What the Steampunk is That??


Have you ever watched a movie and have been so confused by what’s happening and what time period the movie was set in that you have no idea what actually happened in that movie?

That’s how I felt when I saw Wild Wild West.

I mean, seriously...what was I supposed to make of this? How did Will let this happen?

I have always thought that Will Smith was a pretty great actor. He’s battled both aliens and zombie-ish guys, and was one of only 4 people that made neon green parachute pants look cool not horrible in the early 90’s. But this was one film that had me completely confused. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be looking at: Was it an action film? A Victorian comedy? A Sci-Fi thriller?

What, Will Smith? *throws hands up in the air* What??

(Sidenote: is “Victorian Comedy” even a thing? If so, I think that’d be about the most boring and un-hilarious genre ever created…)

And that’s when I asked the question: what the smurf is that? (<— I had to say “smurf” because I knew what a smurf was…didn’t know what “steampunk” was at that point).

She looks like a very breezy, down-to-earth kind of woman... (Photo Credit: http://www.marcoribbe.de)

I saw all of those big clunky gadgets, Victorian dresses, and futuristic technology and I was certain that it must be a result of one of 3 things:


  • Warner Bros. had a lot of props left over from filming The Terminator and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and thought, “Hey…let’s just throw all of this stuff together and see what comes of it. Might be fun.”
  • Will Smith had lost his mind
  • Β After watching that movie for 19 minutes, perhaps I had lost my mind (probably the most viable of the 3 options)


As it turns out, none of those things were accurate. (I know. I was surprised too.)

It seems as though Wild Wild West was just a film involving Steampunk. I know that there are several of you out there who already know what Steampunk is, but for those of us who don’t know what it is, (I am certain that I’m not the only “old lady” type out there who isn’t all up on robotic nurses, iPhone apps, and microwave popcorn, or whatever else you kids talk about these days…), I will attempt to poorly explain it all here.

Steampunk is “a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction” and involves a “setting where steampower is still widely used – usually Victorian era Britain or ‘Wild West’-era United Statesβ€”that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy” (this explanation has been brought to you by Wikipedia hours of extended research).

That being said, there are still a lot of things about it that I don’t understand.

1) I don’t understand how these glasses (sorry…spectacles) make you see any better:

Credit: daalliniirae.innermagic.net

And if you break them, can you just take them into LensCrafters for repairs? Will they have them ready in an hour or a fortnight?


2) I also don’t understandΒ  this:

Credit: catherinetterings.com

Is it a bracelet? A clock? That thing you have to wear on your head when you have braces on your teeth? Seriously, what the steampunk is this??


3) I don’t understand how to ride this:

Credit: ridingpretty.blogspot.com

Do you have to use a ladder to get to the top of this thing? If you need to run to the store to get some milk, is this the most practical vehicle for you to use? If you get a flat tire, where do you find a replacement?


4) I don’t understand how to play this:

Photo Credit: steampunkadventures.blogspot.com

Are the strings on this instrument made out of steel? How do I tune this? If I walk on carpet and touch this, will I get a shock? (<— a valid question, I think…)


5) I also don’t understand how to use this:

Photo Credit: thefogbow.com

Is it a laptop? Is it a typewriter? Do I use it to send emails or telegraphs?


6) I don’t understand why this had to be made:

Photo Credit: thefogbow.com

Of this, I am only curious about one thing: would Professor Xavier approve of this? (You’re the expert here, Cocca).


After all of this, I can’t help but wonder if I glued this:

Steam Whistle Photo Credit: http://www.americanartifacts.com

onto this:

would my steam-whistle-sweatband, in any way, be similar to the creations shown above?

I think I may try to do it sometime this week and take it out for a test-run. I just want someone to walk up to me and say, “What the steampunk is that?”

And I would say, “What the steampunk? What the steampunk, indeed…”


What do you think about Steampunk?

Are you a Steampunk? If so, what was your motivation to become one?

Do you think the author needs to watch Wild Wild West again in order to appreciate the beauty behind the Steampunk genre? If so, if she watches it on Fast Forward, does that still count?



40 Responses to “What the Steampunk is That??”

  1. A little bit before your time, “The Wild West” was a great 60’s/70’s TV show. Any remake of an America classic is hard to do. They wrecked a good thing and so it bombed somewhat at the box office. So you are not along in not understanding what the heck was going on.

    • Ah, yes…I forgot that it was initially a TV show! Perhaps if I had seen that first, then it would have made sense to me.

      So, it’s alright that I was not only confused by the technology in it, but also by the plot? It’s okay that I lost interest in the movie about 7 minutes in? πŸ˜‰

      Thanks so much for dropping by, Mark! Much appreciated!

  2. 3 jakesprinter

    I Like this movie Christy you have a great blog always keep in touch πŸ™‚

    • Well, I guess I need to give the film another chance, huh Jake? lol!

      Thanks so much for coming by again! So great to see you here! πŸ™‚

  3. πŸ˜‰ My 3-day-confidence-boost:

    Haha, more fun and funny stuff! Love it! On the plus side, Will Smith was still cute! You’d probably get a static shock from any of that stuff, but thankfully, they hadn’t invented rayon carpet yet… in… spite… of… all the other crazy stuff they apparently had invented.

    I prefer my steam and my punk packaged separately. Oh, but I love β™₯ LOVE β™₯ that dress!

    I am decidedly not a Steampunk. I write characters and settings as close to real as I can possibly get them. If I was one of those people who could analyze and ridicule (and remember) these contraptions when I see them, I might enjoy the movies more. I can’t help but be reminded of how I detest other similar time/culture clashes popular in sci-fi.

    Did you see The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (2003)? If not, skip the Wild Wild West rerun and go straight to that one. It might be the Steampunk movie of all Steampunk movies and you should be sufficiently confused throughout.

    • First of all, Annie…you’re the best. For some reason, you always have such kind and encouraging things to say to me…thank you. πŸ™‚

      Secondly, yes, Will Smith was still cute in that movie. Always has been and always will be.

      Thirdly, I also prefer my steam and punk sold separately. I like steam from my kettle and pull out my mohawk only on weekends.

      Lastly, I haven’t seen The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen yet, although I did PVR it a while back. As soon as I develop an attention span longer than 12 mintues, I will sit down and watch it. I’ve heard it’s phenomenal! I would prefer to watch that rather than fast-forward through Wild Wild West…again.

      Thanks again, Annie! You and your haute couture words always put me and my discount Wal-Mart bin words to shame… πŸ˜‰

    • Oh stop. I seriously had to look up what that means!

      I just remembered Sherlock Holmes was kind of done this way and I really liked that. But it also had Robert Downey Jr. in it. πŸ™‚

      • Oh please…your words are like Paris, and mine are like downtown Winnipeg. πŸ˜‰

        Yeah, I really liked Sherlock Holmes too. Probably only because it had both Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law in it. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have held my interest. I’m just deep like that. πŸ˜‰

  4. 9 Marko - Buki blog

    i think that WWWest was one of the wors movies from Will Smith…:) I agree with you and “What author wanted to say with the movie“ definetly πŸ™‚

    great article πŸ™‚

    • Yes, I agree with you. WWW was, indeed, one of the worst Will Smith movies that has ever been made. I’m pretty sure all of Hollywood agrees with us there.

      Perhaps if I had had a remote idea as to what Steampunk actually was at the time, I may have enjoyed a bit more.

      But probably not.

      Thanks for dropping in and taking the time to comment, Marko! πŸ˜‰

  5. This is the most accurate and complete review of “Wild Wild West” I have ever read. I also went into a light laughing fit and had to be calmed down and told to “get back to work.”

    I used to think I understood Steampunk because I had an affinity for rat rods and stripped down motorcycles (cafe races and street fighters mostly). I got that it was cool to see the mechanics of an object. I love industrial areas and have a pretty strong affinity for retro and vintage technology and aesthetics (you should see my house). So, you’d assume, I’d be all set to get on-board the steampunk train–but I’m not.

    It just doesn’t make any sense to me. I get cyberpunk. People took a particular vision of the future and drew from it in order to make a distinctive style that crossed into fashion, film, music and just about anything else you could apply it to. I don’t always like the end result but, often times, I do. Then somebody decided to take that idea and apply it in the worst way imaginable.

    It was like someone said, “I really like cyberpunk stuff but… well… What if we had robot arms and wore futuristic goggles but… I don’t know… pretended to be in the past. Like the 1800s… right when the mechanical age was starting up…. wouldn’t that be awesome?”

    And, instead of everyone telling him to shut up, a bunch of people agreed to go along with it.

    The next thing you know you see people walking around at the mall in cool clothes with a bunch of gold painted plastic and top hats with goggles wrapped around them. I know it’s fantasy but why is gold the preferred color for metal? Why not gray or steel or wrought iron? Why is everyone dressed up? Why does everyone seem to have a futuristic looking olde tyme gun? Why does everything have to be SO ornate and needlessly complicated? Where is this world supposed to have taken place? How does steam get turned into laser guns and futuristic modes of transport?

    At any rate, I must be getting old because I just don’t get it.

    Also, your new profile photo is beautiful.

    • Exactly!! It’s a world where nothing makes sense! I don’t understand the time frame (among, clearly, everything else about it). It’s a history that never really happened! Honestly, I get the whole futuristic fantasy thing (HUGE Star Wars fan, here), but other Sci-Fi films make comeplete sense to me. I understand that Luke Skywalker hasn’t been born, Darth Vader doesn’t use The Force to strangle people, and there is no Death Star (yet), but it’s easy to get swept up in that genre because it’s “possible”.

      When it comes to the Victorian Era, I get that too…it was beautiful and ornate, and everyone spoke in uppity English and all of that.

      How taking that kind of technology and throwing it back into the 1800’s, and then mixing them all together into some kind of technological stew became popular, I’ll never know!

      Also, I’m getting old too because I don’t get it. I’ve tried to understand, but I can’t. I accept that.

      I’ll never be Steampunk. The spectacles don’t compliment my eye shape…

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Posky. Your line, “And, instead of everyone telling him to shut up, a bunch of people agreed to go along with it”, made me laugh so hard!

      I knew that, out of everyone in the blogosphere, you would agree with me on this one! πŸ˜‰

      P.S. Thank you so much for your compliment as well. Made my day! πŸ™‚

  6. The TV show is much better. I had a similar reaction to it, myself. This movie is the reason I only watch what I’m interested in.

    • I’ve never seen the TV show, but I’m hesitant to watch it now…what if, all of a sudden, my eyes are inundated with robotic spiders and steam-lasers?? I couldn’t handle any more of that… πŸ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by again, MovieBlog8! Much appreciated! πŸ™‚

  7. Steampunk is the new cool Christy, how could you not know that? You’re one step away from being an old woman yelling at kids to get off her lawn!

    You need to take your sweatband and steamwhistle and see if it compares to any of the things here – http://www.regretsy.com/category/not-remotely-steampunk/ , I think you might be onto a money maker!

    Fun article as always.

    • Sooo…you’re saying that a black fanny pack can’t be steampunk, then? I fail to see the reasons why…

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Tori! Much appreciated! πŸ˜‰

      P.S. I’m already the old woman yelling at kids to get off her lawn. Adults too.

      And dogs.

      Sometimes birds.

  8. I watched the Wild Wild West TV show in syndication when I was a kid. The movie was horrendous. I didn’t know what steampunk was then either. It wouldn’t have made that film any better.

    • So, basically what I’m garnering from all of this is:

      1) There is no possible way that the film could have been any worse than it was, whether I watched the original TV show or not
      2) Even when you become aware of steampunk actually is, the movie would still suck
      3) When I begin watching a movie that I don’t understand, I should just walk away within the first 7 minutes

      Fair enough. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and validate my disdain for the film, Clay… πŸ˜‰

  9. Steampunk. The world that could have been.

    Who were the other three? And do not say Brian Austin Green.

    • What do you have against Brian Austin Green, Cocca?

      He’s such a brilliant actor, what with parlaying his career from 90210 to…uh….

  10. 23 sportsattitudes

    This is one TV show that could have made a good – not great – movie if it was done in the spirit of show, which was fairly low-key considering the gadgets and concept. However, Hollyweird got ahold of it and all hell broke loose. Horrific “tribute” to the show and horrific movie indeed. No second viewing required.

  11. I love movies & Will Smith, but you are right…that was one confusing movie. Maybe if I watched it again, but I’m scared to…..lol.

    • Me too. I’m afraid some Steampunk spider is going to crawl out of the screen and force me to wear out-dated and complicated goggles, and a metal corset.

      Thanks for stopping in again, Mindslam! Always a pleasure! *tips coachman-styled metallic top hat* πŸ˜‰

  12. I have become a bigger fan of steampunk in the last little while. It kind of fascinates me. Like you, I found Wild Wild West utterly confusing, but then I understood a bit more of it when League of Extraordinary Gentlemen came out. That’s the movie I generally use to explain to people now. Of course, I’ve gotten into this Book Series by Gail Carriger (the first book is called Soulless). Essentially, its steampunk England, with vampires, wherewolves and ghosts and stuff, written in a Victorian Jane Austenesque style. Very humourous.

    Oh, and thanks for the comment on my blog! It totally made my day!

    • Yes! That is the same book series that my cousin told me to read just yesterday! Huh…I guess more people are into steampunk than I thought. *Sigh*…I’m such an old lady who is stuck in her ways…

  13. My extremely disjointed and random thoughts on the world of steampunk:

    Simplicity and complexity rolled into one. A blending of two seemingly incongruous elements resulting in a harmonious, balanced alloy. Resourcefulness and excess joined in a marriage of maximal minimalism. A world where efficient mechanisms eventually replace the organic faunΓ¦ – competing on a level unattainable through the limited means of purely destructive forces. Without danger, how would there be safety? Without weakness, strength?

    Yep, sounds crazy πŸ™‚

    • That’s sounds way too complicated. I still don’t get it. πŸ˜‰

      Actually, I think that your answer is probably about the best one I’ve received thus far, Mediaudio. I don’t think it sounds crazy at all. I mean, I still think that steampunk is rather ridiculous, but I respect the “ying-yang” aspects behind it.

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment! Much appreciated! πŸ™‚

  14. Loved the original Wild, Wild West. Enjoy steampunk fiction. Never watched this remake movie — it looked too dumb!

    • Man, everyone seems to have loved the original Wild Wild West! I guess I really have missed out on that one, huh?

      Yeah, the movie still confuses me. So does steampunk. So does Kevin Kline. <— Based upon all of that, I’m pretty sure I’ll never watch it again.

  15. 33 Dog's-ear

    I’ve never seen any version of Wild Wild West, but your post reminds me of The Time Machine movie from 1960. I don’t think steampunk is my cup of tea, but some of the ironic curiosities people come up with our interesting.

    • Yeah, steampunk isn’t my thing either. I find it just a little too ridiculous, but I’m sure that there are things that I like that steampunkers would find ridiculous about me as well!

      Thanks for stopping in, Dog’s Ear! Greatly appreciated! πŸ™‚

  16. LOL excellent review. I remember watching this movie, all the time i was really thinking, ‘ok so what is happening now?’. haha

    But after a while they had a game out, based on this movie, the game was good πŸ˜›

    • Seriously? They made a game based on the film?? I didn’t know that! How is that even possible, though? I mean, how do you look at a movie that was rather terrible and confusing and think to yourself, “You know what would make this better? A board game. We should market that. People would love it.”

      Thanks so much for stopping in and for your kind words, Ibrahim! As usual, it’s always appreciated! πŸ™‚

  17. More WWW trivia: I heard from a little bird that Salma Hyak became more and more displeased with her skimpy and skimpier costumes as the “film” progressed. Will Smith’s acting is incredibly spotty in my opinion. At this poin t in his career I think it was hard for him to be all these different things he aspired to be.

    I liked him in Independence Day and the first Bad Boys. His serious stuff is pretty good like the one where he’s a stockbrocker (title needed) <– I'll come back and fill that in later.

    I don't understand steampunk either. Maybe it's an attempt to make science fiction more appealing to people who need visual stimulation from their fiction (picture books). That was kinda mean but I'm serious when I propose that one good way to get people interested about a certain type of writing is to attach an interesting artform to it.

    • I like how you call it a “film”. That implies that it was not at all a film, but a monstrosity. Well, at least that’s what I’m getting from it. Also, I’m pretty sure that Salma could have done something about her costumes had she wanted to…like put on more clothes. Not that hard to do. We all put our pants on one leg at a time – perhaps she doesn’t. I don’t know.

      Will Smith is a great actor. I loved him in Fresh Prince and only kind of disliked him in Ali. He usually doesn’t disappoint.

      With WWW, he disappointed.

      I am deducing that you, also, do not read fiction. I have a horrible time trying to read fiction because I feel like I’m wasting my time – if I’m not learning anything new, why bother reading it?

      Thanks so much for stopping in again, David! As always, your comments are greatly appreciated!

      P.S. Yes, you are kinda mean… πŸ˜‰

  18. Very cool Steampunk post! Great topic to explore!

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