Still reading? Good. Maybe you agree with me. I want to talk a little bit about television, movies, and books that evoke an eye-roll. Writer Glen Weldon, in his role as panelist for NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, speaks on involution in art; he defines it as "turning in on itself. Going up its own butt—its own narrative butt." "Self confidence becomes self regard," he says, listing Joyce as the clearest literary example. I took an entire class on Joyce at one point, and outside Dubliners, I can't stand the man. Anything that seems too into itself makes my skin crawl.
For that Joyce course, my final paper was twelve pages on one single chapter from Ulysses: Nausicaa. And I have to say, by the end I did want to write twelve pages on every chapter in the book, but come one now, really? That's the only way for me to understand what's going on? David Foster Wallace once wrote that reading should be hard work, and I agree, for the most part... balance in life and all that (I'll let you know when I get past the second chapter of Infinite Jest).
Perhaps this has to do with the years I've spent studying creative writing. Conceit existed through my undergrad, in the way all fledgling writers think themselves kings of craft and creativity, but by graduation most of us had simmered down a bit. I had moved from fiction to nonfiction in the understanding that studying and writing the truth might allow me to one day support myself. In that shift I also came to realize how infinitely more complicated the world of nonfiction is than fiction and poetry (of course that's not necessarily true, but it's where my passion lies, so I'm right). By the time I finished grad school, I wasn't sure many writers were capable of humility. One semester, half the program took a course on "The Sublime" and it was all anyone could talk about. This was around the time I just wanted to squeal about the upcoming Avengers movie. My effervescent joy was met with many an arched eyebrow and upturned nose. In my final year I took a Rushdie class. Here's a bit of advice: Shakespeare is the only writer allowed to have his own class. If anyone tells you otherwise, be very, very sure you love the work before signing up. Rushdie, like Joyce, is very excited by how clever they can be.
|No. Please, stop. You've ruined it.|
This is why I am terrified of someone reviving Firefly. Leave it alone. It's perfect, and the premature cancellation evokes a longing that adds to the magic. And that magic cannot be recreated.
|The 9th Doctor is not impressed|
Why write about this now, you ask?
|Could this show take itself more seriously?|
Inception is a movie that literally collapses in on itself. There is no reason for three Hobbit movies; I'm looking at you, made-up orcs, Radagast, and foreshadowing. All I wanted was a treasure hunt. I mean, imagine if Guillermo del Toro directed the thing with Ron Perlman as Beorn. It would have been more fun than farcical.
The Avengers knew what it was, and succeeded. It did, at times, try a bit hard to be that which it was, like a caricature of itself. Some of its -ness could have been reigned in by the likes of Mark Ruffalo's subdued performance as Bruce Banner, but that excess exhibited by snarky, ostentatious dialogue was corrected in subsequent Marvel films. It's still there in the banter between Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in Winter Soldier, and everything about Guardians of the Galaxy, but refined, dialed-in.
Not too long ago, a friend asked me, "Do you think True Detective is funny, or is that just me being a sick bastard? I mean, nihilism is just so cute."
"Occasionally, yeah," I said, " it goes way over the top at times."
He said, "Gotta love excessive earnestness. More people need to read and watch Oscar Wilde."
What's on your list? If I'm in the wrong mood, even Game of Thrones becomes ridiculous, and I love that show. Where do you draw the line? When is it too much?