Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 21

story with external material, including the detailed account of a personal adventure. More than ever, the original “text” – in this case McCandless’ story and the little evidence he left behind –has become the property of the recipient, Krakauer, who restitutes it along his own concerns and priorities, and transforms McCandless into a true, albeit fictional modern hero, in search of a deeper, transcendental truth and whose untimely death is supposed to convey some profound meaning. Curiously enough, no one perceived the sharp irony when the account of a supposed rejection of our capitalistic lifestyle became an international best-seller, therefore fully contributing to both capitalism and our lifestyle: Krakauer’s Into the Wild stands as a perfect illustration of how readily and effortlessly the society of spectacle is able to recycle its apparent denial into a mere product of consumption. In 2007, Sean Penn pursued the journey into the wild paradox Krakauer had begun a decade earlier by writing, co-producing and directing the film Into the Wild, whose title naturally benefited from the momentum gathered by the eponymous bestseller and which takes the fictionalization of Christopher McCandless to an entire new level, as the character of the lonely, introverted but deep and decided truth seeker created by Krakauer acquires quasi- metaphysical proportions, becoming a Christ-like figure whose profound discourse has the power to inspire the lives of all those who come in contact with him. Logically, many crucial facts from the true story are altered or displaced in order to turn them into functional narrative paradigms, when not simply eliminated – as are McCandless’ triumphant self-portraits next to dead animals. Hence, McCandless’ “diary” becomes the intentional creation of a budding writer, as the protagonist is shown purposely writing in a notebook rather than jotting notes on the back papers of a book on edible plants, which definitely would not have conveyed the same impact. Similarly, McCandless’ goodbye note becomes the last effort of a dying man about to breath his last breath, a total distortion of the truth, amply documented by two self-portraits which show McCandless waving at the camera while holding his final note. McCandless obviously did not write his last words right before dying since he had the time to take not one but two self-portraits, as if he had wanted to make certain that his final picture would reach posterity – yet another irony, since these self-portraits are barely mentioned in Krakauer’s book and disappear entirely from Penn’s movie, as if McCandless’ idea of his own spectacularization did not quite fit that of his biographers. Rather, we are treated in the film to two different shots of Emile Hirsh in a crucifixion position, a much more suitable attitude for the McCandless Penn is attempting to create, for real prophets do not take “selfies.” 21