Whatever happened to steampunk?

By Emma Testerman | Jan 21, 2021

I'm sure the concept of steampunk is something nobody really pays attention to, even during its peak in media from 2007 to 2015.

I never gave it much thought either, until I saw the movie musical "Repo! The Genetic Opera." To be honest, I wasn't even that interested originally, I just wanted to crack down on my movie bucket list through Amazon Prime, before my free trial ends next month.

Obviously, this movie has a healthy dose of metal singing, even more metal plot devices and accents of TV blimps, corseted women with geared accessories and an industrialized pig-sty of a dilapidated city.

It's an apocalyptic steampunk mess with Anthony Stewart Head and Paris Hilton in the same movie. Of course I love this musical.

For those intrigued into watching this film, please be warned that the entire plot revolves around a law being passed to allow organ repossession as a form of debt-recollection infrastructure. If you haven't grown stone-cold after binging "Game of Thrones" and aren't used to movie gore, I'd recommend just taking my word for it here.

The film got me thinking as I watched the character Blind Mag sing over a snowy stage, decked out in raven feathers. When did steampunk lose its allure?

As a writer and fiction consumer, there are trends that come and go as quickly as seasons, it seems. Remember "Hunger Games" and the influx of post-apocalyptic young adult novels, with love triangles?

I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it. That pop culture phase was more overdone than Ninety-Nine's potato skin starters. Don't get me started on the 2012 vampire craze.

But steampunk-themed books, movies and general media never seemed to last, and I can't help but wonder why.

Steampunk, for those who are curious, is a sub-genre of science fiction, often used as a fashion statement along with other types of media.

Steampunk also falls into the goth category, for those who remember fellow high school peers dipped in punk black and blasting Avenged Sevenfold in the "Goth Den" near the art classes.

In short, think of steampunk as modern tech powered by steam, gears, cogs and general Victorian industrialized machines. It's an awe-inspiring artistic style, and if implemented in fictional writing, movies or even a wardrobe well, it really can leave a mark.

But why hasn't it? Sure, we've had book series like the "Mortal Engines," and movies like "Sucker Punch," and "Hellboy," but you never see it last like historical fiction romance or this current grunge, hypebeast scene.

I propose an idea for all fashion-craved, artistic and creatively-unhinged readers, residents and friends. We're in 2021 now, we're basically in the future. "Repo! The Genetic Opera" is supposedly set in 2056. That's around 40 years from now. Another style-obsessed series was "Hunger Games," and most readers would remember the Capitol's outlandish, pastel-infused fashion statements. That book was set loosely after the 21st century.

Let's just have at it. If we're going to sit and wait out a pandemic, as well as try to put some positive vibes to balance out the bad energy down in D.C., we might as well start looking post-apocalyptic. Turn chaos into a nice, good ol' fashion statement. Maybe "Mad Max" our cars up a bit, too, just for fun.

Steampunk seems like an untapped aesthetic to enjoy, and certainly a missed opportunity our relatives back in the 19th century could've had. We might as well find a creative outlet where we can, and use up whatever outlandish styles we want to at least make the craziness look good, like a bad ex-girlfriend on a bender.

Emma Testerman is The Courier-Gazette's copy editor, as well as a blogger, writer and artist. She currently resides somewhere in the back woods, often mistaken for a cryptid. She can be reached at etesterman@villagesoup.com.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Daniel Purdy | Jan 21, 2021 12:23

I still want a top hat with a spigot on the front.

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