There has been a theme, a fundamental assumption, running through this whole blog, about which I was pretty explicit in some of the first posts and, with the recent mention of the concept of genre, I think it’s a good time to go a little bit deeper and take a look at this principle. Then maybe we can lighten up and review a couple movies or comics or something.
|Yep, I've met people with opinions like this.|
I am of the opinion that there are not many opinions. Some people will tell you that everyone has their own, and they imply (or say right up front) that they are each different. But, if you really look at it, everyone having their own opinion is a lot closer to everyone having a pair of shoes: some are practical, some are for show, and some are incredibly uncomfortable and have barely anything to do with reality. Also, most people don’t make them for themselves and, just like every shoe is meant to go on a foot, and every foot walks around on the ground, opinions are all formed and held in fundamentally the same context.
There aren’t many opinions because, to spite the vast number of things in the world, there are far fewer meanings of things than there are things, far fewer purposes for things than there are things, and far fewer stances to take on those meanings and purposes.
That is why, as I mentioned in Novelty (2 of 2), the actors that play parts and the settings they play them in are superficial aspects of a movie.
I would add that the genre is superficial as well.
Now, this doesn’t make these things unimportant; I’d certainly miss my skin if it were gone (on both practical and aesthetic grounds), but my skin is superficial nonetheless.
Classifying works of art according to genre is helpful because it gives us a notion of what we’re in for on the surface. Imagine that I said to you: “Hey, do you want to go to the park?” and you say yes, imagining a pleasant afternoon strolling down wooded paths. Then we get in a car, drive for two and a half hours, and pay forty five bucks a piece to ride roller coasters. You might think I should have specified and said “amusement park”. This is just what genres do; they let us know whether we’re going to watch cars exploding and musclemen punching, or lovers sighing and rivals plotting. They also, for better or worse, give writers sets of images, characters, plot-lines, and plot devices to use together when writing a story.
But the good in stories, the things without which a story isn’t worth telling, are displayed by these more superficial elements but aren’t any of them. We know this because these good things are evident in stories of drastically different genres.
For instance, courage is a necessary virtue tied up with the mystery of suffering and the transcendent nature of man. What sort of movie would display such a thing? War movies are pretty likely to have courage in them, or maybe a movie about surviving in the wilderness, like The Edge. But, what about romantic comedies? You know, like when the guy has to tell the gal about who he really is and apologize for his lies? Or the gal has to overcome her insecurity? I’m not saying these movies necessarily do a good job of displaying courage, it depends on the movie, but it is undeniably involved.
Similarly, buddy-cop movies are about love. Not romantic love, but Riggs and Murtaugh’s friendship and growing intimacy is a large part of Lethal Weapon. First Blood (the first Rambo movie) is about the struggle to maintain honor and dignity and the dangers of despising your fellow men. The Ninja Turtles live action movie is about fathers and sons and how to act with courage and integrity in an alienating world.
Stories, all of them, either act as windows through which we see these profound and beautiful things, or they are just mindless head bashing and vapid infatuations.
© 2014 John Hiner III