Thursday, January 21, 2010

Those Magic Words

Okay, I'm about to mention Avatar again. **ducks to avoid being hit with thrown objects** I can fully understand if you're thinking, "Oh my golly goodness gracious, are you kidding me?" I promise you, I did not set out to make this some sort of Avatar themed week or anything like that. Plus, I promise to connect this back to the things I said yesterday, so try to just think of me as smart or clever or something along those lines.

When people ask how I liked Avatar better than so many other movies that most would consider equally good, I have sometimes replied, "It told me things I like to hear." That may sound strange, but I think it's true.

All things with stories have a message or a set of beliefs around which the story is based. And, if you are partaking of those products, you have no real way of avoiding said beliefs or messages. For example, if you read the Harry Potter Series you had as good a chance of missing the message "Love triumphs over all evil" as I have of learning how to turn marbles into steaming hot cups of tea with milk. (If you missed that message, go back and read the books again. It was there.) No matter what you're reading or watching or listening to, you are being told something by the maker.

And, the very important question is, do you like what you are hearing?

A while ago, a class I took required us all to read the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. (A very good book. I would highly recommend it, especially if you liked Avatar.) Well, about 2/3 of the class declared that the book had changed their lives and that it was awesome. I figured the book hadn't changed my life, because I'd already agreed with what the author was saying, but it told me things I liked to hear, and I declared it to be awesome. My sister (hereafter known as The Other One) said it didn't change her life and hadn't told her much she didn't already know; The Other One declared the book to be good, but definitely not life changing. It didn't tell her things she liked to hear.

What people like to hear is sort of like a demographic all of its own. "People who like to hear this sort of thing" could be a target audience in its own right. The message of the story can be just as important as genre and other target audience factors, if not more so, in determining whether or not an individual likes the book/movie/epic poem, etc.

In my life, I'm not a fan of sports, but there are some movies about football and rugby that I love, because the message about growth and interpersonal understanding is one that I enjoy. The message beat out 'genre' for me in those cases. Some books, I know, no matter how well written they are, I will never enjoy them, because the philosophy of those books just makes me want to chuck that tome against a wall. (Not that I would mistreat a book like that, but sometimes the stuff I'm reading just makes me want to drop-kick something. Maybe I should post a warning sign before reading books like that.) The message overwhelms the other aspects of the book for me.

How do you feel about art /books/movies saying what certain people like to hear? Does such a phenomenon effect your reading and buying?


  1. I'm one of those certain people I suppose. I read,have always read love stories. I believe in the angst, the obstacles characters have to overcome to find that love. Perhaps it's because I have never found that undying affection and I still have that hope that I will someday.

  2. I always tend to like books and films that tell me things I like to hear. But they aren't usually my favorite. My favorites tend to be stories that make me think in different directions.

    Great, great post and good things to think about here! Might inspire a Lit Lab post... :)

  3. I'm with Lady Glamis - the ones that tell me things i like to hear are fun. But the great books/movies whatever are the ones that tell you something you either don't like to hear, or have never heard before, and change the music for you forever.

  4. Piedmont -- I must say, I agree with you about the angst and the passion. I certainly enjoy those aspects of romances.

    Glamis -- Well, I'm glad to think I'm inspiring thought. You're right, there is something to be said for works that can change your mind, or at least make you seriously consider another perspective.

    Falen -- Indeed, a book must be good if it can tell you things you don't normally like to hear and make you okay with that fact. Such books could not be discounted. I guess that would be called Strong Appeal Outside Target Audiences or something of that sort.