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July 16, 2013 at 11:55 AMComments: 147 Faves: 1

The Book Was Better

By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This Author

"The book was better."

A simple phrase, in and of itself, the root of which lies somewhere betwixt pretension and honest discovery. It is an unfortunate circumstance that we live in a time where the former is so often mistaken for the latter in terms of intelligence and the respect that may come from having a bit of it. Yet, here we sit, riding the wave of an age ripe with brightly lit screens filled to the brim with the basest of human instinct, and we deign to call it the evolution of story.

Rinse and Repeat

We live in an unoriginal age. Any story, or character that inhabits such a realm, can be tied to a similar concept that came before. Those who have come to terms with this inevitability have learned that it was never a character or story that was original, but the mind (or minds) who spawned such glories. When these minds of higher-than-average intelligence release their work, money is made. When money is made, more is desired. This vicious cycle makes for a rather limited amount of "good" material, hence the desire to bank on stories that have already seen success.

And why not? When staring down the barrel of investors anxiously waiting to spew loads of money on the hope of massive returns, what creative mind does not look to those who have done it better? What sane and rational person of the 21st century does not bend the knee to the power of money? We call it nostalgia. We loved the story so very much in our youth, how could we ever say no to the opportunity bestowed upon us? How could we ever say no to bringing our favorite characters to screens larger-than-life? We want three dimensions! We want action! We want blood! We want sex! We want to live vicariously through these characters, but refuse to take the time to truly understand them.

For far too long, the phrase, "the book was better," has been used to assert some semblance of intelligence over the screen-dwellers. And now, some interpretations of written word are being lauded as "better than the book." We have shifted from pompous ignorance to plain stupidity. I call for a return to roots. A return to the time when proclaiming, "the book was better," represented a badge of honor. Uttering the phrase meant understanding that there is no amount of CG or fanciful post-production that could enhance your intimate relationship with the story and its characters.

The book will always be better. The book will always be better than the movie. The book will always be better than the TV show. The book will always be better than life itself. The book will always be better for two reasons:

Interiority

Interiority deals with the inner workings of any given subject. As it pertains to stories, interiority is represented by character thoughts and motivations, giving us an intense glimpse at the reality of a character based on personal truth, not just action. Interiority leads directly to our sympathetic response to a character. Love the character or not, interiority is the main road to this response, just as it is in real life. We only confess to truly "knowing" someone after we have been given a glimpse at their true motivations, their true self.

This sense of interiority is dying, both in story and in life, as one always precedes the other. Our society's move toward screen-based story telling illuminates the degradation of both our intellect and our evolving human nature. It brings forth the realization that we are moving further from truth and progress, and closer to placid destruction.

With increasing frequency, a vast majority of our society craves two things: characterization and the acceptance of the herd. In pursuit of both, instead of being true to who we are, we choose to craft a mask that allows us to function within the confines of both subjective ideals. This crafting has become so prolific that mere surface conversations are battles in deflection. The back and forth that once represented an increasing knowledge of one another, is now only a play of puppets. We dangle our masks in front of any true motivation so as not to seem an individual, or be exiled from the imaginary caste that rules our self-importance. Any semblance of individuality is treated with shame initially, and humility henceforth. No one embraces their own truth.

Our on-screen story telling follows the same path. Rarely do we see interiority, or any semblance of character development, played across the glamorous canvas. Instead, we revel in the hollow nature of our base desires, immune to all that makes us unique in the animal world. We take great characters and dress them up to appeal to the masses. We forget that they have already done this. There is no alteration needed.

Some may argue that the nature of film leaves little room for interiority. That the attention span of a modern audience does not allow for an intimate relationship between crew and viewer. What is the point then? Why tell a story if you are not going to involve some risk for the viewer? I want to weep when a character dies! I want to rage at the villain who murdered the hero! I want to understand why!

When I read, I understand why. When I read, I see the picture of humanity that the author is attempting to paint. I see his/her ideal version of a character and I watch as that character's development runs parallel to the author's discovery of themselves, and humanity, as a whole. When I read, I learn what it is to love fully, to hate without regard for personal safety, and the gamut of human experience that lies between.

Landscape

The second reason a book will always be better deals with personal landscape and, more specifically, individuality. There are not many of sound mind that fail to recognize we are in the midst of individuality's death throes. Some of the largest social movements of modern times actually deal with destroying individuality through a sole reliance upon popular aesthetic appeal (the "hipster" movement comes to mind). This destruction spawns from the inability to create personal landscapes devoid of outside influence. Reading teaches this ability along with abstract thought, which is the basis of human intelligence.

When we go to see a movie, or turn on the television, we are given all the visual information and very little is left to the imagination. As it is with any learned response, partake in this action enough and said action becomes instinct. We are dogs to the proverbial food bowl, show us the image and the tremendous machine that is our brain goes into hibernation.

The death of imagination is the death of individuality. How can we imagine ourselves any different than those around us when both subjects draw from the same inspirational well?

When a book is read, there is only our personal interpretation of character and world. This personal interpretation is unique to you, a representation of our own individuality and desire for separation from the norm. There is nothing contrived about this interpretation. The deeper we delve into the story, the greater our interpretation of the world becomes. This personal interpretation becomes a badge of our individuality as we discover how others have done the same, respectively. The more we read, the greater this sense grows, our personal landscapes blossoming into an intelligent being capable of free thought and individuality amongst the mediocrity of the modern mob.

Common Sense

Such a simple exercise in individuality, reading is. So simple, yet we willingly abandon it for the hollow nature of on-screen gloss. There is more to story than plot. There are more to characters than aesthetic appeal. There is only intelligence and individuality to be gained, and nothing to be lost. The screen can not give us what we need most...a sense of self.

The book will always be better.

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147 Comments

  • Interiority and Individuality, something that films can achieve on their own, but not in the imitation, or to the extent, of a good book. This isn't anyone's fault; it's simply the nature of the two mediums. I guess Memento is one good example of creating and combining these two phenomena, as is The Master, but I feel like both would've worked even better as novels or short stories.

    That said, in my experience the book is definitely always better, with one exception... "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." As good as Kesey wrote McMurphy, as hard as my imagination worked to create that character in my head, Nicholson's interpretation will always be greater than anything I could've conjured on my own. That's just the genius of Jack-O I suppose.

  • As much as I dig Jack in "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest," I would recommend a second read of the novel. The fractured nature of internal dialogue throughout the novel deserves a few looks.

  • Gotta get through Stephen King's Gunslinger series, and then I'll dust off my copy. I might cheat and watch the movie a few dozen times between now and then though... No promises

  • The Dark Tower series is immaculate high-fantasy.

  • Looks like I'm "intolerably stupid."

  • According to Jane Austen, yes you are.

  • She died before we even harnessed electricity. You think she would amend her statement if she saw what we have today? Still what a harsh thing for someone to say.

  • No, I don't think she would amend her statement. If anything, I believe that her opinion would be bolstered by the decaying intellect of our time.

    Reading is one of the core principles of intelligence. Without it, one denies the knowledge contained within. Traditionally a stupid idea.

  • I still feel like I get just as much knowledge and perspective from documentaries, and videogames than I ever have from a book, but that's just me. I'm a visual person. I don't learn as well reading books or even lectures. I get bored and my mind wanders. Does that make me less intelligent? Your smugness might say so. I learn from seeing things done and hands on experience. Today's world contains many more avenues for learning in that manner than Jane ever thought possible. I'm almost sure she would amend her statement if she knew what was possible in today's world.

    Just because society is seemingly losing its intellectual strength doesn't mean it has anything to do with the learning media. There is a lack of desire to learn period. That is the real problem, and the real meaning of her quote in my mind. In her time learning meant reading books, and going to lectures because it was the only medium for learning. If you didn't actively partake in that then you qualified for her statement. The current education system is based on these methods and we all know how well that works! It actually deters learning in some!
    She couldn't comprehend videos, interactive media, and videogames. Virtual Reality one day are you kidding me? What are all those at their core anyway? Mediums for telling stories or presenting information which is a more advance form of a hard (or soft) case holding words in order.

    It's cool that you dig books. I have no quarrel with that and I respect that you have the patience and dedication to do it. What I do have a quarrel with is putting book readers on a pedestal above everyone else who just doesn't like sitting in one place reading words for extended periods of time. Then slapping a stigma on them for being different than you. That's not very forward thinking.

  • I'm a book reader, but I have to side a bit with Garchow on this. Where do you actually learn how to sail a boat, repair an engine, or grow your own food? Sure, a book is a great place to start, but working with someone who's done it is a vastly superior way to learn. A book is limited by the words the author chooses and lacks in the visceral sensation of the experience. Kind of the same feeling with adventure... better to read about an ocean voyage or go on one? If you cannot go on one, reading about it is better. Better that a VR ocean voyage though?

  • I think there are two different types of knowledge you can get from books. There is the type that @GaRcHoW is talking about where you are learning how to do something and today not many people can learn that way. But there is also another type of knowledge you can learn from book reading, which honestly, I'm not quite sure how to explain. It's the sort of knowledge, that while can be learned from experience, it can be learned faster and more thoroughly by reading. We live in a very large and diverse world, full of people with different views, beliefs, ways of living and thought processes. Reading is a door into these different worlds. Now, while it is true that you learn how to do something better by watching someone do it and then doing it yourself, there is still a lot to be said about books giving you this other form of knowledge.
    Also, one has to wonder if the reason we have so many people now who have short attention spans or learn better visually is because of how saturated our world is by audio and visual media. For example, growing up I wasn't allowed to watch TV, so I read books and lot's of them. On the other hand my peers could watch as much TV as they wanted, and now, a decent amount of the people I've known have told me, they can't handle reading near as much as I do. Now that I can watch as much TV as I want, I've noticed a decline in my book reading and my ability to read for extended periods of time. I used to be able to read a book in one day, now granted I have a job so I don't have the time I used to, but it definitely takes me longer than it should. Yes, I blame media, but I don't think that media is inherently bad or that it's all media's fault. I still love movies and television but I do believe that it is consumed far too much and a lot of what we consume is just downright bad material.

  • Seth's and Garchow's comments remind me of the scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams' character takes Will to a park bench for a little tete a tete about this very topic. The following is Sean's (Robins' character's name) response to Will's temper tantrum from the day before...

    Sean: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn't know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, 'cause it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you... I don't see an intelligent, confident man... I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you're a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart. You're an orphan right?

    [Will nods]

    Sean: You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally... I don't give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can't learn anything from you, I can't read in some fuckin' book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't want to do that do you sport? You're terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.

    I'm obsessed with the written word, and I think it's the best thing going for life preparation, but it doesn't mean a damn thing without a practical application

  • "Interiority deals with the inner workings of any given subject. As it pertains to stories, interiority is represented by character thoughts and motivations, giving us an intense glimpse at the reality of a character based on personal truth, not just action. Interiority leads directly to our sympathetic response to a character."

    While it's true that in books you are told point blank the "why," the exact emotion and thought process as well as they can express it, even this is expression of interiority is limited language. I can try to the best of my ability to explain my motives and my feelings, and I come really close to whole story, but emotions are so complex it would be difficult to portray them in complete accuracy, and I have a whole depth of experience gained over 26 years playing subtly into my thinking and emotional state that would take many, many novels to explain entirely. Whether it's a book or a movie, you are still only being given a small part of the story.

    While you might have the benefit of the characters internal dialogue in books more often than in film, film does have an advantage of physical expression. "A picture's worth a thousand words." There's a lot a great actor reveals about a character's interiority simply through a look or gesture. My main point here is that different can sometimes just be different without being better or worse.

  • Both Kage and Seth's responses to this blog are very telling to me. First and foremost, it is telling that Kage didn't make it past the first paragraph. Second, the fact that, by the end of the piece, both interpreted the blog in terms of non-fiction is no surprise to me. Of course learning a skill is best left to hands-on experience, but I guarantee that experience would be far more fulfilling for a reader than a non-reader.

    For me, that is the truest form of intelligence: the ability to look beyond what your eyes initially see. Both Kage and Seth chose to only take the words they wanted out of the piece and comment on them. Neither comprehended the meaning of the blog, only the fraction that mattered to them. This is a symptom our entire culture suffers from. The hyper-sensitive nature of people these days comes directly from an inability to look beyond the surface of anything, to look into the truest nature of humanity.

    Digesting stories is a direct path to this intelligence. When you are in a story, you are dancing across the personality of multiple characters, inhabiting multiple environments, balancing egos larger than life, and all the while creating them in your head. Constantly spending time doing this translates to a much higher intellectual capacity, an enhanced ability to communicate thoughts effectively, and a deeper understanding of life.

    When people choose to digest their stories through screen media, they are only scratching the surface of life. Only seeing, never digging any deeper. The screen is entertaining, there can be no denying this, but it certainly is not the teaching tool that a book is.

    Oscar Wilde once wrote, "It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it."

    I posit that those who don't read are shown brilliantly in our current culture as humans quick to anger, slow to understand, hyper-violent, hyper-sexual, fidgety, and, most importantly, lost in their own pursuit of self.

  • "When people choose to digest their stories through screen media, they are only scratching the surface of life."

    And if someone chose to expose him or herself only to the literary arts, never to music, or painting, or dance, or theater, or film, they would be missing out as well. They are all different and valid forms of expression, with their own advantages and limitations.

  • Ok, I think I'm kind of understanding where you're coming from after Kyle's post. Bare in mind that my tiny "intolerably stupid" non-book reading grey matter may barely be able to grasp the concept in full.

    From what I think I've gathered it's the idea that you can read all the info ever made on Da Vinci, but without his personal interiority you'll never know what was going through his mind before stubbing his toe? You'll never get his personal feelings on matters that HE experienced. I hope that's right.

    Still my comment was mostly based off the first picture quote of this piece. I find it completely intolerant to refer to someone who doesn't enjoy books as "intolerably stupid", and by you using that quote you must share her sentiments which is insulting to me. Maybe I should have strayed away from your interiority and saved myself the showing of disrespect.

    Of course, unless people are truly wearing these masks (I do agree it's likely) making it impossible for anything that is said to be truthful why do we need a book to gather this interiority? Must it be in between a front and back cover? Does hard or soft cover determine the intensity of interiority I'm going to digest?

    Is this something that cannot be attained by speech in any form? Isn't writing just speech that has been recorded on paper. If that's true doesn't that make it just as susceptible to these masks you claim books free us from?

    I might not be at the intellectual level of a yale grad, but that's far from stupidity. Of course what do I know. I don't read books.

  • "When you are in a story, you are dancing across the personality of multiple characters, inhabiting multiple environments, balancing egos larger than life, and all the while creating them in your head. "

    I'd like to point out that just as with any other art form, not every book written is accurate or good. Authors are just people, and their ability to produce the effect mentioned above is variable and prone to their own flaws. I would avoid oversimplifications like implying ALL books are more effective in communicating and expanding knowledge of human nature than ALL movies, or that non-readers are more violent, sexual, fidgety, and self-absorbed than the rest of the population. In fact, I would posit the reverse - I would say those terms describe a fair amount of great writers and readers!


  • Erin - I am certainly not discounting other forms of expression. I myself partake in many forms of expression, but none of them have helped me more than partaking in the digestion of story. Both you and Kage are only seeing the surface of my point. It's not that a book teaches you anything directly, it's the personal interpretation of the book and the imagination it took to bring that book to life in your head, that is so beneficial. Again, the experience vs the understanding of an experience.

    Kage - First, if I were terribly worried about those who may be offended by my work, I would not have included Austen's quote at the beginning of my piece. Second, your fixation on her ideal is very telling. Working past initial perception and digging into personal truths are two very important lessons learned by the digestion of story.

    I do put those who read on a pedestal. I put those who actively expand their mental horizons far above those who choose to placidly walk through life. All those who have made an impact on the world we live in were readers. History shows us that those who take an active participation in their own mental acuity are the game changers.

    You are more than welcome to argue that a screen gives you the same type of intelligence as the written word, but precedent and only the briefest look at the world will tell you different. The written word has dominated and directed our life since the very onset of written language. There will never be a film, TV show, documentary, YouTube video, etc. that will have the same effect as the Bible or the Quran, for example.

  • That's fine E.M. I don't need/want to be put on a pedestal or be apart of the world's elite. I'm not going to force myself to be into something that I genuinely find boring in some fruitless pursuit of gaining your opinionated definition of intelligence. That's really not a goal of mine.

    I'd rather live my life the way I want and make myself happy. That for me doesn't include books so you and that Austen can look down on people like me all you want. There's my interiority for you. You may call it inferiority, but I'm learning to not care.

  • To willfully deny all that the reading of a book has to offer. To turn your back on the knowledge gained from such an easy task. To choose a mediocre understanding of the world around you in the face of depth and meaning. That is intolerably stupid. That is what Austen was talking about. Reading a book shows that you care enough to expand your mind. Not doing so is ignorance.

    Can this be done in other forms? Yes. Is it even close to the same? No.

  • "Both you and Kage are only seeing the surface of my point. It's not that a book teaches you anything directly, it's the personal interpretation of the book and the imagination it took to bring that book to life in your head, that is so beneficial. "

    You're mistaken. I do see "beyond the surface of your point", but while books may work most effectively for YOU, all art forms are subject to personal interpretation and imagination extrapolating off of them. Those benefits are not exclusive to, or even, necessarily, most abundant in, books. I don't argue that reading is important and good for all people, but to say it is the MOST important or BEST for people is a matter of opinion. In my opinion, what each art form offers is different, not necessarily better or worse, and the art form that best inspires and improves a writer, may not be the art form that best inspires and improves a musician. Different strokes for different folks.

  • Once again E.M. That's your opinion. I'll find other methods of beating my "intolerably stupidity." Mean while you can go find a novel that teaches you about suppressing your "intolerable intolerance" for people that don't believe your ideals.

  • Isn't there something to be said for taking a medium and catapulting the fundamental aspects of said medium into the stratosphere of personal abstraction? Books allow us an excellent glimpse directly into the brain of the author, but more importantly, the interiority of said author's characters - the power of this phenomenon is ineffable. It relies on the reader making connections that literally do not exist at all in a physical sense. If I follow Wollof correctly, this seems to be at the heart of his argument, and I'm definitely on board with that sentiment.

    That said, I think that this thread has gone off the rails a bit. The notion of a "character's interiority" as being a multi-layered representation of a larger system is being confused with an individual's ability to observe a piece of art, in any form, and attach an exclusive and personal meaning to it. When we ingest art, we use our interiority to do so. But this doesn't only happen in relation to art; it happens in every single aspect of our lives.

    Wollof is most concerned with the power of the book, not only because we LITERALLY see into the minds of the characters (although we do to a large extent), but rather because of the subtext - the metaphor, the silence, the landscape, the absence, and the presence. Does subtext exist everywhere else as well, sure, but reading requires a more concerted effort to piece it all together because there is zero physical imagery; we're left to rely on ourselves entirely. This is a risky proposition because our interpretation of the author's work will largely dictate how we function in society (see the Wilde quote above).

  • Kyle I see your point, but what if (I know this is hard for a lot of you to grasp) I don't enjoy getting into the mind of a fictitious writers head? Does that mean I'm worthless to society? According to E.M. it does. I disagree with that.

  • Thank you Mr. McCarthy. You nailed it, as usual.

    Erin - It really has nothing to do with the book, but the reading of the book. The human brain reading a book is active in ways that other art forms just cannot duplicate. Yes, paintings, musical compositions, and the like all activate the brain in forms that elicit intelligent reactions from our neural pathways, but not in the way that reading does. In this light, the writer and the musician find their inspiration in exactly the same stories, they just translate it differently.

    Kage - I wish you were able to see past the imagined slight a dead woman caused you, but I understand your position.

  • Kage, I won't go so far as to say that not reading a book, and therefore not getting inside a character's head, makes you stupid. I just feel like non-readers are missing out on such an excellent opportunity to gain some perspective and insight into the majesty of the world. Not that I am without bias or that I am capable of grasping the truly sublime essential beauty of the Universe, but without having become an avid reader, I'm fairly confident that I wouldn't value other people's opinions at all and that the awesome nature of existence would be lost on me.

    I'm not speaking for anyone in the above paragraph. That has been my experience of the written word. However, I'm 100% confident in saying that every single person can benefit from reading - even if that benefit is found only in the challenge of forcing yourself to do something that you don't like or are uncomfortable with. Expanding our boundaries makes life tolerable and relieves tension.

  • "Does subtext exist everywhere else as well, sure, but reading requires a more concerted effort to piece it all together because there is zero physical imagery; we're left to rely on ourselves entirely."

    But why is it any less valuable to extrapolate thoughts and feelings from the purely physical - an expression - than it is to extrapolate physicality from the purely verbal - a statement?

    I feel like the most important case to be made here is simply that we should engage in reading more, because while both experiences are valuable and enriching, we don't do enough of the one. I don't think it's accurate to say one is better than the other or even to lump all books, readers, films, or viewers onto the same pedestal or shamed place. It's not the medium, it's what you do with it.

  • I would completely agree with you if the entirety of human history did not set a rather firm precedent for the power of reading.

  • "The human brain reading a book is active in ways that other art forms just cannot duplicate. "

    Yes, and that is a great argument for why reading is important and good for people, but I don't see why its being different cognitive experience makes it necessarily MORE valuable than other cognitive experiences.

  • "But why is it any less valuable to extrapolate thoughts and feelings from the purely physical - an expression - than it is to extrapolate physicality from the purely verbal - a statement?"

    Because tangibility (physicality) is based on all five senses (usually), whereas the abstract (conceptualization) relies solely on the brain's ability to couple meaning without any help at all other than interior meaning-making abilities. It's abstraction versus the visceral nature of things. Not that interpreting the signs of the world around us is easy, but we just have a leg up because physical manifestations cue up our other senses.

    Basically because one is more reactionary than the other.

  • "I would completely agree with you if the entirety of human history did not set a rather firm precedent for the power of reading."

    When film is a such a recent invention, I don't feel comparing it to fictional literature (That's what we're discussing, right?) which has been around since ancient times is entirely fair, but there have been many powerful, influential films since film's invention.

  • "Basically because one is more reactionary than the other."

    But what we're taking about is still just a difference, not a case for one being better and one being worse. Both the physical and the abstract are important.

  • Even acknowledging the age of film, if you can find me a film (taking into consideration the direction film is heading) that has had, or will have, the same influence that Catcher in the Rye, the Bible, or any of the plethora of written pieces that have changed the course of a society, and I will admit defeat.

  • "But what we're taking about is still just a difference, not a case for one being better and one being worse. Both the physical and the abstract are important. "

    Yup, both are important and both are valid, but one is more valuable. For instance, casual sex is reactionary, but romantic love is abstract. I think most non-17-year old boys (likely virgins) would argue that the latter is more valuable.

    ... Sorry to take it there everyone.

  • "Even acknowledging the age of film, if you can find me a film (taking into consideration the direction film is heading) that has had, or will have, the same influence that Catcher in the Rye, the Bible, or any of the plethora of written pieces that have changed the course of a society, and I will admit defeat."

    Well, since religions tend to be ancient, film has a distinct disadvantage as far as the bible's concerned - but ALSO that's a book you won't find in the fiction section. ;)

    I could name several films that have had an impact on me personally, but changing the world is a difficult thing to measure. A few film experts mention are "Schindler's List" and "Norma Rae." To measure those film's impact compared with Catcher in the Rye is a little tricky, but I'd say they are on par.

  • "Yup, both are important and both are valid, but one is more valuable. For instance, casual sex is reactionary, but romantic love is abstract. I think most non-17-year old boys (likely virgins) would argue that the latter is more valuable."

    Romantic love is valuable, but is it more valuable than sex? If sex didn't happen, we wouldn't be around to love. Both have the potential to be either enriching or destructive, and most people, for better or worse, need both.

  • I guess I was operating under the assumption that romantic love was a term that implied the physical act as well as well as the emotional associations. I'll amend that by setting up the direct comparison of casual sex (physical) vs. love making (abstract and immediate)

  • I would say that the actual events those movies were based on had far more of an effect than the actual film.

    As for the Bible, it's all fiction until proven true. The stories in said Bible being fictitious have no impact on the faith that they inspire. Much like the reading of a heroic character in a novel does not negate the teaching of honor and integrity purely because the character is not "real."

  • "I'll amend that by setting up the direct comparison of casual sex (physical) vs. love making (abstract and immediate)"

    I don't think that's really an accurate comparison because while the thing that separates casual sex from love making is abstract, love making is still physical and books are not.

  • "I would say that the actual events those movies were based on had far more of an effect than the actual film."

    I think that can be said for books as well.

    "As for the Bible, it's all fiction until proven true."

    Granted, and I believe I've mentioned before that I am not a Christian, but whether or not we personally choose to believe what is being said, the Bible is not considered a fictional work. There are plenty of non-fiction books that many people would dispute. I understood we were discussing only fictional literature.

  • Wollof - Let's go back to the piece you mentioned that is considered a fictional work. How you would make the case that Catcher in Rye changed the course of society? In what way would you say it did?

  • Kyle - ACTUALLY, thinking more about it, the casual sex vs love making analogy works very well to describe an experience with film.

    A cheap thrills, exploitation film is casual sex - it's fun, it's enjoyable, but that's about it. A thought-provoking, artistic film is lovemaking - it's fun, it's enjoyable, but it moves even beyond that. It sticks with you, it improves you, and it is somehow greater than the sum of its parts.

  • "I don't think that's really an accurate comparison because while the thing that separates casual sex from love making is abstract, love making is still physical and books are not. "

    A book is physical, reading is transcendent. Sex is physical, love making is transcendent.

  • "A book is physical, reading is transcendent. Sex is physical, love making is transcendent."

    Didn't you make the point earlier that what makes books valuable is that they don't offer physical clues, imagery, sound, touch, or taste? That they are PURELY in the mind unlike a film? Love is purely in the mind, but love making is not. It is mental and emotional, but its also physical. The original love vs sex is a more accurate book vs. film analogy.

  • "The Bible is not considered a fictional work. "

    Every course I ever took where the Bible was discussed, it was done so under the assumption that it was a fictional text - in fact, the greatest and most important fictional text ever written.

    I can say that the Catcher in the Rye is my Bible until I'm blue in the face, but that doesn't magically make it non-fiction. The Bible is only considered so because of the time that has elapsed between now and its original publication. I think that most people who studied the Bible throughout history understood it as a series of instructional parables. For instance, every religion other than Catholicism (and maybe Lutheranism?) views the taking of Communion as merely a symbolic ritual, whereas Catholics literally believe in the notion of transubstantiation - that the eating of the Eucharist is literally ingesting the body and blood of Christ. I don't mean to slam religion here, I'm just saying that faith, by its very definition, can't be quantified as fact, which is what makes it such a beautiful thing, really.

  • Kyle - There are other ancient stories that you will find happily placed in the mythology or fiction section of your book store, so I don't think its age is the only reason it's not there.

    I'm not arguing that the bible is a fact-based piece of literature. I personally view it as mythology, but you won't find it in those sections and I do think public consensus matters in this case. Even Christians wouldn't expect to find the Quran in with Pride and Prejudice. It's not a matter of believing, religious and spiritual texts are just not in the same category as fiction.

    If we're going to make a fair comparison between fictional books and fictional films, let's use the Catcher in the Rye or some other book which the general public accepts as a work of fiction.

  • "Didn't you make the point earlier that what makes books valuable is that they don't offer physical clues, imagery, sound, touch, or taste? That they are PURELY in the mind unlike a film? Love is purely in the mind, but love making is not. It is mental and emotional, but its also physical. The original love vs sex is a more accurate book vs. film analogy. "

    Sure I agree, but I felt the need to amend that analogy based on this statement, "If sex didn't happen, we wouldn't be around to love. Both have the potential to be either enriching or destructive, and most people, for better or worse, need both."

    Sure, both things are needed, but one is definitely more valuable than the other. It's like McDonald's vs. Ruth's Chris.

  • "I can say that the Catcher in the Rye is my Bible until I'm blue in the face, but that doesn't magically make it non-fiction."

    True, but the Bible was assembled with the intent of it being a sacred religious text, not as entertainment. Fictional works, no matter how meaningful, poignant and thought-provoking, are intended to entertain. ( That's probably why they don't spend pages cataloging begetters and their begetted.... zzzzz... ;) )

  • "Sure, both things are needed, but one is definitely more valuable than the other."

    Sorry to be unromantic, but looking at Maslow's hierarchy, I would have to say if one is more valuable or important than the other, sex wins. Without sex there is no survival. Survival is necessary for love. Love is not necessary for sex.

    "It's like McDonald's vs. Ruth's Chris."

    I...don't know what a Ruth's Chris is? o.O

  • Fair enough, so long as we agree that they aren't only out of a fear of rocking social convention. Religion is the personal interpretation of truth, and that obviously will vary from person to person.

    What makes Catcher in the Rye special is that influenced massive social change, usually not for the better, because it scared the conservative elite. I don't know of many films that had that sort of effect.

  • It's a somewhat upscale steak joint.

    I'd rather not live if love didn't exist. In that case, we'd all just be bipod primates and this conversation wouldn't be possible.

  • "What makes Catcher in the Rye special is that influenced massive social change, usually not for the better, because it scared the conservative elite."

    There have been several controversial, boundary-pushing films throughout film's comparatively short history. Though it's difficult to directly measure a film's impact, I don't believe THAT case would be difficult to make.

  • As Kyle said, Catcher in the Rye has influenced much in the realm of social change, mostly pertaining to the supposed education of our youth and certain religious groups. It also dug deep into the minds of a certain few, enough to drive them to murder certain societal leaders.

    As for this mention of Maslow's hierarchy, he is speaking about the need to reproduce in order to survive, not the drive for pleasure vs the drive for fulfillment through love (casual vs love).

    Back to the influence of novel, there are plenty more that have had deep societal influence (A Farewell to Arms, 1984, The Odyssey, The Aenied, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, etc.).

  • I would be interested in a film that has had the same lasting impact as any of the novels listed above.

  • "It's a somewhat upscale steak joint."

    Which explains why I wouldn't know. ;)

    "I'd rather not live if love didn't exist."

    That's very sweet, but if love didn't exist and further, we WERE just bipod primates, you wouldn't know you were missing out and I'd guarantee you'd want to survive. Depression and suicide are phenomenons almost exclusively tied to creatures with the ability to love.

  • "True, but the Bible was assembled with the intent of it being a sacred religious text, not as entertainment."

    Hubbard, Dianectics, Scientology. Just because it may now be in the Religious/Spiritual section of Barnes and Noble doesn't make it any less fraudulent.

    I love film! And many have sent some ripples through our social consciousness, but none on the scale of Catcher in the Rye, The Moviegoer, On the Road, etc.

  • Is not love one of the pillars upon which this entire discussion stands? The reading of books influencing abstract thought is the basis of the piece. Love is an abstract thought. Abstract thought is what sets us apart from our animal nature, and it is the key to the evolution of humanity. To argue as though we are not gifted/burdened with it is a mute point, for it very much exists in every one of us.

    Arguing the more basic instincts of our humanity only pokes holes in the view that film can have the same impact as the written word. Film is a fulfillment of our more basic instincts, as there is little abstract thought needed to view them. To make them? Yes. To view them? Not so much.

  • "That's very sweet, but if love didn't exist and further, we WERE just bipod primates, you wouldn't know you were missing out and I'd guarantee you'd want to survive. Depression and suicide are phenomenons almost exclusively tied to creatures with the ability to love."

    Right but that doesn't make it more VALUABLE. In fact, you've highlighted the uselessness of a meaningless existence. The fact that we have the choice to kill ourselves is a commentary on just how important love really is!

  • Basically, knowing what I know as a conscious human, life without love is meaningless. Just because I wouldn't know that as a bipod primate doesn't negate the sentiment.

  • "As for this mention of Maslow's hierarchy, he is speaking about the need to reproduce in order to survive, not the drive for pleasure vs the drive for fulfillment through love (casual vs love)."

    That's what I'm speaking about as well. Purely physical straight-forward sex vs. love. Physical, sexual drive is where romantic love, which leads to romantic love-making begins.

    "I would be interested in a film that has had the same lasting impact as any of the novels listed above."

    How do you accurately measure the impact of any of those novels, let alone their lasting impact. What percentage of our generation do you think has read those books and been impacted?

    There are many movies being made now that have very little to offer besides entertainment value, but to say that the film medium is any less able to make a societal impact than the book medium, I can't agree. It's what's done with the medium, not the medium itself.

  • "Film is a fulfillment of our more basic instincts, as there is little abstract thought needed to view them. "

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cremaster_Cycle

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5bUPR-LlR0

  • Like I said before, film is not the problem, it's what's done with it.

  • I hear what you're saying, Erin: "How do you accurately measure the impact of any of those novels, let alone their lasting impact." But wouldn't you agree that 1984 has had more of an impact than any film from a purely subjective standpoint? Quanitifiability (word?) is impossible in this regard, but almost every slightly educated or well read or observant person over the age of 25 in Western society will immediately recognize the term "Orwellian" or the phrase "Big Brother" and the enormity of what those things represent.

  • "Right but that doesn't make it more VALUABLE. In fact, you've highlighted the uselessness of a meaningless existence. "

    I think it does and existence, even unconscious is never meaningless. Even a nail in the road could potentially cause my tire to pop, and me to crash and die. Grass, dirt, worms, cells, rock, people, animals - we're all a part of a bigger thing and whether we perceive it or not, we're all affecting each other, even in seeming inaction.

  • Film can make you ponder the world, but it doesn't require as much abstract thought to grasp. That is the major difference here. In order to completely wrap your mind around a novel, you must fully invest your mind, creating both the imagery and the explanation of said creation. Film only needs half that creation to understand.

    Film is not a problem, it is merely a simpler form.

  • Here's a fork in the road and a basic divergence of philosophy from which you and I will likely not come to a consensus...

    I believe that without the ability to abstract in a higher consciousness life and death do not matter... at all. The nail doesn't matter, the grass doesn't matter, and there is not bigger thing. It's just a collection of organisms shuffling around bumping into one another.

  • "wouldn't you agree that 1984 has had more of an impact than any film from a purely subjective standpoint?"

    How about this, an admission - I've never read 1984 and if I did, it would take me several days I'm guessing. BUT, in the same breath, I've watched Brazil, and found it extremely moving, and thought-provoking, beyond the literal play-by-play. It sticks with me. Though I haven't read 1984, I understand that the message is very similar to Brazil, the meaning, the questions it's meant to raise are very much the same. Same message, same questions, different mediums. One that can deliver a message in a couple hours, the other that takes days.

    Like I said before, I am by no means attempting to degrade the benefits or value of fictional literature, however, in terms of each medium's ability to spread a message and catalyze change, I feel both are valid and equally, though differently, qualified. In some ways even, film has an advantage these days in that it's message is delivered in a shorter span of time.

  • "Film can make you ponder the world, but it doesn't require as much abstract thought to grasp."

    A section of the Cremaster Cycle part 1. Please watch and tell me it doesn't require abstract thought to understand the meaning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5bUPR-LlR0

  • How about this, an admission - I've never read 1984" Must read, Erin. So good!

    And I agree, Brazil has a similar impact on me personally. I guess what I'm getting at is the larger cultural impact.

    "in terms of each medium's ability to spread a message and catalyze change, I feel both are valid and equally, though differently, qualified. In some ways even, film has an advantage these days in that it's message is delivered in a shorter span of time."

    Both are totally valid. I cannot discount the value of film, and anyone that does is foolish. Both have extreme potential for impacting our world, but one has on a large scale, while the other has yet to accomplish that in similar degrees. This may be because of the relative infancy of film, but I feel this isn't the case. There seems to be something more profound about reading than viewing. I can't put my finger on that pulse directly, and I know that's a cop-out, but it has something to do with coupling signifiers in my mind.

  • Sure, I will tell you that it took a small bit of abstract thought. It took nothing compared to the capacity needed to understand the full breadth of Moby Dick.

    Also, there is no Brazil without 1984.

  • "I believe that without the ability to abstract in a higher consciousness life and death do not matter... at all. The nail doesn't matter, the grass doesn't matter, and there is not bigger thing. It's just a collection of organisms shuffling around bumping into one another."

    Yeah, I can't agree with that. "A collection of organisms shuffling around bumping into one another." is basically, though less romantically than I would put it, the way I would describe "God." I don't see God as being an outside force, I see God as the bigger picture. Depending on how you look at that, it is a little sad to think that my life, or even humanity's existence, is not the highest, or most important tier in existence, but that's what my experience, accumulated knowledge, and instinct tells me is the most likely truth. All things, even the smallest things, a cell, can enact a much larger change, but in the grand scheme of things, I am very, very, very, very small. Rather than be defeated by that though, the belief inspires me to enact what positive impact I can.

  • "Sure, I will tell you that it took a small bit of abstract thought. "

    A small bit of abstract thought? *shakes head* It is completely abstract and symbolic. Moby Dick is a least comprised of series of events that unfold in a logical order - even if there's a lot you have to read into it.

    "Also, there is no Brazil without 1984."

    You're missing my point in bringing the two up. My point is that each form is equally able to raise questions and make and impact, albeit in different ways. My point is also that films even have an advantage in some ways because they require less of a time commitment. I only saw one. I might not have gotten that shared message at all, if it weren't for the film.

    Obviously, I realize 1984 came before Brazil.

  • Again, "read into it." With Moby Dick, I have to create everything in my head in order to understand it. I have to see Ishmael, Ahab, and every piece that is presented in front of me within the words. I then have to maintain that abstract creation throughout the entirety of the novel.

    I am not arguing that film is not fantastic, I love film, but it requires little when compared to reading.

    Time was not what I meant when I said that Brazil could not have existed without 1984, it was more the spirit of the novel and the effect it had on society.

  • "This may be because of the relative infancy of film, but I feel this isn't the case. There seems to be something more profound about reading than viewing."

    I definitely think there's something to be said for the time and effort it takes to read vs. watching a movie. You can more easily "throw out" a movie than you can a book because you've invested so much time into it. But culture is changing, and it's changing because of innovations like film. Because there are quicker ways to absorb information, we no longer read as often as we did even 20 years ago. Up until very, very recently, the only way to see a movie was at the theater, or by chance when a TV channel featured it. VCRS only changed that exposure in the 80's. Give film more time as the established "story-teller" of choice. I believe more cultural change caused by fictional stories will come from film in the future.

    Even if it's difficult for me to personally pin it on a list of films, film has always been a place where society's boundaries, beliefs, and morals have been challenged. Empowered single women, mixed couples, gay and lesbian couples, abortion... films portrayal of these things have certainly helped to shape the way we think about them!

  • "This may be because of the relative infancy of film, but I feel this isn't the case. There seems to be something more profound about reading than viewing."

    See, that the idea COULDN'T have originated in a film, could only have been communicated in a book, I can't agree with.

    "I am not arguing that film is not fantastic, I love film, but it requires little when compared to reading."

    And I am not arguing that literature is not fantastic. I think you get what you put into both books and films. You can take either at surface value.

  • Film will never have the social impact that the written word has had, there is far too much historical precedent that it would need to overcome (including all religious experience). Alas, this is not the point, nor has it ever been. The point is that reading a book is a far more intellectual exercise than viewing a story through a screen.

    There is a primal response evoked through reading. The idea that we place ourselves in multiple characters, creating the world through multiple scopes at once, is so very similar to the human consciousness that it is scary.

    As for absorbing information at a quicker pace being seen as advancement? I call that the degradation of societal intelligence due to laziness. Time and effort are the base of valid experience.

  • "Again, "read into it." With Moby Dick, I have to create everything in my head in order to understand it. I have to see Ishmael, Ahab, and every piece that is presented in front of me within the words."

    With the Cremaster Cycle, you are given just visual and must construct meaning from them and connection between them. Just as, if not more, challenging in my opinion. A string of words are just a string of symbols until we construe a deeper meaning from them. A string of actions are just a string of actions until we construe a deeper meaning. And in this case, words have the advantage because they are the form we are most used to communicating and interpreting complex thoughts and feelings from.

    You would have a much more difficult time understanding my points here if I chose to convey them through performance art or interpretive dance.

  • As you said, you are given the visual. Half of the work is done for you. The same would be true for an art performed or an interpretive dance. I would have to think into them, but it would pale in comparison to the thought involved with a good novel, or the mind-blowing experience of said novel.

    The visual offers us much, but the written word has a depth yet unmatched. The immersive nature of video games offer a sliver of the cognitive ability needed to navigate a great written story, but they still have a long way to come.

  • K: "This may be because of the relative infancy of film, but I feel this isn't the case. There seems to be something more profound about reading than viewing."

    E: "See, that the idea COULDN'T have originated in a film, could only have been communicated in a book, I can't agree with."

    Not the idea. Ideas can be well represented in each, but the cognitive task of reading is different (I would say superior) to the cognitive task of watching. Reading is hunting and watching is banqueting.

  • "The idea that we place ourselves in multiple characters, creating the world through multiple scopes at once, is so very similar to the human consciousness that it is scary."

    The idea of God came up awhile back. To me the above sentence is exactly how I feel about the nature of God. From where I'm sitting, He IS consciousness, which IS signification -signified, signifier, the ultimate sign and meaning maker. The ultimate abstract coupler. I think that we've been endowed with just a bit of that potential ourselves.

  • "Half of the work is done for you."

    The same could be said of literature, only it's a different half.

  • 'Not the idea. Ideas can be well represented in each, but the cognitive task of reading is different (I would say superior) to the cognitive task of watching. "

    I feel a bit misrepresented. I wasn't responded to you with that comment. I was responding to Wollof's statement that Brazil couldn't have happened without 1984 - a statement I believe is false.

  • 'Reading is hunting and watching is banqueting."

    Depends on the book, the reader, the film, and viewer! There are films that require a good deal of hunting and books that readers treat like a banquet.

  • K: "The idea that we place ourselves in multiple characters, creating the world through multiple scopes at once, is so very similar to the human consciousness that it is scary."

    The idea of God came up awhile back. To me the above sentence is exactly how I feel about the nature of God. From where I'm sitting, He IS consciousness, which IS signification -signified, signifier, the ultimate sign and meaning maker. The ultimate abstract coupler. I think that we've been endowed with just a bit of that potential ourselves.'

    It seems like you're presenting this as an alternative understanding of God and I don't see it that way. This idea is actually perfectly harmonious with the idea presented and I agree!

  • *idea I presented

  • Oh. I just assumed that since the comment followed mine in quotes above it that you were addressing him AND me. My bad!

    K: ''Reading is hunting and watching is banqueting."

    E: "Depends on the book, the reader, the film, and viewer! There are films that require a good deal of hunting and books that readers treat like a banquet."

    Cognitive pairing is required in both. Of course. I agree with you there 110%. All I'm saying is that the added element of the visual tends to give a leg up in this process; there's an extra degree of presentation. Now, of course, it's entirely possible that in some cases that extra degree actually further complicates the issue and leads further down the infinite path of signification and subtext, but I don't think this is done very often because it is so difficult to pull off.

    You mentioned The Science of Sleep to me the other day. That's a film that I feel makes me a hunter rather than a banqueter. One of only a few that I've ever seen. And I've seen far more movies than I have read books.

  • "Now, of course, it's entirely possible that in some cases that extra degree actually further complicates the issue and leads further down the infinite path of signification and subtext, but I don't think this is done very often because it is so difficult to pull off. "

    That, I'll agree with (are you shocked I'll agree with something?! haha) Most films made are not made for "hunting," but film has that potential, and the potential to enact change, none-the-less. Not all books are deep and meaningful, and not all films are shallow. I just really don't like blanket statements or things stated as absolutes when they can't really be measured or proven. I'm not against reading, I understand the impressive cognitive processes that must be worked in order to read, and agree that the extra effort and time spent reading and taking in a message adds weight. Promise! ;)

  • What do we have if not for our convictions? I fully support those who enjoy the compromising nature of modern life, but I see it as a detriment to societal change when viewed through the scope of our discussion. The written word has been proven to be an effective intellectual conduit. It was with this in mind that I approached the piece. The fact that film has the potential to be the same is meaningless to me. Potential is nothing until reached.

  • "It seems like you're presenting this as an alternative understanding of God and I don't see it that way. This idea is actually perfectly harmonious with the idea presented and I agree!"

    Which idea presented?

    All consciousness leads back to God. Signification is consciousness. Language is consciousness. I'm sure there's a logical fallacy in there, but it's an "If P, then Q" sort of thing.

  • Wow, I really butchered that...

    Language is signification. Signification is consciousness. Consciousness is God.

    There. You don't have to agree, but I thought it deserved proper sequential representation.

  • "The written word has been proven to be an effective intellectual conduit...The fact that film has the potential to be the same is meaningless to me. Potential is nothing until reached."

    If being "an effective intellectual conduit" is the measure we're using, then film HAS reached it. Just not EVERY film.

  • "Language is signification. Signification is consciousness. Consciousness is God."

    I definitely agree that consciousness and multiple realities are a part of God, though I would point out that experts don't agree on what actually constitutes consciousness, and that language comes in many forms.

  • When has film proven to be an equally effective intellectual conduit to the written word?

  • Far too often I attempt to get a point across when someone more intelligent than I has done it with such ease:

    “When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story's voice makes everything its own.” - John Berger

    "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” - James Baldwin

    “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” - Frederick Douglas

    “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” - Ray Bradbury

  • Sure, language comes in a lot of different forms, but the unifying factor of all semiotics - semantics, syntactics, and pragmatics - as well as all languages (at least that we are aware of), is the coupling of signs (signifier, signified).

    From there, I make the personal leap (with a lot of help from Walker Percy and Charles Peirce) to consciousness, and then another hop, skip, and a jump to God.

    "It's science." - Ron Burgundy

  • I don't need statistics, examples, or quotes from wise people to be convinced that reading is great and important and that people should do more of it - I believe it! - but I really don't think there is any way you are going to convince me that written stories are inherently more effective in terms of conveying message, enacting cultural shifts, or promoting complex thinking, than filmed stories.

    I feel pretty strongly that it's how the medium is used and approached, and not the medium itself that carries a message or manages to spark a process of creative thinking.

  • "From there, I make the personal leap (with a lot of help from Walker Percy and Charles Peirce) to consciousness, and then another hop, skip, and a jump to God."

    Okay, but I don't think language is unique to us. In animals, in plants, in minerals, in weather patterns.... reality is full of pattern and "signs."

  • Rabbit hole time. Those entities you mentioned rely on a linear model of sign interpretation, one devoid of conscious abstraction. Humans use a triadic model in which the phenomenon of our language is based on coupling unrelated things. Monkeys lack the ability to speak in metaphor, for instance.

  • But the ability to view language abstractly is what makes human beings different. To deny that based on the presence of other patterns is missing the point entirely. It is our ability to view the patterns and apply meaning that makes us special. The same can be applied to this argument. The film itself matters not, it is the viewing of the film that is far less intellectual than the reading of a book.

  • In fact, I think it somewhat cheapens the work of great, talented minds to say that books are just inherently effective and good.

  • NOT books, the reading of books. Here:

    http://www.tvsmarter.com/documents/brainwaves2.html

  • "The film itself matters not, it is the viewing of the film that is far less intellectual than the reading of a book."

    Not all films are the same or equal, and the viewer may choose to apply their powers of perception ( or not) to any degree they choose.

    "But the ability to view language abstractly is what makes human beings different. To deny that based on the presence of other patterns is missing the point entirely. "

    I'm not saying we aren't different. I'm just saying that different can sometimes just be different and that better or worse is typically a matter of opinion, not fact.

  • "NOT books, the reading of books."

    As someone interested in mind science, I am aware of the complexity of having to construe meaning from symbols, but reading is not the only way to engage and challenge the mind.

  • I never said it was the only way, just the best way (outside of pure creation).

  • Do either of you think my time would have been better spent reading a Babysitter's Club book than sitting down and watching Brazil?

  • For your brain? Most definitely.

    Also, upon equal cultural footing (1984 vs. Brazil), there is no comparison.

    Dora vs. Babysitter's Club, the Club every time.

  • On the one hand, I feel you would've been exercising your cognitive coupling muscles better reading graffiti on a bathroom stall than watching Brazil. On the other, I feel that you probably learned more about the nature and fragility of humanity by watching Brazil than you would have from reading 95% of Shakespeare's plays.

    To me, we're really talking about two different things. The cognitive process of reading strengthens our interiority, our ability to make connections between TWO abstract things in our minds, while taking in a story in any medium (especially film or television) strengthens our knowledge of how we negotiate and interpret the universe. Now, screening also strengthens our interiority but we have a visible thing, and then we couple that thing with something internally - only ONE abstract thing, at least initially. When we read, we have words. But then those words have to be sorted out in our head, and then we have to sort those things out.

    It's a two step process vs. a three step process, at least at face value. From there, there's likely to be a never-ending interpretation of the subtext involved with both.

  • "For your brain? Most definitely."

    ...I respectfully disagree. :P

    "Dora vs. Babysitter's Club, the Club every time."

    Dora's actually for a much younger audience than Babysitter's Club. Dora's for toddlers. ;)

  • "On the one hand, I feel you would've been exercising your cognitive coupling muscles better reading graffiti on a bathroom stall than watching Brazil. On the other, I feel that you probably learned more about the nature and fragility of humanity by watching Brazil than you would have from reading 95% of Shakespeare's plays."

    But given the two, which do you think is better for the intelligence, creativity, and overall betterment of society: exercise of our "cognitive coupling muscles" via any reading (including the bathroom stall variety) or reflecting on the nature and fragility of humanity (after an inspiring film)? If you had a chance to get everyone in the world to do one or the other, which do you think would be better for our development? Reading bathroom graffiti or watching Brazil?

  • I can see where this may seem silly, but bathroom graffiti was actually a horrible example for me to use. I think there's a ton we could probably learn about ourselves strictly from reading bathroom stalls. That said, this has now become a value question in my eyes:

    Intense interior coupling mechanisms (Reading of any sort) ) vs.

    One vital step of coupling removed, yet still intense coupling mechanisms occurring (Film)

    All things being as they are right now, and if, by bathroom stall we mean a wall with merely a few profane words and some crude, yet amusing, drawings, then I'd say that Brazil would be more valuable for mankind.

  • Cognitive coupling muscle vs the nature of humanity is the exact point of this entire exercise. The ability to ponder the latter comes from the former. Which is why we seemingly will never come to an agreement here, we are arguing two very different things.

    The ability to dissect the nature of humanity in an abstract way is built upon the cognitive functions gained from reading. Without reading, there would be no thoughts "on the nature and fragility of humanity." You would not have been inspired by Brazil, it would have made no sense. Reading is learning. Reading is intelligence. The digestion of stories through a written medium has been the very basis of increasing intelligence for a very, very long time, and that is not going to change.

    All that you are arguing Erin, comes from what you learned through the reading of books. These interpretations of movies, the philosophical discussions on life, all of it; without reading and the cognitive ability you have gained from it, you would not be a part of this discussion.

  • "Because there are so many varieties of human experience, so many kinds of interaction between humans, and so many ways of creating patterns in the novel that can’t be created in a short story, a play, a poem or a movie. The novel, simply, offers more opportunities for a reader to understand the world better, including the world of artistic creation." - Don DeLillo

  • "Without reading, there would be no thoughts "on the nature and fragility of humanity." You would not have been inspired by Brazil, it would have made no sense."

    I disagree. I am a big advocate for reading. I know that it is a good exercise for the brain and unique type of exercise for the brain, and I think most people should do a lot more of it than they are, but I don't think a person NECESSARILY has to be able to read to be inspired or intelligent. Take dyslexia and dyslexics who are often very intelligent. Take the large portion of human history where reading was almost entirely exclusive to the wealthy. There are many different types of intelligence and many different ways to promote them.

    This is kind of funny, but I remember, for instance, sitting in a parent teacher conference with my 3rd grade teacher who was telling them how impressed he was with my vocabulary. He pointed out one particular incident in class. We were dissecting worms and while everyone was yelling out "gross!" and "yuck!" I used the word "revolting." I took the praise, but I felt a little like I had cheated. I had actually just picked it up watching Mrs. Doubtfire in this scene where the little girl is watching a movie on TV. I was able to put the word into context by watching the scene in the movie and observing the look on her face as she used the word. It was easier for me to understand and learn with the visuals to support it.

  • Because you used the phrase in the correct context does mean that you internalized its meaning, or when to use it properly. That instance is actually a vivid signifier for the utter lack of intelligence present in each successive generation of our species. Regurgitation is not intelligence, as much as the education system would have us believe it to be.

  • But obviously I DID internalize and learned to use it properly. Fact is fact. Invention (as opposed to regurgitation) doesn't happen in a vacuum, we build off the things we are exposed to. I learned the word from watching a movie, but I didn't use it while watching the same movie scene she did, or even while using a movie. I was able to take what I had learned and reapply to an entirely different scenario.

  • *watching

  • Your description of the moment this happened undercuts your explanation of "learning."

    " I took the praise, but I felt a little like I had cheated. I had actually just picked it up watching Mrs. Doubtfire in this scene where the little girl is watching a movie on TV."

    Or are you actually attempting to say that you knew the essence of the word in 3rd grade?

  • In another example, I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, but I was recently lent a book that was quite challenging. There were many words I read that I did not, and still do not understand the meaning of, and would not be capable of using correctly in a conversation. I could sound it out and (probably) pronounce it correctly, but that's about it.

  • "Or are you actually attempting to say that you knew the essence of the word in 3rd grade?"

    Yes, I did. I could tell by the context it was presented in that it meant what "yuck!' and "gross!" and "disgusting" meant.

  • We only progress by challenging ourselves. Looking up definitions while reading is part of the allure of complex narratives. They push us and challenge us to understand the world in which we occupy.

  • I call foul on that. Much like the rest of us, the word was used as a comedic response. Just like every kid running around yelling "Smokin'" after The Mask came out.

  • At least, essentially the same. Each word is unique and carries connotation beyond it's literal meaning, but I knew it was used to describe something really disturbing as far back as 3rd grade.

  • *I* wasn't running around yelling "smokin," but whether you believe me or not, I did understand the word and knew how to use it correctly.

  • Even if I were to give that belief credence, are you attempting to tell me that a child who is raised on film as a primary source of "free time education" will have the same level of emotional and logical intelligence as a child who reads during that same time?

  • "We only progress by challenging ourselves. Looking up definitions while reading is part of the allure of complex narratives."

    Granted, I could have looked up each word I didn't know, but it would have taken me much longer time and definitely would have interrupted the flow of the book and taken away from the experience of reading it.

  • "are you attempting to tell me that a child who is raised on film as a primary source of "free time education" will have the same level of emotional and logical intelligence as a child who reads during that same time?"

    I am attempting to illustrate the importance of sensory context when reading. If you have not real world context, words are just symbols. Film does hold some advantage when it comes to conveying a message. While reading holds unique benefits, but it is just one among many things that do for us. I believe it is good for people, but I don't believe it is the only way to become intelligent and creative. "Best" is a matter of opinion.

  • *have no

  • Unfortunately, it is not an opinion. A child who uses their brain to imagine said sensory context will be far better off than the child who takes said context from film.

  • A child who reads without sensory context will not be able to take as much away from the book as child that has it.

  • The child who reads will have it. They would have gained it from reading, experiencing the world around them, and then molding the two. This entire process occurs within the brain, the connecting being made by the child as an individual, and through this process the child has formed a view of the world that is solely their own. It was not given to them by some skewed director, it was formed on their own.

  • "Because there are so many varieties of human experience, so many kinds of interaction between humans, and so many ways of creating patterns in the novel that can’t be created in a short story, a play, a poem or a movie. The novel, simply, offers more opportunities for a reader to understand the world better, including the world of artistic creation." - Don DeLillo

    This quote fired the debate back up, and I think DeLillo is right (as he usually is). That said, I think it should be addressed.

    The human experience is vast, and everything within this vastness is coded. Patterns exist in every single tangible occurrence or ethereal conceptualization. That said, we should be able to decipher some sort of meaning in anything from this delicious cup of tea I'm drinking to Brazil to Hamlet. However, I believe that the extent to which that meaning challenges and rewards us is directly proportional to how well that meaning is woven into the medium. There are bad books, bad movies, bad paintings, etc. These don't dare us to look beyond the scope of the banal. They still have meaning, but since it is more readily available in its plain badness, it doesn't do much to increase our intelligence or understanding of our condition or that of the universe.

    Conversely, there are good books, good movies, good paintings, etc. that force us to examine the complexities - structures, fallacies, prejudices, spiritual enigmas. At its best, this is accomplished through non-linear chronology and labyrinthian use of metaphor. Film can do both of these things quite well (Memento, Pulp Fiction, etc.), but I feel it is more difficult to code information in a largely visual medium than it is in a more imaginative one. And since I feel that this codification is really the point, I find reading, especially the reading of novels, to be generally more beneficial than any other form of signification - which is to say, anything.

  • "The child who reads will have it. They would have gained it from reading, experiencing the world around them, and then molding the two."

    Precisely, you need both. Both are critical to learning.

    "It was not given to them by some skewed director, it was formed on their own."

    It was not formed on their own, it was given to them by some skewed writer.

  • "I feel that this codification is really the point"

    The point of what?

  • The writer gave the child a description of the world within the story, and the characters interacting with such a world. The child then takes that description and matches it with real life experience. In the process of doing this they are forming a linkage between the fantasy realm and reality. In this link they are applying abstract thoughts on a more vital understanding of our world and the people that occupy it through the lense of what they have read.

    Film removes the need of that linkage, all of what would be imagined and worked through is presented. Little thought is needed.

  • What about dyslexic people?

  • One of the front-line treatments for dyslexia is the digesting of books through story-telling form, or being read to. It is in this light that the brain is still allowed to use the imagination and make the ties. They certainly don't sit dyslexic children in front of a screen, because they know that helps nothing.

    There is science, history, philosophy, and every piece of intelligent discourse known to humanity, behind the idea that reading is the BEST path to higher intellect.

  • *shrug* Agree to disagree! :)

  • No, not really.

  • Let me rephrase then:

    *I* agree to disagree. :)

  • The point of our existence - what Walker Percy referred to as "The Search."

  • I'm not sure there is a point to our existence. To me, all there is is to enjoy life as best we can and try to leave behind as much good (and as little bad) that can outlive us as possible.

  • I guess the word "point" is often used to mean something along the lines of an end to the means. I'm using it more in the sense that I don't believe in the end and that the means (the search) are what matters; the means are the point. Constant struggle and opposition. Sorry if that sounds a little high school Marxish.

  • Life is certainly filled with struggle and opposition, but whether those things are "the point", "the reason", or "the means" of living seems sort of dependent on the observer.

    Whose point? Whose reason? Whose means?

    God's? Mine? Yours? And in relation to our self or from an outside perspective?

    I'm likely to feel different about my place than someone else feels about my place.

  • I agree with that entirely. The subjective is the point. If the world were static, if there was one provable universal truth that everyone relied on, I wouldn't see much use in living. In an objective world, there is no struggle or opposition, no dichotomy, no understanding, no point.

    The point is interpreting signs and incorporating them into our larger individual understanding of our place in the universe.

  • I really like how it sounds, but I'm still not sure I believe it.

    I'd like to think my life is important, but in the grand scheme of things, a universal prospective - the closest thing I can think of to "THE point," signifying ONE point - I'm just one more human. I can aspire to enact more positive change than the human next to me, I can become very wise, very skilled, but does the universe care about my success any more than I care about my most extraordinary blood cell specimen? I don't know, I kind of doubt of it, but I want to live and do the best I can at that none-the-less!

  • That sense of self-importance in the face of the vast nothingness is what makes our tiny lifespan so frickin' amazing. The fact that we can feel and do so much with the very little time we have makes being human an extremely unique circumstance. How we categorize the things we do, or the goals that we achieve, or the dreams that we have, all of that makes for an interesting journey, one that can never be predicted.

    Much like a belief in a deity, it is easy for us to resign our lives to relative insignificance due to our place in the infinity of time and space, but the future is forever unknown. There can be no predicting how our lives will effect the universe as a whole, so relegating said lives to obscurity before they are done is a bit like the chicken before the egg. We should all live as though every breath we take rumbles the very foundation of reality, for it does in every way we could imagine and all those we have yet to.

  • Surprisingly, I agree with everything you've said! ;)

    I am aware of my relative insignificance, without being dissuaded from wanting to do what I can with what I've been given. Understanding that I am part of a much, much bigger whole, is comforting and inspiring. I wish everyone understood just how connected everything is.

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