eloieli didn’t simply take me at face value. He critically engaged with my post on Critical Thinking and had a few interesting things to say. I suggest you read the comments for the full picture, but really broadly, the discussion has gone on along these lines:
What Goethe and I are essentially proposing is a relativistic standard of criticism. Relativism has a few problems, as well as a few benefits. Broadly, if followed to it’s limit, it engenders anarchy, where no judgement is available because we have no points of reference or standards of comparison. However, the up-side is that is allows you to get some utility from distinctly imperfect works, and to get a deeper understanding of specific works in isolation.
The second, and probably more important for our purposes, strand is whether enjoyment is obviated by investigation. It is largely this question which I address in the post below. The basic argument is that if you interact with an imperfect work in a superficial way, you are less aware of its flaws and hence more able to enjoy it.
If I applied the standard you supplied all I would see is the flaws and weakness of it.
Would you? Surely another perspective on this is that you would know what you liked about it? I’m not sure why you’re automatically construing more information as deleterious to your enjoyment. Perhaps because you’re trying to analyse the work as if it were Shakespeare, rather than as a Hollywood Blockbuster?
I would even contend the opposite: that a bit of critical thinking can rescue a bad experience. After leaving, say, The Phantom Menace I felt like George Lucas had spat in my face. So I sat down and thought about it. I chatted to people about it. I re-watched the original movies… and I eventually concluded that, sadly, it could have been a good movie. Certainly my hind brain animal response is still not terribly favourable, but I am far more sympathetic to the intent of the movie, and far less angry about it.
I think that there are almost no movies that I’ve had a positive gut reaction to that I haven’t been able to look at in greater detail and find more things I liked. Sure, sometimes I find bad stuff too: but that doesn’t erase my positive initial experience, it tempers it.
Assuming for a moment though that even a relativistic analysis would in some way diminish your enjoyment, isn’t the correct response to demand movies in that style that perfectly execute their own agendas? I’d point here to something like Pirates: Curse of the Black Pearl. If everyone in the world had simply sat back and accepted Cuthroat Island, do you think we’d have gotten it? I think we’d have gotten Cuthroat Island II then III, and so on.
Simply saying “I’m happy with whatever I get” seems to inevitably lead to what you get being whatever the minimum possible standard is.
You said “[c]learly you have a whole set of assumptions tied up in this that go unsaid” and I think you’re right. My basic assumption is: More is More, combined with “you should aim to get as much as possible.”
Trying to follow your basic argument that you should simply accept whatever comes your way without a second thought does not seem likely to produce good results for you in any field of endeavour or experience.
But at least you’ve not gone as far the other way as some people. I was chatting with someone who was bragging about the fact that they don’t play Ultimate very well: they saw their flippancy and almost wilful refusal to get better as in some way guaranteeing fun. But I’ve always found quite the opposite: I enjoy things more that I’m better at. And I guess the upside to the debate is that when I play games against those people, I crush them without mercy and I quite enjoy that. I doubt they do.
Not that I real bodice ripping romance, but surely it should be primarily assessed against like works as the basis for criticism. Applying Aeneidlike expectations to such a work is sure misguided at best.
That was exactly my point. If you’re trying to look at a bit of work as if it’s something totally different, you’re doomed to finding it inadequate.
However, I think there is some more general aim for literature than “is entertaining.” I mean, smoking some crack and watch a spider move: that’s entertainment. No: literature should in some way reflect a basic human-ness. This needn’t be terribly deep, or profound, but it’s something slightly better than a simple distraction. Ultimately, the most successful works of art simultaneously enthrall and illuminate the human condition. This is a value statement outside the scope of my original post. 🙂
Thus DOA should be compared to Mortal Combat (it was much better) and Rumble in the Bronx (much worse), rather than too Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
And thus is born the theory of Genres. Genre divisions tend to be pretty arbitrary, and not terribly helpful. Why are you putting CTHD in a different camp from the others? My viewing of them was in pretty much the same mode. CTHD did almost all the stuff that those other movies did, but it brought a whole bunch more good shit to the table too. Am I being fanciful for suggesting it was a better martial arts movie than Mortal Kombat? Maybe. Am I wrong to suggest that it fulfilled more of it’s own objectives than MK did? Absolutely not.
MK, like most movies of its ilk could easily have been much better. That’s what the role of the critic is: to improve MK, so that it still does all the things you like about it right now, and a whole bunch more. Or at least, that it’s sequel does. 🙂
Only a step away from casting aspertions on the “uninformed” 😛
Perhaps. Let me just say that when I enjoy a movie, I enjoy it in a lot more ways than someone who just likes flashing pretty colours. I like those too, but I like other stuff that they might not even know is there to be enjoyed.
You’re basically right though, I’m effectively looking down on people who are content to just get what they’re given without question, without striving for better, without even an awareness that “better” is possible. They’re not the people who looked at the cave and thought “condo”, they’re the guys who thought “raw meat, yum.” They’re not the future: they’re trapped in the limbo of the now. While I’m content to leave them be, I certainly don’t aspire to join them.
You haven’t at all explained why I *need* to desconstruct any particular creative work. Let alone why I should do this in order to “get the most” out of it.
You’re right: this isn’t a “need”. If you want to get less than there is on offer, that’s within your rights and capability. But I just can’t grasp your argument that by not taking things further than the bare minimum to get the information into my brain, that somehow this will be more enjoyable, better in any way.
[edit: I read a very cool article by a life-long Shakespeare scholar arguing that while someone should decide whether Shakespeare was a great poet, she was not the man for the job. She said that she was too close to the material, and had observed too many reversals of opinion on any specific work over the decades. It was a fascinating insight into things. That was Fixed Marks and Variable Constancies: A Parable of Value by Barbara Smith.]