Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reading The Moviegoer

Darwin and I are heading down to New Orleans in a few weeks to attend the Inaugural Conference of the Walker Percy Center for Writing and Publishing.  The theme of the conference is "The Moviegoer at Fifty", and the panelists include such familiar names as Matthew Lickona and other members of the Korrectiv crew, Dorian Speed, Betty Duffy, and Amy Welborn.  An example of a panel:

11) Moviegoers Reading The Moviegoer
Rebecca Baker / What One Has to Do with the Other: A Semiotic Reading of The Moviegoer
Elizabeth Duffy, Dorian Speed, & Amy Welborn / Following William Holden on Twitter
Matthew Luter /The (Fictional) Character Projected Upon the Page: The Moviegoer and the Semiotics of the Celebrity Self

I'm looking forward to the presentation without the word "semiotic" in the title.

This is going to be a doozy of trip, starting with riding 13 hours to New Orleans with Betty Duffy. Everyone's staying in the same charming hotel, and with Darwin and Lickona leading the pack, the carousing will be epic.

The only thing left to do is to actually read The Moviegoer.

But I'm on it, friends.  My copy arrived today, and so I'm going to live blog The Moviegoer (or at least transcribe my reactions as I go -- I'm taking notes).

So we meet Binx -- I know that's his name because the back of the book told me so, although he's first addressed as Jack. He seems essentially passive. None of his actions, at the beginning, are positive. Everything's a response: his civic duty, his work, his movie watching. He's so lacking in drive that he can't be bothered to take his car places. At least at the movies, passivity is the proper response.

Drama: choices and change
One can read The Moviegoer in terms of cinema, but I'm remembering taking Acting class in college. Drama, we learned, springs from change, and Binx isn't there yet. Even staring at his pile of stuff, he's still analyzing, and the drama is still waiting for the inciting incident.

When there's drama between two people who know each other well, the confrontation usually takes two forms: either "You always do that" or "You've never done that before." Binx is definitely in a "you always do that" phase at the beginning.

His reaction to watching movies reminded me of a phenomenon I've pondered lately: the decline of creativity in the age of YouTube. Time was, when my siblings and I would get together, we would go into creative overdrive: singing, playing games, throwing together skits, being involved. Now it seems like we huddle over the computer and watch YouTube videos. There's creativity there, but it's not ours. We're passive.

Watching a movie takes a certain pre-determined investment of time, but YouTube videos are pernicious because they're short. It feels like there's no time commitment because look, this one's only two minutes long! Then you stretch out your cramped legs and compressed spine and realize that everyone's been crouched in front of the screen for two hours.

Holden as peculiarly real
The thing is, it's not enough just to be near William Holden, because everyone on the street is near him. It's not enough to be spoken to by him. He has to approve you. And the approval is key not just because you yourself think he's great, but because everyone else acknowledges his greatness. Which is why the boy can't be perked up simply by the affection of his new wife. She's fine, of course, but no one else cares. But everyone cares about William Holden,

I think Binx is being disingenuous. I bet he wouldn't mind if William Holden spoke to him as well.


Matthew Lickona said...

Binx isn't passive when it comes to the ladies. He goes through a new one each year.
You're really in at the Prytania?

MrsDarwin said...

We're actually at the Queen Anne, since the Prytania was booked right up by certain people, but it's part of the same complex, I think. Close enough as makes no never mind.

BettyDuffy said...

I'm so glad you're live-bloggin the movie-goer. I need a re-refresher.

Through the Darwin lens--what could be better?

Emily J. said...

Is my skin turning green yet? I think my envy is going to send me to the confessional.

Have fun! Looking forward to reading more. Can you post clips to youtube so we can all passively participate?

Christopher Blosser said...

"His reaction to watching movies reminded me of a phenomenon I've pondered lately: the decline of creativity in the age of YouTube."

I question whether YouTube itself has really spawned "the decline of creativity" -- inasmuch as blogs offer a public platform for writing, I think the argument could be made that YouTube functions as a vehicle for creativity for many.

Together with some basic film-editing software now available on most computers (ex. Apple's "IMovie"), practically anybody can learn how to make a short movie, play, skit, political commentary, talk show, spoken word or musical performance, etc.

That's not to say Youtube doesn't serve as a source of passive entertainment. If that is the case, (and self included) I think we have nobody but ourselves to blame. But YouTube is more than "television-via-computer."

I look at YouTube and I constantly marvel at the number of people out there who have made use of it precisely as an outlet for expressing their creativity and imagination.

mrsdarwin said...

Christopher, you're right about the explosion of creativity that comes with easy access to technology, and I'm not going to deny that I love watching videos. I was using YouTube, I guess, as a shorthand for how that easy access to technology can also stultify those who aren't doing the creating. Because it's simple and immediate, it's easy to fall back on quick entertainment. I picked on YouTube because I've noticed its easy entertainment effect several times on a gathering. Maybe my siblings and I should start putting together videos whenever we hang out.

We canceled cable several years ago for just this reason -- it was too easy to flop on the couch at night and watch whatever was on (and if you didn't like what was on, flip around the channels). It was a good servant but a poor master.

Christopher Blosser said...

My brothers and I used to play around with a tape recorder when young composing faux-radio dramas. I'd like to think what we could accomplish with, say, the editing capabilities of Apple's IMovie back then. On the other hand, I'm definitely guilty of being a couch potato as well.

Thanks for responding (and being tolerant of my weighing in on a point completely tangential to the main subject). Pleased to see somebody blogging on Percy. =)

Gail F said...

I have not read The Moviegoer but Lost in the Cosmos is one of my favorite books in the world. The only other thing of his I've read was Love in the Ruins, which I liked but... I think you really have to be from the south to "get" some of it. It seemed more like a period piece than a real, living novel, if that makes any sense. But well worth reading, better than many other, more famous books I've read.