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Zachary Scalzo: do you hear this blogger type?

Zachary Scalzo: do you hear this blogger type?Zachary Scalzo is a writer of fiction and sometimes-guest-blogger living in Florida who is currently pursuing an MA in Comparative Literature: Translation Studies at Florida Atlantic University, where he received a BA in English and Italian. He also is active in community theatre productions and organizing student readings through his campus’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society.

Do You Hear This Blogger Type?

Let me start this off by saying that I hate when authors start their pieces with an apology to the audience that’s supposed to exonerate them from specificity or depth in their analysis or explanation of their subject.

I don’t pretend to be an omnipotent being who understands all the fine nuances of all forms of art and the subtle implication of a gaze shared between two people in one of those all-telling pregnant pauses between line breaks of poetry or in that moment just before we cross-cut to the protagonist running down the street sobbing or singing (I would guess the distinction between the two is a bit more clear for others than it is for me most of the time.) I recognize that I am far from the Alpha and the Omega of fine art and finer opinions. I try not to pretend I’m anything more than a student of whatever I can learn and try to present myself as such (and my opinions as those of such a person.) There is no way that I can open this conversation without making myself as much an open target as anyone who writes necessarily must in putting pen to paper (or, in this case, fingertip to keyboard, which I’m told I play as if it were the musical instrument rather than the technological one which shares its name.) I also recognize that there is no way I am going to be able to put this in a way that makes it sound less like a declaration to the world and more like what I intend it to be, but I also think that’s the nature of some writing sometimes.

That being said, I have a bit of a confession.

I didn’t hate the film adaptation of Les Miserables.

I also hate when authors make a definite declaration, with clear delineations and an obvious opinion, and then muddle it up with a series of long-winded justifications and qualifications.

I’m not saying it’s the best film I’ve ever seen. I’m also not saying it’s the best cast recording I’ve ever heard (but if you know of the perfect cast, feel free to send it my way because my friend and I would love to hear it.) As a student taking courses in translation and considering intersemiotic translation and film adaptation as the topic of his thesis (read: a modest student of whatever he can learn,) I also can’t say that I agree with every part of a song cut, every shot chosen, every actor casted.

However, I am completely certain of some things with which I cannot agree.

A sampling of Facebook advice:

“It sucked.”

“It’s awful.”

“The [book/stage musical/other movie adaptation] was totally better. Don’t even bother with this one.”

I get that these are opinions and, by virtue of that, not everyone’s going to agree with them (I remember some kind of poignant phrase about opinions and various, presumably unsavory body parts that sums up this sentiment succinctly, if imperfectly) and though I don’t agree with them, I want to make clear that the sentiment itself is not what I am taking issue with here (there’s some kind of West Side Story Jets-and-Sharks dance number precedent reserved for settling musical theatre opinions, I’m sure.) What I’m more concerned with is how quick most are to completely shut out a film (especially an adaptation.)

Now, mind you, my sampling probably wouldn’t fly in any kind of academic study that checks for randomness and I’m sure the fact that I have some kind of (possibly academic, future semi-professional) interest in adaptation allows me to view these comments a bit more acutely than most, but I can’t help but notice the proliferate amount of comments like those above existing as an unequivocal, standalone critique of the film.

And so we arrive to the heart of the problem.

Perhaps I write from a point of view that can only fully encompass my own point of view and my own observations (but, I mean, who doesn’t?) but I can’t help but notice in my peers a quasi-tangible disapproval (dare I add “fear?”) of adaptations and, on a wider level, art.

Which terrifies me.

If this sentiment, this disapproval of the film, were part of a larger, more comprehensive critique of the film (which will stand as my example for most of the art forms I’ve seen widespread enough for a large amount of critiques from my Facebook community,) then perhaps I could accept it. If I could better understand the reasons for which someone would so unequivocally detest the film, perhaps I could consider the proclamation more valid rather than the author of it less intelligent (as is so often the case.)

However, in the age of Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter and Blogger and Google+ and MySpace (if anyone still uses it) and LiveJournal (ditto,) many have become so accustomed to being able to easily spread their opinion that I ask myself at times if just as many still recognize the distinction between what constitutes something that can be said and something that is worth being said (because I will admit now that I do feel that this is frequently a missed distinction.) But this isn’t even the worst of it.

I think many people have become so accustomed to a pragmatic, technological existence that there’s been a distinct rise in the amount of people who are afraid of art, an obvious problem for someone who focused in Creative Writing and Rhetoric as part of his Undergraduate degree. In an age where everything is purposeful and necessary, I can understand where art becomes a bit of a contentious point. It could be argued that it doesn’t really benefit the public in any “real” way (again, problem for that hypothetical someone of the previous line) and those successful films, paintings, photos, songs, etc. can begin to take on the formulaic and ephemeral existence of their technological counterparts in this society.

So what happens when (a hypothetical) someone decides to bring some kind of creative work to the world? What does this (hypothetical) someone do in a culture where a poem can be made or broken in the fleeting seconds it takes to send a tweet from a smartphone? What happens to our poets and our musicians? Our actors and designers? Our painters of canvas and those of film?

What happens to a public when it becomes instructed exclusively in technology? When it loses a cultural patrimony out of its own volition and its readiness to halt its continuation?

Aside from an inundation of baristas and waiters, what else do we stand to gain from a fear of art (or worse, a single, immutable definition of it) but an unfeeling efficiency and a sheep-like, Orwellian groupthink leading us to our lemming dive into ignorance and idiocy?

By all means I am not trying to create a mass call to arms to counteract the technological culture in which I find myself (à la nineteenth century France, with a few musical numbers for good measure, perhaps?) I am not, by any means, anti-technology and I personally love my A/C and Kindle Fire much more than I feel I’d enjoy, you know, raising livestock and churning butter (though it could be argued the latter has more benefits than just farm-fresh dairy deliciousness.)

I’m also not deluded enough to think one blog post can change a first-impression, shut-it-down culture.

But I may be deluded enough to try.

tl;dr: All we are saying is give piece(s) a chance.

 

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Commenti

a wonderful read with a very good tl;dr tag to boot! haha

Great article, and you said it perfectly. In this age of Tweets which constrains us to 140 characters, we've become accustomed to condensing our thoughts into quickly digestible utterances. That, and the fact that people aren't usually inspired to share opinions on social media outlets unless they're strong ones. Very often it's either "I looooved it!!!" or "I HATED IT!!!!," which doesn't leave much room to debate the more subtle merits of an artistic work.
That said, I loooooved your article, so I'm tweeting it now (we're all such hypocrites). Bravo!

You've made such a great point in this article! Somehow with the sophistication of technology we have come to a simplification of the senses...

And for this and this only will I give the film a chance. Yes, I have a fear of adaptations. This one specifically has had me paralyzed by the worry that I would hate it (or worse, I wouldn't) so I have avoided it. So there you have it: one blog post has helped to change one mind.

Taking a step deeper, though, I am with you in your fight against the fear of the art. I am trying like mad to make sure my kids have a healthy respect for art -- all kinds of art --and I am taking the stance that I am doing them a huge disservice if I don't insist they have some knowledge, albeit limited, before they leave my home for one of their own. This is just not something many of their friends are exposed to. It's sad and it's scary and I hope it changes. (And I suppose I should take care not to pass on my fear of adaptations in the process...)

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