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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
catsclaws
Jan. 29th, 2003 04:48 pm (UTC)
Did his rag on the Ring distress you?
wrin
Jan. 29th, 2003 06:06 pm (UTC)
What the FUCK?

"*I* saw the two towers cos I'm THMART! Everyone else is dumb tho."

What a *prick.*

Let's not talk about anything intelligent, like the aliteracy of our society, or the trend towards quick-and-easy answers, and convenience. No, no. Make some enormously retarded quantum leap and say that the reason our society seems to be sliding slowly downhill is because we're being gradually infantilized.

I don't think there's any real question here about who's seeking a naive and fundamentally infantile point of view as reasoning for the way the world works.
yshynseth
Jan. 29th, 2003 10:00 pm (UTC)
Allow me to play devil's advocate... and ramble...
He does have a point, but I disagree with his leap from Bush to infantilization because though I agree the words "moms" and "dads" are used due to their associations with childhood and innocence, it has nothing to do with "infantilization" of adults.

His two points do stand up on their own, though. Spiderman, Harry Potter, and Two Towers were directed at a huge market, and it just might be possible that the media is trying to make itself into a big homogenous goo to be spoonfed to people of all ages. And movies like the above mentioned (yes, even the two LoTR flicks) actually can't stand up to real movies. He's got a point about the LoTR movies because barely any of the real depth of the book is even suggested in them, and the events just don't stand up by themselves.

And the reason society is letting itself be infantilazed is the very real issue of aliteracy and dropping of standards. And I think he's saying that he's outgrown Lord of the Rings, rather than that he's just smarter than everyone who's watching or reading it. And the book can be outgrown, the characters are pretty flat, the events none-too complex, and though I appreciate the depth of the book as much as the next Ring-geek, it's clear that it was written by a linguist and historian rather than a great writer. It's a fun touch of our more childlike, interwoven primal feelings, but I'll take any Dostoevsky over it every time. Anyone want to defend LoTR?
chandri
Jan. 30th, 2003 01:06 am (UTC)
Re: Allow me to play devil's advocate... and ramble...
Isn't believing in the simple ability of good to triumph over evil, or the existence of things beyond the visible and tangible, or the ability to comprehend those beliefs, just as important as the understanding of Dostoevsky, or a comprehensive knowledge of world politics and the "real world"?

Regardless of the intentions of the people who made those movies, Spiderman, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings aren't about making money, or getting themselves universally-accepted by an increasingly mundane public. They weren't written for that purpose. Spiderman, especially, is about the dangers and evils of discrimination.

His points on Bush might stand up - but he isn't just talking about Bush. He's saying that anyone who liked those movies, who likes LoTR or Spiderman or Harry Potter is an idiot with the mind of a child. He's saying we like those things only because we're being "infantilized", because we've been conditioned to do so, and that we shouldn't like them, because they're childish - and *I* totally disagree with anyone willing to assert that fantasy/sci-fi doesn't represent a significant contribution to human knowledge - and the understanding of its component parts an important part of becoming a whole human being. I think anyone who says that simply has never understood what those things are really about - and in this guy's case, is just too arrogant and self-important to bother trying.

Aside from all of that, I'm bothered by anyone who thinks that to "grow up" one has to abandon all "childish" things - I think that such a mindset indicates far more immature a mind than does reading LoTR, or Spiderman, or X-Men, or Harry Potter, and enjoying it, for whatever reason.
wrin
Jan. 30th, 2003 08:25 am (UTC)
Re: Allow me to play devil's advocate... and ramble...
Then again, this guy probably trades stock the way we used to trade Marvel cards.
kimry
Jan. 30th, 2003 09:43 am (UTC)
Re: Allow me to play devil's advocate... and ramble...
Hmmm. His article is really a bunch of fluff. I think his point didn't even need to be made.

However, I personally think that Spiderman, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings are quite childish with that lack of depth, because they were meant to be. They certainly can't stand up to movies like Breathless, or Amelie, for instance.

Good vs. evil is a very common theme in children's books/movies/products, however, it is also a base theme for many adult movies; they just have more themes tacked on top as well.
yshynseth
Jan. 30th, 2003 12:08 pm (UTC)
Romanticism VS. Pragmatism
Kimry did half the work for me, but...

Isn't believing in the simple ability of good to triumph over evil, or the existence of things beyond the visible and tangible, or the ability to comprehend those beliefs, just as important as the understanding of Dostoevsky, or a comprehensive knowledge of world politics and the "real world"?

Dostoyevsky and other good literature is about "good and evil" just a far more subtle form of it. I think that universal notions of good and evil belong in children's literature, such as Lord of the Rings. And I do think "the existence of things beyond the visible and tangible" is as important as understanding Dostoevsky... just at a much earlier age. I see it like the difference between my Metaphysics and Existentialism classes... Sure, it's important and fun to ask whether matter and humans and God exist in the same sense as we know them, but after a while it's even more important to let go of what might be and go in-depth into what is. To go into what real, rather than sci-fi/fantasy "good and evil" are. Hell, I've read maybe a hundred sci-fi and fantasy book in my younger life, everything from Verne to Vurt, and I'm certainly not going to stop completely, and I do think they're interesting, but I think there's something fundamentally wrong with books that are written just to throw two or three good ideas out there. Sci-fi belongs in short stories.

Regardless of the intentions of the people who made those movies, Spiderman, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings aren't about making money, or getting themselves universally-accepted by an increasingly mundane public. They weren't written for that purpose. Spiderman, especially, is about the dangers and evils of discrimination.

No, they weren't written because of that, but the writing sentiment is nine-tenths lost in the movies anyways. As I said, look at Lord of the Rings and the depth lost when it got turned into movies. Look at "Two Towers". Why was most of it a gory battle scene to appeal to stereotypical boys of all ages? Why did the women get dragged along to Helm's Deep, other than to tug at heartstrings? Spiderman (though I've read the comics since I was eight and don't quite see how) might be about the dangers and evil of discrimination, but are you willing to tell me a single good idea justifies a whole comic book series/movie? No, it's all mushy baby food for the masses.

His points on Bush might stand up ... (had to cut due to 4300 character restriction)

If not infantilized, then halfway there. Many people, if not receding into childhood, are certainly not growing past the age of twenty or so, and still retain a large portion of their teenager tastes. As for the "significant cntribution to human knowledge"... as I said, sci-fi should be in short stories. And fantasy has been so exhausted that it's somewhat rare to encounter ideas even as original as in science fiction. And I don't agree with Smith's arguments, just this: Society is becoming infantilized. I'm trying to explain how I see that process.

Aside from all of that, I'm bothered by anyone who thinks that to "grow up" one has to abandon all "childish" things - I think that such a mindset indicates far more immature a mind than does reading LoTR, or Spiderman, or X-Men, or Harry Potter, and enjoying it, for whatever reason.

True, it just shows an "I'm-too-good-for-this" attitude, and I'm not for abandoning them, but for taking them for what they are. And I'm for the movie industry not feeding us cross-age-group movies half the bloody time to increase sales. Make it for one age group, and make it well.
chandri
Jan. 30th, 2003 02:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Romanticism VS. Pragmatism
"...after a while it's even more important to let go of what might be and go in-depth into what is.

I totally disagree. I don't think you can even begin to claim knowledge of what "is" until you've fully accepted the possibilities of what might be.
Are you saying that fantasy and sci-fi can't be as complicated as "reality"-based works? I think they can, and are. It's just that it takes more work to see the deeper meanings in those kinds of stories, because unlike all things reality-based, they don't come with an easily pre-fabricated environment. And regardless of what its detractors think, fantasy and sci-fi *aren't* written exclusively for children. They're written for people with open minds. Children tend to be more open-minded about things than adults, because they haven't yet formed prejudices. Screw pragmatism, I say - at least insofar as literature is concerned.
Then again, maybe I'm just too mentally immature for Dostoevsky.
yshynseth
Jan. 30th, 2003 03:21 pm (UTC)
Well, sure, I could just as easily say "screw romanticism".
Perhaps "letting go" is not what I meant, but I do think focusing on "what is" is important. I do think you can't "even begin to claim knowledge of what 'is' until you've fully accepted the possibilities of what might be," but I also think that after a while non-sci-fi/fantasy literature is more important and should become more dominant than s/f in peoples' lives as they age.

I still read sci-fi and sometimes fantasy (guardians of the flame is great) and they still raise plenty of interesting points. I also think that important works can certainly be set in sci-fi or fantasy settings. I mean, look at A Clockwork Orange or 1984.

But I think we're both assuming a black-and-white view of real-life vs s/f books in that we're attacking what we perceive to be some sort of ideal, but real books always tend to be shades of gray. I think all I'm saying is that if you're calling LoTR, Harry Potter, or Spiderman good (or best) representations of their genres, I think the genres have far to go. There simply haven't been many really important works in sci-fi or fantasy, but maybe that's because the genres are relatively new.

Another thing I want to say is that in a great book, setting shouldn't matter. So if an author manages to write a great work of literature and set it in a s/f setting, kudos to them. But it just doesn't happen very often. As for not having to be open-minded for Dostoevsky... that's just not true. He raises a hell of a lot more issues than any s/f book I've ever read, but I don't feel like doing a dissertation on Dostoevsky's views just now.

My final point? I believe the distinction between real-life stories and s/f is not nearly as important as the distinction between the two and great literature. Genres can be garbage, but classics are classics.

Real-life writers can focus on writing well because they don't have to redefine the rules of the environment. (Austen's books are set in, what, a drawing room?) However, sci-fi/fantasy writers tend to spend so much on the environment that they end up not having written a good story or characters at all. I'll have to ask you to cite examples of hybrids that pull both off really well, then maybe I'll read them.
chandri
Jan. 30th, 2003 08:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Well, sure, I could just as easily say "screw romanticism".
*shrug* Maybe I'm a romantic. Maybe I'm a biased one, at that - being a sci-fi/fantasy *writer*. A lot of non-fiction bores me *because* it's often just *too* familiar, too normal, too mundane. A lot of reality-base writers assume the environment/setting is taken as read. A lot of them don't bother to describe *anything*, including the characters/plot. That said, there is some reality-base stuff I like - just not as much as I like of sci-fi/fantasy.

The kind of stuff I read and write, though, is most frequently urban fantasy - weird stuff in familiar settings. Elves in Los Angeles, that kind of thing - but let's leave Mercedes Lackey out of this, because she's admittedly brain candy. ;)

And conversely, there's some sci-fi I just can't stand - Zelazny's Amber books, for example, which seem like perfectly good fantasy novels, with an interesting premise, but twenty pages in, turn into "and lo, he boarded the ship, and travelled many leagues..." and you're left staring at the book, feeling betrayed, going "where the *hell* is my prose, you lazy bastard?"

Blah.
chandri
Jan. 30th, 2003 08:30 pm (UTC)
I almost forgot.
Read Dreams Underfoot by Charles DeLint. The Little Country is also good. Anything by DeLint, really. He writes urban fantasy, and is Good.
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