What are the constituents of myth? One answer could be – ourselves. Our plans, imagination, admiration or fears, even techniques or technology.
Contemporary myths, like all those before them, and in all civilisations, represent the polarisation of good and evil about something: a person or an object, a dream or a nightmare, an archetype or a fetish.
This year we take a light-hearted look at some familiar and randomly chosen myths, discussing them in ways that may give cause for thought.
Above all, what lies behind myth?
Portents as diary produce. The short self-life of myths.
Over sixty years have elapsed from Roland Barthes famous collection of essays Mythologies (1957). At that time, in a society still anchored to the classic vision of knowledge, the contention that “myths” could also be products of “trivial” mass communication was deeply disconcerting. But from that time onwards the adjective mythical – hitherto limited to field of ancient mythological legends or,
at best, to heroes in flesh and blood who performed noble actions of some kind – began to acquire a much wider connotation.
Myths became mythoids, to use the term coined in 2012 by Marino Niola in the publication bearing the same title as the Italian translation of Barthes book.
Niola speaks about universally-known but ephemeral phenomena that increasingly coincide with the technologies of augmented or virtual reality, such as the various social media. These “short-term” mythical fragments now complement the more established media such as cinema, television and fashion.
Thus, footballers are also mythological figures, although their careers, however dilated – as the various Totti, Pirlo and Buffon remind us – are inevitably curtailed by a sudden fall from grace as symbolised by a pair boots pathetically hung up on a nail. In other words, today’s myths share the same liquid destiny of the society that generated them: a best-before icon, like the expiry dates on dairy produce. Myths, indeed, but with a very short shelf-life!