Sunday, August 8, 2010

I think I missed the wagon-train

I finally saw Donnie Darko tonight.  I know, I'm only 9 years late.  But if I have learned anything from my belated movie experiences, it is this :

I hate hype.

Donnie Darko is a film I would have quite enjoyed, had I not been told it was 'teh best thing evarrrrrr!!!11!!!' repeatedly.  The same goes for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and just about anything my students recommend.  I think the effect is compounded when it also comes from social media, peers, and the people you actually care about.

One of the things I cover in my lectures is the individuality of experience.  You can never explain to someone why something made you feel the way you did, nor force them to experience the same emotion from the same content..  That's just the nature of disparate realities.  Sorry, folks.  But when Donnie Darko is a favourite movie of several people I very much love and respect, I feel a little sad knowing I don't feel the same way.  It's zeitgeist, indeed, but not pathos, for me.

Life itself is a series of seeking for these kinds of formative and transformative experiences.  That, ideally, is why we recommend something to the people we care about, because it touched us deeply in some inexplicable way, and we're hoping they will experience the same feeling.  I feel a little like I'm letting the team down, then, if I don't comply.  However, given that my boyfriend is one of those people, and he will never understand the effect that Dragonheart or Planescape: Torment had on me, the give and take seems more fair.

As practical advice, my advice is this - if you love something, don't talk it up.  Don't tell your friends how absolutely amazing it is, or at least be sure to couch your reaction clearly as your reaction, not, as above, 'it r best movie evar win for you!'.  If the person is open to discussion, qualify (or quantify) your opinion with some facts about your reaction, without giving the story away.  This may all sound like sensible, boring advice, but it's more difficult to put into practice than you might think.  The things that excite us necessarily demand we get excited, and that will come through.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But allowing the people you care about to make an informed decision should be part of your goal, as well.

I didn't dislike Donnie Darko.  I just think, having someone on hand, who had memorised the extra content and was able to answer all of my questions which, at the time, would have been a mystery to entrance me, is both convenient and disappointing.  Sometimes the best things in life shouldn't be easy.  Would I have enjoyed it more if I'd had to do my own research?  Perhaps.  Do I begrudge my friend the chance to discuss something he loves?  Not at all.  The experience wasn't ruined, but it wasn't transformative, either.  Not like The Darjeeling Limited.  Now, on that count, my friend certainly does win.

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