historical nostalgia

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For International Women’s Day, here are four interviews from the Fresh Air archive you should check out: 

Christopher Plummer as Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington ~ Waterloo, 1970

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Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint coupe at BRC.

Zadie Smith On Historical Nostalgia And The Nature Of Talent

Smith tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross how being biracial allows her to blend in with different cultures: 

“I think people of my shade all over the world will have these experiences: You might go to Morocco and people will believe you Moroccan; you might go to Egypt and be confused for an Egyptian; you might find yourself in Bangladesh and people are talking Bengali to you. It’s an interesting mind state, one I’ve always found very enjoyable, actually. … I guess … the movability of the identity is interesting, whereas I suppose a white person is white wherever they go. They’re kind of stuck with it, whereas I find the interesting interpretive quality that my shade creates in others curious — sometimes funny, sometimes upsetting, sometimes alarming.”

Her new novel is Swing Time.

Photo by Dominique Nobokov

Huge Internal Conflicts

I’m trying to square some head canon with the new backstory provided in the Dragon Ball Super manga.  In brief, Vegeta stated that the Saiyans used to live on a planet named Salad, but it was destroyed during a “huge internal conflict.”  I don’t know why the translator couldn’t just call it a civil war, but whatever. 

The main thing for me is that this is confirmation that Planet Vegeta (fka Planet Plant) was never the original Saiyan homeworld.  I just never bought into the idea that the Saiyans ad Tuffles both originated on the same planet.  The way King Kai’s flashback was presented, it looked a lot more like the Tuffles had a decent thing going, and then Saiyans began to show up from elsewhere.  King Kai said that the Saiyans lacked the technology for space travel, but that was only after the Saiyan/Tuffle War, when they wanted to leave the planet in search of new opportunities.  I think it’s more reasonable that the Saiyans were a spacefaring people for a very long time, and they were only stranded on Vegeta because all the spaceships were destroyed during the war.  This is also supported by the 2011 “Episode of Bardock” special, where Bardock travels back in time to the distant past of Planet Vegeta.  There, he finds neither Saiyans nor Tuffles, but a third race apparently named “Plantians.”  My guess is that the Tuffles kicked the Plantians out, and then the Saiyans came along and conquered them in turn.

I thought I read once that the Dragon Ball GT Perfect Files speculated on the existence of a “Planet Saiya”, from which the Saiyans emigrated to wind up on Planet Vegeta.   Personally, I prefer to think of “Saiya” as the Saiyans’ native world, and Salad was just one of many attempts by the Saiyans to establish a new homeworld.  I also think there could have been multiple “Planet Saiyas” in the universe, with different regimes trying to recapture the prestige of the original. 

This got me thinking about the various “internal conflicts” in Saiyan history.  I figure you can break it down into three categories. 

A) The Final Salad War.  I’m guessing this was just a large army of Saiyans fighting another large army of Saiyans until the planet exploded or it was rendered uninhabitable.   No telling when this actually happened.  Vegeta (the prince) expressed interest in touring the extant Planet Salad of Universe 6, but I don’t know if that’s nostalgia or historical curiosity or just a desire to see people of his own kind.

My thinking is that there were a lot of wars like these, with regular, base-form Saiyans fighting each other.  In Dragon Ball Minus, Akira Toriyama stated that there were only tens of thousands of Saiyans left by the time Frieza destroyed Planet Vegeta.  This was because they were more interested in fighting than in breeding or working together to build their civilization.  What I think would happen was that every so often, a visionary Saiyan leader would try to pull it all together, and establish a Saiyan homeworld in the hopes of rebuilding the population.  But the Saiyans are unruly by nature, and at least some of them would defy the leader and others would want to take control of the homeworld for themselves.  I thnk that’s what happened with Planet Salad, and the survivors of that war made their way to Planet Plant as refugees.  They were in pretty sorry shape, and the Tuffles were willing to take them in, but once they were strong enough King Vegeta tried to start the cycle all over again by establishing a new homeworld on Plant.  If Frieza hadn’t destroyed it, King Vegeta might have had to deal with the same civil wars that doomed Salad.

B) The Legendary Super Saiyan God Crusade.  To be clear, I’m not talking about the ancient Super Saiyans.  I mean the hero Shenron spoke of in “Battle of Gods.”  This guy:

According to Shenron, the last guy to use the Super Saiyan God form was a righteous Saiyan who worked with at least five other righteous Saiyans in a failed bid to overthrow the evil Saiyans who had corrupted his race.  Somehow they discovered how to use the form, and he went to town, kicking everyone’s ass until the time limit expired.  

I’m pretty sure this had to have happened a very, very long time ago.  Shenron said the righteous Saiyans were active on Planet Vegeta, but that doesn’t really make sense if the Saiyans hadn’t been living on Vegeta for very long.  I suppose it’s possible that the Saiyans had lived on Planet Plant more than once in their history.  Or maybe they named more than one planet “Vegeta”.  In any case, I just can’t see this conflict taking place recently. 

First of all, the plain old Super Saiyans (with the yellow hair), were a thousand-year-old legend by the time of DBZ.  Vegeta, Frieza, and Captain Ginyu had all heard about it.  But nobody in “Battle of Gods” had any idea what a “Super Saiyan God” was except for Shenron.  Vegeta didn’t know, King Kai didn’t know, Beerus and Whis didn’t even know.  That says to me that the Super Saiyan God’s appearance must have been way, way back in the distant past, like tens of thousands of years ago.

Second, I don’t see why a reformer would need the powers of a god to defeat a bunch of normal Saiyans.  We’re talking about guys like Nappa.  A regular Super Saiyan would be more than powerful enough to get that job done, and without the hassle of time limits or finding five like-minded friends to help you out.  My thinking is that this guy had to become a god because his enemies were much, much stronger than King Vegeta’s generation.  That means he must have fought multiple Super Saiyans, and that implies some sort of Saiyan Golden Age when they didn’t have to wait a thousand years for a Super Saiyan to emerge. Over the milennia, the Super Saiyan God’s power would have gone down in legend, but it would have been conflated with the regular Super Saiyan form, and by the time Prince Vegeta was born, he would have only learned of the one legend. 

I wonder if maybe we have this guy to thank for the lack of Super Saiyans afterward.  He saw his people abusing their powers, and from what Shenron said he was determined to kill as many of them as possible.  I think what may have happpened was he failed to kill them all, but he got so many Super Saiyan-class warriors that he crippled the Saiyan gene pool.  Their culture remained evil and savage, but most of them were low-class Saiyans who couldn’t transform.  Super Saiyans were still possible after this, but incredibly rare, to the point where one would only show up in a millennium.  In that sense, Red got a measure of revenge.  He couldn’t reverse the moral decline of his people, but he could curb their power so much that they eventually became helpless against Frieza. 

C) Super Saiyan vs. Saiyan Government.  This may have played out several times, or not at all, but given Vegeta’s reaction to Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation, I think it makes a lot of sense.  Assuming there really was a single Super Saiyan every thousand years, it would probably not sit well with the Saiyans in charge.  They would see the Super Saiyan as a rival, or even a usurper.  And the Super Saiyan might well indulge that line of thinking.  The Broly movie illustrated this perfectly.  Paragus was sure Broly’s gonzo power levels would make him a great boon for their people, but King Vegeta saw only a potential threat to be eliminated.  And in turn, Paragus and Broly became renegades and sought revenge on the royal family.  So if you’re the King of the Saiyans you’re kind of screwed no matter what you do.  You have to put down the Super Saiyan before he puts you down.  

The worst part of this is that if this scenario plays out, everyone will have forgotten the whole thing by the time it happens again a thousand years later.   I’m pretty sure the Saiyans lost a lot of home planets that way. 

So to put it all in chronological order, I guess my head canon goes something like this:

1) Saiyan “Golden Age”: Numerous Super Saiyans running around at the same time.  Saiyan culture becomes corrupt.

2) Six upright Saiyans invoke the Super Saiyan God power in a failed bid to purge the evil Saiyans from their society.   Nearly all of the strongest Saiyans are killed in the battle

3) Saiyan “Silver Age”: Super Saiyans appear once every thousand years.  Saiyan culture adjusts to lower power levels and continues to become more corrupt.  The population declines as no single Saiyan has the political capital to unite the entire species.  Worlds like Planet Salad are destroyed in power struggles.

4) Dragon Ball Era: King Vegeta conquers Planet Plant and renames it Planet Vegeta.  The Saiyans are then impressed into the service of Frieza until he destroys Planet Vegeta in an attempt to wipe them all out. 

5) Post Dragon Ball Era: Goku and Vegeta’s descendants appear to be able to attain Super Saiyan status quite easily.  This implies a return to the “Golden Age” of Saiyans, and maybe we’re starting all over again…

We have to beware of approaching Mozart while polishing the spectacles of historical perspective. Nostalgia is behovely, but it is inert. The vision he purveys must not be that of a long-dead stability for which we hopelessly yearn. In a world which affronts us daily with war, starvation, pollution, the destruction of the rainforests, and the breakdown of public and domestic morality, we may put a Mozart string quartet on the cassette-player in the expectation of a transient peace. But it is not Mozart’s function to soothe: he is not a tranquilliser to be taken out of the cupboard. He purveys an image of a possible future rather than of an irrecoverable past. As a literary practitioner I look for his analogue among great writers. He may not have the complex humanity of Shakespeare, but he has more than the gnomic neatness of an Augustan like Alexander Pope. It would not be extravagant to find in him something like the serenity of Dante Alighieri. If the paradisal is more characteristic of him than the infernal or even the purgatorial, that is because history itself has written the Divine Comedy backwards. He reminds us of human possibilities. Dead ‘nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita’ he nevertheless presents the whole compass of life and intimates that noble visions only exist because they can be realised.
—  Anthony Burgess (1991)
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“To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

-Walt Disney’s dedication to Disneyland, July 17, 1955

GA:  You get a sense of what they’ve been doing with their time, and what their focus has been, and what they care about.
DD: So, when we pick up with them, six years of stuff has happened. I don’t know what it is, but, they’re together. You know, they’re– they’re sleeping in the same bed. So that’s a big difference from what we know them to be.

GA: There was… a lot of romance, and… longing, over time, that I think was, uh, heightened… to good effect… by the writers. The dynamic that sits between David and I when we’re working is, you know, is quite unique.
DD: We didn’t really work on it, we just kind of assumed that it would be there. And we actually do have a history at this point. We’ve known each other 15 years… and we’ve done so many hours of work together. More hours than probably anybody in the history of filmed entertainment! You have 201 hours of the tv show, and two hours of the previous movie, so we have at least – over two hundred hours of working together. We just trust that there’s just so much… history that… we allow that to exist and don’t push it and don’t play it.

IWTB interviews, Film24 special, 2008