Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blinded by the Light

About a fortnight ago, I went to see the movie Avatar. As we left the movie, my brother, Captain Film Major, asked me, "What'd you think of it?"

In all honesty, I admitted I couldn't say. Now, me not having an opinion on something is a strange thing. If I don't have an opinion on something, I can usually generate one in 5.4 seconds. So not having one about Avatar was a bit weird. But I knew why I couldn't say anything. "I was seduced by how pretty it was."

Yes, the first time I saw Avatar my initial impression was, "It's pretty." I'm just easy like that. Go ahead, make you jokes. My ego can take it, I think. (Since seeing it again -- long-ish story involving 3D glasses-- I've moved past it's beauty to still give it a 9 out of 10. [Captain Film Major, if you're thinking of mocking that, you can just bugger off. I liked the movie.] Anyway...)

You're probably wondering what this all has to do with books, because I didn't come over here to write a movie review. Shocker, I know. What I'm curious about is the blinding effect of the beauty.

I know that this is not a groundbreaking revelation: People's judgment may be obscured to altered by the attractiveness of the subject at hand. Yes, I know, our species can be a little shallow like that at times. But, that doesn't tend to happen to me. At least, not with this medium.

Sure, I've seen paintings that commanded my eyes. I think we all have. And music can move me to tears. But this would be the first time that the prettiness of a movie warped my thoughts. And now I feel compelled to wonder, does my mind get warped by the Pretty when it comes to books as well?

It seems logical that sometimes we'll suffer through boring plot or repugnant characters for the sake of beautiful or well-crafted writing. We suffer through a lot worse in our lives for the sake of Pretty. Besides, I don't think most people read those books they were assigned in class because the books were just ever so fascinating. Instead, the caliber of the writing kept folks going.

Even Shakespeare is like that sometimes. Every now and then I look at a monologue and think, "Dude, was someone doing a costume change here and you needed three minutes? This speech isn't moving the plot along at all. Why'd he bother?"

But, you know, you miss those thoughts the first read through, because it's Shakespeare, and it's pretty, and it's eloquent, so you let the words wash over you and it doesn't matter that the speech serves no purpose. Okay, maybe if you aren't a Shakespeare geek, you're thinking, "No, he could have cut that whole act. The pretty isn't blinding me on this one." But I get a little blinded, and I think even hard-core Shakespeare fans have to admit to a little Pretty-blindness every now and then.

Does this happen to you? Do you get blinded by the prettiness of the writing and overlook the other qualities of the piece? What book was so pretty it blinded you? How much do you let the prettiness of the prose compensate for the other aspects?

Also, if you're keeping track, this happens to be my 200th blog post. I hope you enjoyed it. :D


  1. Congrats on the blog! That's great.

    As to the Pretty - I can't think of a story right off the top of my head (why do you have to ask such interesting questions that I have to think about the answers?)

    But I have to tell you this story -- I once saw a man, and I was struck by the fact he was a man, mid-twenties, light coffee colored skin, incredible round blue eyes, who was so devastatingly Pretty, Handsome, Gorgeous, I was totally taken aback. I stood there dumbstruck in wonder -- he was just beautiful -- like he could have been made out of marble. He had to have been the most incredible looking person I have ever seen. He was perfect. And I couldn't help it, I said to him, "Excuse me, I just have to say this to you, you are the most beautiful man I have ever seen." He laughed and said thank you and then we each went our separate ways, but I have never, ever forgotten him. So in a strange kind of way, yes, I have been blinded by the Pretty.

  2. Oh, yes, I think Avatar was pretty, too, and it was a decent solid story, but it was just the story of Pocahontas, nothing spectacular. I thought the film was good, but it could have been better if the story was more unique and not so predictable. Still, the acting was good, and yes, it was Pretty. Very. Pretty.

  3. Happy 200th Blog Post Day!

    I loved Avatar and a lot of it was being blinded by pretty. But it's a 3D film! Why not enjoy the ride? I want to see it again but I don't think my Beloved is so keen.

  4. I have not seen AVATAR and am a little scared to see it in 3D as I get dizzy when I wear those glasses and that might not make it look so Pretty.
    I have to say that as far as books go, it's not the Pretty prose, but the amazing impact and emotions that words can stir up. My favorite author is Augusten Burroughs, and I am quite amazed at how he can select the most perfect verb and analogy to get the feelings across. Wonder what AVATAR would be like in 2D?

  5. I loved Avatar and thought it was beautiful. I thought the story was good, but that's probably because I haven't seen Dances With Wolves. Still, I just loved the look of it.

    And Gutsy Writer, I thought the 3D would give me a headache but Avatar wasn't really about chucking things at your head. It was really just a subtle enhancement of the world. So I'd say give it a try!

  6. Piedmont -- That's a nice story. I don't think I'd have been able to tell the guy I thought he was that pretty, because I'd be too embarrassed, so go you! I'd probably remember that guy for a while, too.

    Glamis -- I think you have a point there about the uniqueness of the story, but I tend to be forgiving of such things.

    hedgehog -- I think some movies merit being seen twice. You could always find some friend who hasn't seen it yet and go with them.

    GW -- If you're concerned that the 3D will make you dizzy, you should see it in 2D. It does come in regular movie form. Actually, the first time I saw it was in 2D form, and I still thought it was pretty good.

    Karen -- If you liked Avatar, you'll probably like Dances With Wolves. It's a good movie and worth watching.

  7. I am a hardcore Shakespeare geek, and no I don't think that the pretty ever outweighs the words. when I know what's coming, I sit on the edge of my seat to see how well the presentation does justice to the source material. And when it breaks from what I expect - like god help me when a production sneaks in a line from the whole fscking play - it splashes ice cold water on the whole thing because it sticks out like nobody's business.