Without a doubt, Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger is an iconic dieselpunk movie. Its fusion of World War 2 with comic book/ science-fiction makes it the perfect example of the genre. Now, Marvel has given us a new spin on this fantastic character.
The Marvel series What…? debuted on Disney+ on August 11th, 2021, with their first episode, What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger? Because of a quick decision by Agent Carter right before the experiment that in the original resulted in Steve Rogers becoming Captain America, Carter rather than Rogers gets the serum. The result is that she obtains the superpower rather than him. Carter then successfully has herself promoted to Captain Carter despite the misogynist bias of her times, and a new superhero is born.When Captain Carter isn’t punching Nazis and Hydra goons, she’s fighting sexism at home. On top of it all, we see some fantastic dieselpunk mecha. Throw in a little Lovecraft, and you have an animated short that’s an adrenaline-fulled powerhouse.
In 2018, which seems like forever ago, I wrote about a subclass of dieselpunk that I termed “Gothic Dieselpunk,” which I defined as “A subclass of Dark Dieselpunk that emphasizes the gothic or the macabre.” I will say that Gothic Dieselpunk is probably my favorite subclass, which should be evident by looking at my avatar in the About Me frame of this blog.
In researching what to write, I found a website that I had bookmarked some time ago titled “Diesel Punk Goth.” I’m not sure how old the site is. The parent site is a website dedicated to the goth subculture.
Diesel Punk Goth page focuses a lot on differentiating between steampunk and dieselpunk. Their descriptions of dieselpunk are generally good. The writer was either into dieselpunk or really did their research.
A major disappointment is that while the site references Diesel Punk Goth (i.e., Gothic Dieselpunk), it doesn’t spend much time on the Goth aspect. It doesn’t define the difference between “Diesel Punk” and “Diesel Punk Goth.”
Another disappointing feature is that there are no images of Diesel Punk Goth. Let me include a few images that I would like to have seen:
One final critique of the page, and this is a minor one. While the page does a good job explaining dieselpunk and how it differs from steampunk, it spells the two genres oddly and inconsistently. Steampunk is at times spelled the standard “steampunk” while other times “Steam Punk.” And the use of the spelling “Diesel Punk” is bizarre.
I do recommend that you check out the website Diesel Punk Goth. If for no other reason, it does a good job explaining the difference between the genres and a good general explanation of dieselpunk.
Currently, controversy is brewing in State and Local governments across the U.S. over whether Critical Race Theory should be taught in public schools. According to Wikipedia, "Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists in the United States who seek to critically examine the intersection of race and U.S. law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the United States." Also, according to Wikipedia, "As of 2002, over 20 American law schools and at least three non-American law schools offered critical race theory courses or classes that covered the issue."
This would not be the first time governments have attempted to prevent the teaching of subjects of which they disapprove.
On March 25, 1925, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed what would be known as the Butler Act. Introduced by member John Washington Butler, this legislation prohibited public school teachers from denying the Biblical account of humankind's origin. The law also prevented teaching that humans evolved from what it referred to as lower orders of animals in place of the Biblical account.
The law was challenged by the ACLU in the famed Scopes Trial, in which John Scopes, a high school science teacher, agreed to be arrested on a charge of having taught evolution. Scopes was served a warrant on May 5, 1925. Scopes was found guilty during the trial, and the law was found to be constitutional by the Tennessee Supreme Court on the grounds that it didn't establish a "preference to any religious establishment or mode of worship." However, Scopes's conviction was reversed on a technicality.
In 1955, The Scopes Monkey Trial was turned into a play and later, in 1960, a major motion picture titled Inherit the Wind. The film was directed by Stanley Kramer and starred Spencer Tracy as lawyer Henry Drummond and Fredric March as his friend and rival Matthew Harrison Brady. It also features Gene Kelly, Dick York, Harry Morgan, Donna Anderson, Claude Akins, Noah Beery Jr., Florence Eldridge, and Jimmy Boyd.
Movies are back in the theaters and a big one this year is going to be Jungle Cruise by Disney, and it promises to be very Dieselpunk. The movie takes place in the early 20th century and involves a riverboat being hired to seek out the “tree of life,” which is supposed to have healing powers. Jungle Cruise stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt.
Some have tried to compare the movie Jungle Cruise to the Jazz Age classic African Queen. Uh, no. However, from the trailers, the movie looks like it will be a lot of mindless fun and just in time for summer.
I've gotten hooked on YouTube. No, not cat videos. Okay, a few like these Kittisaurus videos. However, there's a lot of good videos that Dieselpunks can enjoy. Here's just a few that I recommend.
Who Started World War I: Crash Course World History 210
Both Dieselpunks and Steampunks claim World War 1. In my opinion, Dieselpunk was conceived during the Great War, while Steampunk died during it. This video is an excellent summary of the events leading up to the catastrophic event that gave rise to the modern world.
7 Life Lessons From Albert Camus (Philosophy of Absurdism)
Albert Camus was an influential Jazz Age philosopher whose writings have shaped many of my views. His philosophy was laid out in the World War 2 French Resistance newspaper Combat, the book Myth of Sisyphus (1942), and The Rebel (1952). This video is a good introduction to his philosophy.
1984 by George Orwell, Part 1: Crash Course Literature 401
George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece 1984 is still relevant today. This video is a great introduction.
Unraveling the Myth of Ernest Hemingway (Feat. Lindsay Ellis) | It's Lit
Any list of influential Diesel Era writers must include Ernest Hemingway. This video strives to separate the man from the myth.
I’m excited to report that the British Dieselpunk comedy Timewasters has finally come to the American side of the pond.
IMDb’s website provides a severely understated one-sentence description of Timewasters, “A struggling jazz band from South London are propelled back in time.” This soundbite of a description fails to do the series justice.
Timewasters series centers around four main characters: Nick (Daniel Lawrence Taylor), Jason (Kadiff Kirwan), Lauren (Adelayo Adedayo), and Horace (Samson Kayo), who are all members of what they call a Jazz quartet. One day while preparing to practice, Horace barges in to announce that he’s discovered a time machine. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but our four heroes ultimately become stuck in 1926 London when their time machine breaks down with hilarious consequences.
Timewasters is definitely no Downton Abby. It’s a fantastic Dieselpunk “Stranger in a Strange Land” comedy that I highly recommend. You can watch Timewasters on IMDb TV.
On May 26, 2021, Amazon announced its intention to acquire MGM studios for $9 billion. MGM played an important role in Jazz Age culture and is therefore important for understanding the source material for Dieselpunk.
Movie magnate Marcus Loew had a problem. He needed a new film source for his Loew’s Theatres chain. To solve this problem, Loew purchased Goldwyn Pictures in 1924 for $5 million. The problem with this solution was that it caused Loew to need someone to oversee his new Hollywood operations. Fortunately, he was approached by Louis B. Mayer, owner of Louis B. Mayer Pictures, with an offer to sell his company. Loew agreed to purchase the company for $75,000. Loews then renamed his theater chain Metro’s distribution network and merged it with Goldwyn Pictures studio and Louis B. Mayer Productions. The merger was completed on April 17, 1924, with Mayer becoming head of the new Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM on April 26th of the same year.
The merger wasn’t without problems. Samual Goldwyn was never involved in operations and left early. In 1925 he unsuccessfully sued to remove his name from MGM. When Marcus Loew died in 1927, his assistant Nicholas Schenck took over his duties. Schenck and Mayer never got along. The failed merger with Fox Film made matters worse between them.
From the start, MGM was a movie-making machine. In its first two years, it produced more than 100 feature films. The studio had a golden touch when it came to successful movies. For example, the 1925 Ben-Hur racked in a $4.7 million profit that year in its first full year. It helped that MGM became home to superstars such as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Lon Chaney, William Powell, Buster Keaton, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Robert Montgomery, Spencer Tracy, and Myrna Loy.
MGM was one of the first studios to experiment with filming in Technicolor. Ironically, while it was cutting edge on color, it was the last studio to convert to talkies. Their first full-fledged talkie wasn’t until 1929 with the musical The Broadway Melody. But like so many MGM productions, The Broadway Melody was both a box-office and critical success, with it winning the Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year.
Even though its first talkie was a highly successful musical, it took a while for MGM to get the hang of them. However, when it did, the result was impressive. MGM produced musical classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St Louis, Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Kiss Me Kate, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and more.
The Amazon acquisition is likely to be successful for MGM has long been signaling that it was looking for a buyer. The merger results could be a win for classic movie lovers with Amazon Prime memberships and Fire Sticks, who may soon have access to a treasure trove of classic MGM movies.