Thursday, March 29, 2012

What Ever Happened to Quicksand?

Slate - The fourth-graders were unanimous: Quicksand doesn’t scare them, not one bit. If you’re a 9- or 10-year-old at the P.S. 29 elementary school in Brooklyn, N.Y., you’ve got more pressing concerns: Dragons. Monsters. Big waves at the beach that might separate a girl from her mother. Thirty years ago, quicksand might have sprung up at recess, in pools of discolored asphalt or the dusty corners of the sandbox—step in the wrong place, and you’d die. But not anymore, a boy named Zayd tells me. “I think people used to be afraid of it,” he says. His classmates nod. “It was before we were born,” explains Owen. “Maybe it will come back one day.”

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click to see expanded view.

For now, quicksand has all but evaporated from American entertainment—rejected even by the genre directors who once found it indispensable. There isn’t any in this summer’s fantasy blockbuster Prince of Persia: Sands of Time or in last year’s animated jungle romp Up. You won’t find quicksand in The Last Airbender or Avatar, either. Giant scorpions emerge from the sand in Clash of the Titans, but no one gets sucked under. And what about Lost—a tropical-island adventure series replete with mud ponds and dangling vines? That show, which ended in May, spanned six seasons and roughly 85 hours of television airtime—all without a single step into quicksand. “We were a little bit concerned that it would just be cheesy,” says the show’s Emmy-winning writer and executive producer, Carlton Cuse. “It felt too clichéd. It felt old-fashioned.”         More