Wow! It’s been a long time since I made an update about Spider.
A lot has happened in the last year to distract me. Getting a new job, working on Rare Model, moving into a new house…you know…LIFE. But we’re getting back on track this summer and it’s time for some new progress!
The story has changed significantly and the assets have shifted slightly to accommodate. Here is the latest story animatic:
A lot of the same nuts and bolts are present, but some of the major changes include the position of the web and the addition of a second tree. The tree does a lot to push the existential themes of the short, but in very subtle ways.
One of the philosophers who helped establish the building blocks of existentialism was Søren Kierkegaard who wrote often of the idea that existence precedes essence. To an existentialist a human being does not have any inherent identity or value. That identity and value must be created by the individual and cannot be bestowed by an outside party. This is a reversal of more traditional philosophical views in which the nature of something is more important that the simple fact of its existence. In existentialism existence is what allows for something to define its own nature.
Taken a step further, we can say that reality has no identity or value. Because humans have no purpose or inherent meaning from the outset, it follows that nothing else does either. Though we would like the world to be logical or meaningful, existentialism tells us that the world has no meaning other than that which we assign it. We often try to explain reality with things like karma, divine intervention, or even simple personification (a brutal hurricane, or a generous summer shower), but for an existentialist this can all be summed up with the french expression, “c’est la vie”…or in American English, “Shit happens!”
A major threshold in anyone’s life is the confrontation with the irrationality of the world. Albert Camus calls this the absurd and at the heart of the absurd is the conflict between our human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in the world and the inability of the world to provide that value or meaning which we seek. In his essay, The Myth of Sysyphus, Camus describe how every person’s confrontation with the absurd boils down to a decision for or against suicide:
At that last crossroad where thought hesitates, many men have arrived and even some of the humblest. They then abdicated what was most precious to them, their life. Others, princes of the mind, abdicated likewise, but they initiated the suicide of their thought in its purest revolt. The real effort is to stay there, rather, in so far as that is possible, and to examine closely the odd vegetation of those distant regions. Tenacity and acumen are privileged spectators of this inhuman show in which absurdity, hope, and death carry on their dialogue. The mind can then analyze the figures of that elementary yet subtle dance before illustrating them and reliving them itself.
When one confronts the absurd they must make a choice:
- Give up physically, knowing that the world is not rational and does not care about you or your life
- Give up intellectually, turning away from what you now know is true, and deciding to move on with your life and ignore this uncomfortable revelation
- Endure, stare into the abyss and determine to find your own meaning in spite of the possibility that there is no meaning for you to find
In this way existentialism can be seen as a call to arms. Yes, the world is cold and ambivalent to our hardships or successes. Yes, our lives and the universe hold no inherent value. However, that just means we must create our own meaning, our own purpose, and our own value with what we have been given.
Spider is about a creature confronting the absurd and making a decision. As a spider, it feels as though it has been given an inherent purpose: to sit and wait for a fly. When confronted with the absurd the spider realizes that the fly it is waiting for will never come. The world at this point seems heartless and cruel for putting the spider in such a hopeless situation, to wait endlessly until exhaustion and starvation overwhelm it. However, from an existentialist point of view, the spider is not bound to this role. There is nothing keeping the spider from simply leaving the dead tree and searching for a new home. There is nothing keeping the spider from re-inventing itself, from defining itself, form creating its own identity and value. The second tree symbolizes this choice. It visually prompts the spider and the audience to imagine the grass on the other side of the fence, so to speak. It’s possible that things won’t get any better if the spider took the perilous journey to the next tree over, and it’s certain that the journey itself will be difficult. The spider is given a very literal choice of suicides: to give in to exhaustion and fall from the web, to willfully ignore the hopelessness of the situation and starve, or to make the difficult choice to redefine itself and leave the web behind, for better or worse. In the end, the web is broken and untended and the spider is nowhere to be found, leaving the audience to wonder what choice the spider made in the end.
A little too heady for ya? Here have a funny video of a spider: