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Steampunk and Vaudeville: Second Cousins Twice Removed?
Steampunk and Vaudeville are two very distinctive genres with attributes that are easily recognized, but most people wouldn't automatically connect the two. Steampunk centers around the time period of Queen Victoria's reign in England and the "Wild West" time frame in the United States, action, science fiction, steam power, and future technologies seen through Victorian eyes. Vaudeville on the other hand, spans from about 1880 to 1930, is all about traveling side shows, magicians, cabaret singers, minstrels, one act plays, and the circus. However, I believe that it is their differences that make them family.
Steampunk conjures images of airships and clockwork gadgets, mad scientists and anachronistic inventions. Men in three piece suits with lasers in their canes, and ladies in petticoats with ray-guns in their garters. Vaudeville brings you into a world of trained animals and tightrope walkers, burlesque dancers and minstrel shows. Women reciting Shakespeare while dressed as men, and men performing feats that defy the senses.
However, both genres create a sense of adventure and fantasy and both have reinforced themes of inventions; whether it is self-invention on the Steampunk side or the Vaudevillian idea of re-invention. Whether you want to be Attwell Hean Leery, an aerial buccaneer or Dr. J.M. Moody with his dancing bears, both allow you the opportunity to become whatever you want. Steampunk and Vaudeville are both about the world of the unreal; one is about weaponry and foes concocted out of the busiest of imaginations, the other is about illusions and things never quite being what they seem. One is about using your intellectual prowess to defeat your nemesis, the other is more about physical talent and having your wits about you to get where you need to go.
I have always found beauty in opposing forces, I believe if you get into how things are different you will eventually find how they are the same. When it comes to Vaudeville and Steampunk their cores themes are what make them similar. By embracing the best of what both groups have to offer, you can create a world beyond your dizziest day dreams.
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