Friday, September 10, 2010

I Like to Watch

Forgive the scattered nature of this post--the unassembled furniture, unhung pictures, and post-apocalyptic closets have finally gotten to me. I can't manage anything outside of work; I'm doing Hamline packets this week, and I'm supposed to be finishing rewrites on my book--or, to be more precise, I am supposed to have finished rewrites on my book. I haven't been able to figure out how to fix what I need to fix at the end, but I've found that simply not working on it is an effective way of dealing with the problem. Why didn't anyone ever tell me about this totally awesome denial thing?

In other words, my brain is as put together as an Ikea box that someone's unpacked and left to rot in the middle of a living room. I am jealous of Ron and would like to spend several days in the dark movie theater with my fellows, engaged in this communal act of watching. Roger Sutton has some interesting musings on the difference between reading and watching on his blog. And I think he's right--sometimes you just want to let the story wash over you.

I was recently forced to watch Avatar and my brain is such that instead of maintaining my posture of writing-matters-dammit! outrage, I could only marvel at the pretty blue guys. They can stick their tails into things and become all, like, connected. It's like an ethernet network, except in your soul. Still, it was good movie to watch with an unassembled-brain--with no critical judgement to speak of I could see that, as utterly stupid, cliched, and noxious as the screenplay is, James Cameron does know how to create an experience. His moviemaking is all about that desire to sit in the dark and give yourself up to something else. He gets it. Even if his sense of nuance is rather lacking.

In other movie news, they're trying to cast The Hunger Games movie. Kristen Stewart is on the shortlist--her performance mooning over that vampire with the hair inTwilight is apparently adequate screen test for Katniss. It's not just the mooning--the female hero of both of these books seem to distinguish themselves by being undistinguished. These girls are blank slates, defined more by the boys in whose eyes they long to see themselves. And the disaffected, affectless Stewart is the perfect actress for this kind of role. These characters have combined to gross 8 bajillion dollars over the last few years, and I'm wondering what it is about this kind of female protagonist that's so appealing. Is it that a preteen reader can project herself onto the main character? Or that there's comfort in an essentially passive protagonist just trying to make her way in this crazy world? And what does it mean for our efforts to try to encourage strong, active protagonists--people who happen to the story instead of letting it happen to them?

Maybe I just need to go sit in the dark somewhere.


  1. Dear Anne,

    I think you are having one of those 15-minute moments that happen when you are a waitress in a very busy Friday night restaurant and you have more than your share of tables and all the food is coming at once or not coming at all and you are absolutely sure that there is no way you will ever get it all done.

    The only thing good about those moments is they pass. Sitting in the dark can help.

  2. Anne: If I find myself stuck with my own manuscript problems, I will remember your sage advice--"simply not working on it is an effective way of dealing with the problem."

    If my advisor doesn't care for the whole denial thing, would you mind speaking to her for me and setting her straight? I think you could take her in a fair fight.

  3. I think casting talentless blank slate actresses in key roles is really only about one thing. Money. The movie studies want to be assured that such a risky film (for that is what all sci-fi movies are) will make them tons of money. There are lots of wonderful young actresses out there...just so sad that they keep picking the same 10 people to be in everything. I for one hope they cast a nobody. They are far more interesting to watch.

  4. Yes, Katniss was a rather bland female character. But she has a great gift for strategy, and keeping everything to herself. About guys, of course, she was indecisive. The blue woman from Avatar had great voice, but she was rather indecisive too. Why did she pick the nerd guy inhabiting an altered clone body? Kind of like finding out the hunk you want to marry is really just a lobster in a human suit.
    And whoever can't decide between a warewolf and a vampire has got to be pretty crazy. So I guess indecision typifies preteen girls, for now in the consumer world. And I guess tweens should be indecisive. I mean I were decisive as a tween, I would have married at sixteen and become a very bad pastry chef/ tap dancer.

    The question is, is indecision interesting to a story? Possibly in the thrilling sense. I mean how many years did people watch "Who's the Boss," and wonder when they would finally get over themselves and get married. It really wasn't that interesting, but people kept watching.
    I just tell myself we are really are sitting in the dark around a camp fire at night. We are still a primitive tribe staring at the light and willing to listen to anything, absolutely anything, that has a bit of story in it we can hang onto. We'll put up with a lot, just to keep sitting there listening in the dark.