Saturday, December 14, 2013

Spanner R5 Update: Leila Shelley on a Road Not Necessarily Made of Yellow Bricks

As I begin the final edit on Spanner 2.1, I'll be dealing with the most important character besides Shira herself in her only Chapter 2 appearance, one of the chapter's oldest scenes.

Leila Shelley, the series' primary love interest character, may possibly be its secret hero. I already have Shira as a catalyst hero whose roles alternate between trickster and herald. The first named character she appears as herald to is Leila, the girl she's in love with. What's Leila's "hero's journey"? I found the clue in my absolute favorite David Lynch movie, Mulholland Drive. That film uses Sunset Boulevard to turn the plot of The Wizard of Oz into a tragedy. My favorite Lynch character happens to be Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks; Leila is, among other things, Audrey with a bob cut, except at the same time younger (sixteen) and far less innocent, with a past as dark as Mulholland Drive's Diane Selwyn.

Now let's put Leila on the Yellow Brick Road, so to speak. At once several elements of her character arc fall into place:
  1. Drusilla Becket is, as her enemies (including who knows how many ex-husbands) nickname her, the Wicked Witch of the West.
  2. The corresponding Good Witch is Leila's aunt Ariel Shield, who is (except of course for the white stripe) black-haired like herself. (In The Wizard of Oz, the movie, both Dorothy and Glinda are redheads; the corresponding character in Mulholland Drive happens to be Diane's aunt.) As the Grail Bearer, she brings in a completely different myth system, particularly the version found in the books of Margaret Starbird, a real-life mentor she invokes by name.
  3. Shira, of course, corresponds to Dorothy's inseparable companion Princess Ozma in the Oz novels.
  4. Seattle has many nicknames, but the most famous of them is "Emerald City", named after not the architecture but the forested surroundings. The name of the city AI, OZMA, is a blatant pun.
  5. Once in the Emerald City, what "great and powerful" Wizard does she meet? Zardoz, of course, in the form of King Patriot. (The song in Interlude 11 samples Zardoz's speech in the notorious 1970s cult movie.) And she kills him — because there is in fact no man behind the curtain. That sequence is the origin of a major Spanner theme, the mystery of the Ego.
  6. Leila's counterpart to the tornado that swept Dorothy to Oz is the "tornado" of scandal that destroyed her modelling career and which she barely managed to escape with her life. Another version is the Spanner Incident, in which the series' title character appears and disappears in a whirlwind.
  7. Her version of the poppy-field crisis that Glinda has to rescue Dorothy and her travelling companions from may be the name crisis of Chapter 12 (R5 version), in which she fights for her life against her very name itself (which, due to Corporate customs, has trapped her in an arranged marriage to one of the story's nastiest villains). Another character plays the Glinda role here: Angela Coyne, Shira's cousin, lawyer, and fellow redhead. There's another poppy-related connection: it's in Chapter 12 that Leila leaves behind her old heroin habit forever.
  8. The Spanner versions of those travelling companions are already experienced heroes unlike the originals, so they don't need to earn their brain, heart, or courage. In fact, there's two versions: three bishounen at Bangor High (Team Bremelo's Connor, Cory, and Kio) and three nameless women from the revolutionary underground (now introduced in Chapter 2).
  9. The name of one gang, "Flyen Monkeez", reveals the Klownz to be a version of the Wicked Witch's flying monkey minions.
  10. Who corresponds to the Munchkins? Why, the "little people" as the Corporates call them, the mass of ordinary working people against whom the Conservative Revolution is crusading in the name of "the best" (hoi aristoi, as in aristocracy). Thus do I make explicit the Populist themes that are only implicit in L. Frank Baum's original novels, though I drop the old Populists' silver-against-gold (or greenbacks) crusade and ask why, if money turned out to be ichor (the blood of gods) as the Social Darwinists' occult secret doctrine states (so theorizes Bram Dijkstra), there is any need for it at all. The Corporate robber barons and Patriot terrorists with their giant-monster Egos are in fact Nephilim, invoked under their alternate name "Anakim", Hebrew for "giants". Starbird's name for those the Anakim oppose and oppress, those whom Jesus (and the Grail Bearers after him) vowed to defend? Anawim: "little ones".
  11. If Leila is a darker take on Dorothy who is in fact a witch, then her counterpart to Toto needs to be that classic witch's familiar, a black cat, a stray who charmed her way into Leila's life back when she was a young girl in her native Ireland.
  12. The Spanner version of the "yellow brick road" (the golden road of heroes) will lead Leila not toward "home" (wherever that is) but into legend. She chooses this path by choosing the human version of the red pill from another cinematic mythology.
Of course, the Wizard of Oz plot doesn't sum up all of Leila's character arc. For one thing, Dorothy has nothing resembling Leila's signet ring (the sign of her enslavement to her aristocratic clan that she throws away in Chapter 16) or power crystal (which Shira returns to her). Also, I haven't figured out any counterparts to the ruby slippers (that mentor's gift which gives Dorothy the power to return home) or the Emerald City's famous Horse of a Different Color (that obvious dream symbol of radical change to come). But it definitely serves as a good ready-made template I can model Leila's character arc on (at least in Book 1). David Lynch followed the template in Mulholland Drive, even adding a Princess Ozma figure in Camilla Rhodes; but this Hollywood Ozma proves as totally corrupt as Zardoz (an evil Wizard of Oz), so Diane murders her and ends her journey in tragedy. I'll make my own variations, of course. And it all becomes obvious when you remember that Seattle's nickname is "Emerald City".

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