Monday, June 23, 2014

Novelty (2 of 2)

Same genre? Maybe. Same premise?
on occasion. But not necessarily the same
So, last week, I contrasted the desire for novelty with the penchant for classification and pigeon-holing, and I suggested one thing that can explain both impulses: the desire for an emotional fix. We want things that are the same (in general outline) as what made us feel good before, but we want them to be different (in particulars) because the same old concoction doesn't do it for us anymore.

Is there anything more elevated to say about novelty? Because, if we leave it at that, we leave ourselves looking like some ridiculous cartoon donkey, chasing a carrot dangled in front of our nose that’s hung from a pole tied to our back. ‘Worse than that donkey really, because we’re smart enough to see what’s going on, but we continue the futile chase anyway.

Well, fear not, I’m not going to leave anyone looking like an ass. I think there’s definitely more to novelty than that.

When I asked a friend of mine whether doing the same thing again (in film for instance) could be worthwhile, she gave an insightful answer which was also unintentionally amusing. She said that someone else making a movie over again might be worthwhile because they would do something new and different with it. She was shocked when I pointed out that she’d just said doing the same thing again could be good, because it might be doing something different for the first time.

But, like I said, it is an insightful answer to the question, because she wasn't talking about changing superficial things (actors, setting, etc.) so we'd recapture our buzz. Her answer had to do with the way we apprehend and appreciate ideas. A particular artistic subject, a particular idea, isn't always (or even often) exhausted by a single treatment. Consider that, to spite the fact that different works are critiqued for being too much like each other, we do watch and read some works over and over again and, more importantly, we understand more about them and find more to see in them when we do (at least in the good ones).

Well, in a similar way, a writer or filmmaker revisiting an idea (or even a set of ideas, even a plot-line) can throw different things into relief and help us consider and appreciate new facets of the same ideas. Just as seeing something for the second time enables you to focus on the subtleties you missed before, and watching something again ten years later brings to bear all that experience you've gained, so having someone else think about the ideas and consider how to present them will contribute something to your consideration.

This is the value of novelty in general, whether it’s a novel approach to previously told stories, or something that has actually not been done before; to the extent that it helps us know the truth and appreciate the beautiful, its a good thing. Even if we have to get over initial disappointment at the lack of buzz, we might find something worth while on the other side of withdrawal

Now, whether movie-makers do this at all frequently, or it justifies throwing hundred million dollar budgets at the same ideas again and again, is another matter.

© 2014 John Hiner III

No comments:

Post a Comment