ELISA: The river's called the Hudson.
GARGOYLE: (sighs) Fine, lass…then I will be 'the Hudson' as well.
ELISA: Great! Hudson it is.
From that point onward, that particular gargoyle is known as Hudson, and only Hudson.
The younger gargoyles who survived the centuries follow suit; the two who conversed with Tom become Lexington and Brooklyn, for example. And Goliath more-or-less fully accepts the moniker afforded him by the Dark Age humans.
As Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman points out, "naming is clearly addictive," and once they are established the convenience they offer makes doing away with them virtually impossible. Thus, for the Manhattan Clan of gargoyles, namelessness largely remains a thing of the past for the remainder of the series.
In "You Are Not a Gadget," Jaron Lanier describes the phenomenon experienced by these gargoyles using the term "lock-in."
As Lanier puts it, "lock-in…removes design options based on what is easiest to program, what is politically feasible, what is fashionable, or what is created by chance." Furthermore, the process "also reduces or narrows the ideas it immortalizes, by cutting away the unfathomable penumbra of meaning."
Despite originally referring to programming language, this is a perfect description of the process that "Hudson" has been subjected to in the previous scene.
Names are a method of defining identity, which necessarily must involve "giving it limits." But in traditional gargoyle culture, identity has greater meaning than that; it is amorphous, and changes with the circumstances.
The gargoyle who first made a compact with the humans at Castle Wyvern is the same gargoyle who mated three times and produced three progeny; he is the same gargoyle who fought the evil Archmage and received a wound that blinded him in one eye; he is the same gargoyle who slept for centuries and once awakened, found himself fascinated with the television show "Celebrity Hockey."
Does one name - Hudson - really encapsulate all of these aspects of his identity?
In-and-of-itself, all it signifies is that the place Hudson awoke in was modern-day New York (a cut line from the episode's script even has Elisa commenting, "Good thing we weren't facing Queens," emphasizing with humor how off-hand and esoteric the choice was).
That name was "locked-in" as the full and entire representation of the character from that point onward, solely because it was politically feasible (it makes dealing with Elisa and later human allies far more expedient), it was fashionable (every other intelligent being in 1994 New York has a name, so why not the gargoyles?), and it was created by chance (quite literally in this case, as the "Queens" quote illustrates).
And the result is that the very meaning of his identity is narrowed. He is no longer capable of being someone at a particular moment, and someone else in the next.
He is always Hudson.
There is an even greater story here, however, which Weisman's later musings have helped to illuminate. As he once observed, "Gargoyles don't seem to have a native language. They acquire human language, perhaps much the same way that they acquire names…And language, in many ways, is just sophisticated naming."
This is a compelling point. As he later notes, a different and arguably much more persuasive response that Elisa could have offered is that the river is called "the river."
Languages are systems for describing objects, concepts, actions, etc. using strict and uniform definitions, confining them to names that society calls words.
But does a name like "the sky" really fully encapsulate the meaning inherent within the depths that humans observe from below? Does it even begin to provoke a holistic understanding of its astronomical, religious, chemical, or poetic contexts?
And even more to the point, what of metaphysical concepts like "justice"? Can a single clear definition even exist for such a weighty and nebulous notion - and if not, does sticking the name "justice" to it not necessarily limit it?
Lanier certainly appears to believe so. As he conceives it, the system of symbology under which all current human languages operate is itself a lock-in; at best, a "middleman" between intent and "directly creating shared experience" that he wants to work to cut out.
His method for doing so is improvements on virtual reality, until researchers develop "the ability to morph at will, as fast as we can think."
Lanier envisions a world where the rather simplistic words "I'm hungry" will not be the only way to communicate the sensation which has brought them on - instead, he sees potential in the power of virtual reality technology to place us in the bodies of others, as a way to intimate the sensation itself.
Humanity would no longer have to be limited to extracting some piece of the concept it calls "hunger," giving it that name, and using it as code so that others who know the symbology of the English language will understand some approximation of that concept.
The concept would simply be understood, and communication would be a straightforward matter of imparting that understanding.
But perhaps there is an even better solution than this - although one that is, unfortunately, largely forgotten.
Presented with the puzzle that gargoyles are highly gregarious and intelligent by nature and yet appear to lack any notion of their own language, Weisman has mused that perhaps, long before human language evolved and became the locked-in method for communication, the gargoyle species possessed "mild psychic abilities that left them with no need to create language."
While emphasizing that he was only asserting a possibility, the communication he imagines - where it was not "words that they intuited (or transmitted or read or whatever) but emotions, maybe images or sensations" - sounds exceedingly similar to what Lanier hopes to achieve through virtual reality.
Such communication would be consistent with what audience knows about pre-human gargoyle culture, where definition and identity are situational as opposed to consistently codified.
But if that is the case, it leads to a rather lamentable conclusion. As Weisman puts it, "perhaps the very language skills that gargoyles learned from the human race dampened their psychic intuitiveness;" in other words, lock-in of a very particular method of communication (symbology) "locked-out" another method that presented communicative possibilities human technology can currently only dream of.
The initial insistence on not using personal names, then, can be considered a lingering hold-out of a bygone era where every concept was considered unlimited, and every sensation intimated in their full depth.
In dealing with nascent human cultures, gargoyles must have gradually accepted the limiting of concepts like "sky" or "river" because this made interspecies congress significantly more efficient, but they resisted the longest on the limiting of the very depths of the self.
But with the permanent instatement of "Hudson" and the rest, there does not appear to be room to return to the possibilities an unlimited identity presents. Human language has killed them.
Of course, both the gargoyle race and their culture are fantastical constructions, but that does not necessarily mean that humans cannot learn from their fictional example.
While humans do not seem to share these "mild psychic abilities" (although there are some who would vehemently disagree with that statement) that Weisman hypothesizes, that there are methods of sensation and communication which precede language skills is clearly documented.
As with gargoyles, members of the species Homo sapiens did exist well before the development of the earliest known language, and while current understanding of those early cultures is limited at best, there is also a much more immediate example to turn to.
Newborns spend a few years before they learn to define the world around them in the code of words - the sun is an experience to them long before the strictly defined, limiting name of "the sun" is ever applied to it.
The depths of what could be learned from observing children raised without learning language skills, interpreting sensations and intimating them to others via methods of their own device, are boundless; of course, the enormous ethical travesty presented by such experiments means they are not a viable avenue for inquiry.
So instead, humans turn to fiction - attempting to realize through others what that they have long since lost, and yearn to find again.
Greg Weisman has often described gargoyle culture, and pre-human gargoyle culture specifically, as something of a wish fulfillment for him. "I'm such a human," he laments with a written-out sigh, "But I aspire to gargoylosity."
Well, if the virtual reality morphing that so excites Jaron Lanier can indeed allow humans to experience sensation as a pre-human gargoyle (or a pre-language human, or a baby, or even a cephalopod) did/does - if it has the potential to turn the clock back as well as forward, and show what it is like for things simply to be, without the cumbersome and restrictive middleman of naming them - then perhaps that is an aspiration that more humans should share.
At first, when you mentioned 'You Are Not a Gadget', I couldn't help thinking the follow-up statement would be 'You Are a Chip, a Dale or a Monterey Jack'. Talk about lock-in.
Anyway, is it immodest to say that your essay warmed my heart? I enjoyed reading it. And I found it quite insightful. I do believe my own thinking has evolved since I wrote that ramble on gargoyles' latent psychic abilities. My thinking now is less psychic and more intuitive based on sensory clues.
But it doesn't change my positive response to your thesis. And it also speaks to one of my goals - perhaps even needs (NEEDS) - as a writer. Using words, multiple, multiple words, in an attempt to reach beyond the lock-in that comes with words like river or sun or Hudson or, most especially, Greg. The original version of Hudson's line was something like: 'Nothing is real to you until you've named it, defined it, given it limits.' More words to more fully illustrate the concept. And often in my writing I find myself trying to paint pictures with more and more words in an almost poetic sense. That verbosity is often counterproductive when writing dialogue. But I LIKE to think it lends - even when cut back and cut down - a certain depth to the dialogue. But it's a constant push and pull in my writing between trying to find just the one right word and using many, many to paint that fuller picture.
Hello, Mr Weisman,
This isn't so much of a question as it is a mini-review:
Holy cow. "Darkest" was so intense that I was an emotional wreck by he end of the episode. I was feeling sorry for every character (well, every character who isn't a flat out villan) who appeared in the episode. The supreme irony I noticed? For someone who said that he didn't want to be like Batman, Nightwing is sure shaping out to be a lot like his mentor. I have to give especial props to Jesse McCartney and Jason Spisak for their excellent acting during Dick and Wally's confrontation. Just... wow.
Agreed. Jesse and Jason just rocked that. (Props to Voice Director Jamie Thomason too!)
Wow...talk about kicking things up a notch! "Satisfaction" and "Darkest" have been stellar...just when I thought the show couldn't get more twisted, the knife cuts a little deeper. It hurts -- but in a good way!
Anyway, question about the way in which episodes have been organized in Season 2. Unless, I'm reading too much into it, the first 10 episodes feel very clearly divided into 3 arcs.
Ep. 1-3 - The Krolotean threat, the 5-day timespan, the mystery of the 16 hours culminating in the League leaving for Rimbor. That last one especially felt like a dramatic endpoint.
Ep. 4-6 - Red Arrow's recovery, the re-introduction of Wally, Blue Beetle's spotlight. And the ending of "Bloodlines" being a super-dramatic endpoint.
Ep. 7-10 - The short timespan, the Aqualad/Artemis undercover plot.
If this was intentional, would you mind elaborating on your thought process behind this method of organization?
Also, if there was a similar organizational method in Season 1, I'd love to hear about that as well!
201-203 definitely and intentionally portrayed the Krolotean threat, but I'm not sure it was us creating a "clearly divided arc". And after that I think you're off target. Ending your second section at episode 206 seems a bit arbitrary. You could just as easily end at 207, where things REALLY changed. Or create four "arcs" or whatever suits you.
So, basically, no. We broke Season Two down into two sections: 201-210 and 211-220. Anything else is just, well, the ebb and flow of events. Some episodes flow more directly into others, but I'm not sure I'd use the term "arc" to define that.
As for Season One, you could break it down as follows:
101-102 - Pilot.
103-108 - Intentionally designed to feature one character per episode (without losing complete track of the rest of the Team in the process).
109-113 - Finishing out the first half of the season.
114-126 - The second half of the season.
I think that's as intentional as we got.
hi greg its me again, i made an error on the comment about spectacular spiderman, what i meant to say was conceal dr conners's identity as the lizard instead of using disclosed.
Um... okay. Thanks for the correction.
I am doing a college project and wanted to know your own opinion on Young Justice becoming its own live action movie. Do you think it would be a success and if you have any comments or suggestions I will be glad. Also is it aimed at young children or teenagers? Thank you
What class is THIS project for?
Anyway, I'd love for YJ to be remade as a live-action movie. I'd hope it would be successful. And, like the show, I assume it would be aimed at ALL ages.
But I'm not sure what comments or suggestions you're looking for. How can I comment on something that doesn't exist?
I have a couple of questions about the Cave.
1. To what extent did the League use the Cave? Was it just a base and meeting room, or did people live there? Or were the living quarters and gym added when the Team moved in?
2. Did you (or rather, someone on the design crew) map out the Cave, or are storyboard artists given free reign? For example, in Homefront, they follow a specific path. To what degree was their route mapped out?
3. Also in Homefront, they run past what appears to be old generators (that promptly overload). What are those?
1. No one lived there back when the League used the Cave as their full-time headquarters, but it was built with enough forethought to include living quarters and various amenities.
2. Brandon has the basics of the Cave mapped out (at least in his head). I'll admit, I at times get confused, and he's had to - more than once - sketch it out on a napkin for me (or somesuch).
3. I'm not sure which scene you're referring to. Was it the Boiler Room scene?
Hi! I would just like to say that you are doing an awesome job. When the beginning of season 2 aired I freaked out because of the time skip and the "loss" of some of our heroes. But I forced myself to be patient and wait it out... and then you brought Artemis and Wally (my fave characters!) back into the mix in such an awesome way! So kudos for the great plot twists!
Here's my question: How old is Zat---- Just kidding!!
No questions, just praise! Keep up the good work :]
Thanks for having patience. It really is appreciated.
Greg, did you and Brandon team up with David Karp in order to maximize on our feels tomorrow?
I'm sorry, but I don't know who David Karp is, which I suppose makes it clear that we didn't team up with him. I'm sure he's probably a really nice guy though.
Also, I'm not sure I would know how "to maximize on [your] feels" if I tried.
But, congrats! You succeeded in maximizing how OLD I feel.
1) Okay, so the League definitely knows that Lex Luthor is a member of the Light at this point. So how's he getting away with openly running a major corporation?
2) Was Project Cadmus a US government program in this continuity? Or a privately-run corporation?
1. How do they stop him?
2. Privately run.
I just wanted to compliment you and your colleagues for Satisfaction. Your follow-up of the Artemis and Roy storylines made this one of my favorite episodes.
Not only do we get emotional impact, we get the Roy/Mercy battle....one of the most bad-ass sequences in the whole series.
There are certain moments and scenes from the previous DC animated series and earlier YJ episodes that stand out for me. The battle joins that list. Kudos to everyone involved in the episode.
1. Assuming Nightwing's acrobatic abilities are the same in this as they are in the comics, is he capable of the Quadruple sommersault?
2. Has Superboy developed anymore Kryptonian powers, or is he still limited by his human DNA?
3. Who is faster, Impulse or Kid Flash?
1. I don't know. But I wouldn't assume anything of the sort.
2. What you see is what you get.
3. Impulse. (Haven't we CLEARLY established this - even back when you posted this question?)
Does Wonder Woman's Lasso have its truth powers in your version? I'm guessing Wonder Girl's doesn't have its Zeus' lightning powers or she would have used it by now...?
1. Honestly, I haven't decided. I'm leaning toward a version of it. You can't lie when tied up by it, but you can't be compelled to tell the truth either - or compelled to do anything. And, of course, lying isn't the same as being wrong. So untruths can be told, if the teller believes them.
2. No lightning powers.
I was wondering if you read Hellboy at all? It just occurred to me recently that the use of folklore and mythology in the series is kind of in the same vein as Gargoyles!
I've read some Hellboy and seen both movies. I see some overlap, though we did Gargoyles long before I read any Hellboy.
If you were given the opportunity to write a comic based on one of the young heroes that you have used, who would it be?
I'm writing a comic. It's called Young Justice. Check it our.
To start, I want to let you know that YJ is currently my favorite show, and I can't wait to see it each week.
My question is about Kyle Rayner. I remember hearing that in the past on multiple DC shows, certain characters (notably Nightwing in JLU and Donna Troy/Wonder Girl in almost ANYTHING) were off limits due to licensing issues (or something to that effect, I was never great at the legalese). I also noted that Kyle Rayner's only appearances as a Green Lantern were in Superman: TAS (where they made him into Hal Jordan with a different name) and briefly in JLU (where he had very little characterization). In many other shows and movies based off DC lore, when Kyle is supposed to be the Green Lantern in question (Justice League: Doom), or at the very least, could exist as one, he is passed over, more frequently than any of the other Lanterns in 2814. Is this a licensing issue, or is it something else entirely? From what I've read, Kyle isn't an unpopular character.
It is not - as far as I know - a legal issue. No one has told me he's off limits. But I can't speak for what the situation was on past series.
I have some questios regarding Lex Luthor.
Do you think he would get along with Xanatos?
Is He as smart as Xanatos?
Would David Xanatos be a member of the light if he lived in earth 16?
I know it is never going happen becuase one is from DC and one is from Disney/Marvel. But I would love to see the two of them interacting.
How would you do an episode with Lex and Xanatos?.(I don't consider this one a spoiler or an original idea becuase copyright will never allow this to ever happen).
2. See, now, the Hulk is more powerful because the madder he gets, the stronger he gets. But the Thing can still beat him if he keeps his wits about him.
3. I'm not interested in those kind of hypotheticals.
4. I wouldn't.
Hello Greg I just wanted to apologize for my superman complaining and ask some questions regarding him.
As a fan I am a bit tired of writers using him just to make batman look cool.I think he is a great character, that few people are actually able to write well (many writers complain that he is too powerful).
When I saw him treating superboy as a brother. I regretted every word I said. You gave is a flawed yet true to the character that is Superman.
On to my questions!
1.-Do you think it is possible to write a superman show as great as past batman shows have been?
2.-Have you considered a superman show?
3.- How has superman survived against lex Luthor. I know superman is the super powered one... But he is too nice and naive while Lex is perhaps as smart as Xanatos.
Thank you for your time!
2. Not specifically, since I don't own Superman, it's not up to me. But I'd be game to try.
3. Observe for yourself.
Hi the awesome job with the show.
My favorite new character is wonder girl!. I would like to ask about wonder girl's powers and origin.
I think you have hinted that she isn't an amazon.
In the show Wonder woman said that she "would tell her mother" and you said that her religion was Christianity with a "new found respect on pagan"
1.-was she ever a normal human or is she an amazon?
2.-How did she gained her powers? (genetics?)
1. Depends what you mean by 'normal', I guess - but the short answer is NEITHER.
2. SPOILER REQUEST. NO COMMENT.
When the Magus handed over the Grimorum to Mary and Finella after casting the "teleport to Avalon" spell, why didn't he tear out and destroy the page with the teleportation spell? He had seen Hakon tear out and destroy another of the Grimorum's pages, so he knew that it could be done; and it would prevent Constantine from pursuing them to Avalon even if he did obtain the Grimorum.
The book was so holy to him, I don't think the thought occured. I mean, why not destroy the entire thing? It just wasn't the way he was trained.
What spell was cast by Zatanna in "Satisfaction"?
Brag su rof elttab!
Aside from Batman, does Dick Grayson idolize a particular hero?
I think he likes them all, but might be particularly impressed with Superman and Black Canary.
On another post you said that the pentagram's symbols in "Misplaced" had been inspired by My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Was that a joke or were you being serious? None of the cuttie marks resemble any of those symbols.
If you were kidding, then where did you base those symbols on?
I was kidding.
And I have no idea what - if ANYTHING - the symbols were based on.
Why is Batman the only one who cares so strongly about his and Robin's secret identities? I mean, why were Kid Flash and Speedy allowed to tell everyone their names but not Dick?
Flash doesn't feel as strongly about it.
Mr. Greg Weisman,
In the Season One finale, Superman had told Superboy of his own secret identity as Clark Kent. When Superboy reacted to this revelation, was his reaction based mostly towards the fact because he now realized that they shared the same last name in the episode, or mostly towards the fact because Conner had met Clark Kent in Young Justice issue #20 (as indicated by the flashbacks) and not realizing at the time that Clark was actually Superman?
Hi Greg, I just saw the newest episode of Young Justice,of March since comic wise one of Dick Grayson's birthdays is listed as March 21 or the first day of Spring. Was this intentional or not? It's pretty funny since Wally got November 11, and now Conner has March 21. Was this just another coincidence or what?
Thank you a good episode, can't wait for the next one. :)
I'm sorry, I don't really understand what you're asking. Was what a coincidence?
Mostly, March 21st was chosen as Conner's 'birthday' because (a) the timing made sense vis-a-vis what we already know, and (b) it's my son Benny's birthday.