Friday, July 3, 2009

Gor, Lost in Adaptation or merely Lost?

This article is an extension of last week's series, Reflections on Barsoom, wherein it was noted numerous attempts to bring Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novel series to the big screen have failed. Also outlined were certain concerns about the current Disney/Pixar movie project. If recent news articles are accurate the project has moved out of development limbo and is being rushed into production. That's almost never a good sign for a movie, especially one being adapted from a novel.

Fans of novels that get translated into big screen movies are all too often disappointed by how Hollywood treats their favorite stories. The most notorious example being David Lynch's Dune. Yet despite Dune's perceived flaws it was far superior to the odd Sci-Fi channel spawned mini series. Alas it too often takes a poorly executed remake for audiences to appreciate these earlier adaptations. Conan the Barbarian was sniped at by fans of Howard's stories yet, compared to the Conan television series, the Conan movies were faithful adaptations. Which brings us back to the subject of our article.

Odds are you've probably never read the Gor novels though you may have heard about them. Having just read reviews for the movies it may come as a surprise to learn the novels have been described as everything from Barsoom with bondage to Taliban erotica. In this article we shall continue to examine the treatment of novel-to-movie adaptations by examining Barsoom's cousin fantasy world. .

Book 1

Gor, aka Counter-Earth, is the fantasy world of author John Norman as first introduced in the novel "Tarnsman of Gor" (1966). An series of some 20+ odd novels followed. .

Book 19

The Gor novels are often described as indulgent misogynistic 'adult' fantasy patterned loosely after Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars series. It is a world in which politically incorrect warriors ride around on gigantic birds; the eponymous Tarns of the first novel; while slave girls gyrate provocatively for their (male master's) pleasure. Dancing girls have been a staple of historical epics since the days of Cecil B. Demille. .

Cleopatra (1934)

Even when production budgets were sparse, such as in the old Italian sword-and-sandal epics, there were dancing girls. .

Hercules (1958)

However what made the Gor novels notorious were the themes espoused by the author, namely that it is woman's natural state to be subservient to men in all things. This led to the novels being criticized as gutter treatments of heroic fantasy using clich├ęd science fiction tropes as a crutch to prop up mediocre pseudo sword-and-sorcery. But are such criticisms valid? Here's a typical novel quote from a typical Gor fan site:

The dancing of the female before the male, that she be found pleasing and he be pleased, is one of the most profound lessons in all of human biology. Others are when she kneels before him, when she kisses his feet, when she performs obeisance, when she knows herself subject, truly, to his whip.

- Dancer of Gor, pg 193

But it's not merely the "philosophy" or politically incorrect views expressed by the author that has gotten this series into so much trouble. The terse writing style is off-putting:

He was a Gorean master. I was at his mercy. I wondered if I could have felt so much his, so completely surrendered, if he had not possessed this complete power over my life and body. I belonged to him. But I did not want him to whip me, or put me in the slave box. I wanted only, desperately, to please him. And I knew I must, for I was his slave.

-Captive of Gor, pg 343

Such is the tone of the Gor novels and the nature of the fantasy world. Yet, inexplicably, two movies were produced during the 1980s. It is these curious movies we shall return our attention to next.

Books 1 + 2

In the meantime the curious can use any search engine to discover myriad articles ranging from harsh criticisms like Planet of the Complete Bloody Psychopaths to the slightly less harsh Some thoughts on the Gorean Scandal, apologist tracts In Defense Of Gor, fan favorite Slave Quotes, and sites dedicated to living the idealized 'Gorean lifestyle'. The latter often include illustrated articles showcasing "positions" for slave girls. The Kama Sutra these are not yet the illustrations are often just as gratuitous. Warning many are NSFW!

# To be concluded in part 2

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

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