Wednesday, 27 October 2010

This broke my (marmish) brain. The following panel from the obscenely popular Superman: Earth One wrought havoc with my brain all day: Maybe because I've spent most of today writing midterm assessments—which requires re-reading nearly everything a student's written to get a sense of their development over the quarter—but when I first read this I was instantly convinced its author, J. Michael Straczynski, simply doesn't know his passive from his active voice, because both "A dog was killed last night" and "Last night, a dog was killed" are clearly in the passive. Then I thought Clark Kent's response may have been Straczynski's way of underming Perry's authority, because "Someone killed a dog last night" is clearly in the active voice. Then I realized that "Someone killed a dog last night" was not—as "A dog was killed last night" and "Last night, a dog was killed" were—in quotation marks in the panel itself, meaning it's just a direct statement of concern from the Man Who Would Be Superman. Perry's answer ("Just an example, Kent") would seem to indicate as much. Then I remembered that Superman: Earth One is a re-telling of Superman's origin in which the would-be Man of Steel is reluctant to take up the mantle, which means his concern for an anonymous dog is only consistent with the character Straczynski's reinventing, not the one he's reinvented, meaning that quotations or no, that's got to be a criticism of Perry. Then I saw that Kent follows Perry's remark with the statement "I like dogs," which would mean Straczynski's being inconsistent with the character, which would mean that he really doesn't know the difference between the active and passive voices since there's no critique, implicit or otherwise, of Perry's statement ... ... at which point it occurred to me, neither for the first time nor the last, that evaluating student prose has a noxious effect on an academic's ability to function like anything remotely resembling a normal human being.

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