Monday, April 26, 2010

Defective (Also, This Isn't Really Funny, or Well-Written, So I'd Skip It If I Were You) (Don't Be Fooled by the Opening Lines; It Goes Downhill Fast)

Because we are part of the genteel, leisured class, my wife and I sometimes go to do crazy expensive things, like instruct our servants to engage in small-arms combat for our amusement, purchase diamond-encrusted monocles with diamonds for lenses, and pay full-price for a movie in the theaters.*

Such was the case this very Sunday evening. My wife and I went on a date night to go see Date Night. While it was amusing, it was not near as funny as she or I thought it would be.

Today, I was speaking with a coworker, and I told her my opinion of the movie, and she said that, while my reaction was very similar to her husband's, she actually thought that the movie was hilarious. Her explanation was something along the lines of how "if you're more boring like me, some of the jokes really hit home." Further, she said that she hadn't heard a lot about the movie beforehand, so going to see it was a pleasant experience.

This got me to thinking a couple of things. One, the movie clearly worked for at least one person. However, the more that I thought about it, I realized that the movie had worked for me as well, just not as much as I would have liked. My question out of this, then, is: is it a fair criticism of any work to art to say that something was not as _______ as you would have liked it to be? A comedy is trying to be funny; if it makes you laugh or smile at all, in a sense, it has succeeded. Saying that it is not as funny as you thought it would be implies that you had a set understanding about it before going into it, and it further implies that you were either misinformed about the movie or else you misperceived the data regarding the movie you had previously been given. Is it possible that the movie trailer misrepresent how funny it would be? If so, isn't it the trailer's (and not the movie's) fault for misleading you? Shouldn't my criticism be, "The movie was funny; however, the previews for the movie lead me to think that it would be riotously funny; therefore, my perception of the movie was skewed unfavorably by disingenuous advertising, and I cannot fully articulate how I would have enjoyed it going in blank."

I know that this is making a mountain out of a mole hill,** but it seems like a) it's impossible to effectively trace an emotional (or even intellectual) response back to why we feel/think it, and b) if we accept that art is designed to promote a response in the viewer, how can we really ascertain why we think that way or whether our conclusion is worthwhile.

Dear Internet: please help.

**P.S.: This phrase is hackneyed, trite, and asinine, but I will not change it because now I have a footnote, and heaven knows how I love footnotes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Am the Center of Narcissism

This is not something that I am proud of, but let's spend a little time sharing, shall we? Perhaps sharing will let the metaphorical* crazy out.

Sometimes, I am concerned that people can hear what I'm thinking. Like, really. Like, for real-real, not for play-play. This happens particularly in my grad classes, where I would like to keep up the facade that I am a reasonably intelligent person, and not someone who occasionally lets his mind wander to favorite Ren and Stimpy episodes when we're discussing the ramifications of a writer's ethnicity on the work that he/she produced. Nevertheless, I will sometimes provide some unspoken color commentary,** and another member of the class will look at me, and I swear that they have heard what I thought.


And so, what I do, is to pretend to scream at the top of my lungs in my head under the assumption that if everybody can hear me that everyone will look at me due to this outburst.*** I will then have solid evidence that I am not crazy. This looks like this:

Student A: I think it shows an obvious sense of imperialism for Peter Brook, an Englishman, to adapt the Mahabharata, an Indian set of scriptures, for the stage.
Me: (in my head) It's log! Log! It's big, it's heavy, it's wood!
Student A: (Glancing at me)
Me: (in my head) AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!
Everyone else: (Nothing. No response. They're very tricky.)

This line of thinking is not normal, people. This is not normal.

P.s.: Dear Sweetspotsweetie: I will happily accept a diagnosis from your husband. Very happily.

*Read: actual.
**Even some that is irrelevant to the discussion! Zing!