Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Worthwhile Stories

"And then there are calls for these foolish essays for conferences. Like, a few years ago there were a lot of people writing about Buffy."
-New Prof.

I tell ya, Tuesdays are turning into my day to be aggravated by academic snobbery. It wasn't bad enough that she had to insult creative writers, now she's going after Joss? Talk about near and dear to my heart...

It's always interesting when pop culture comes up in class because there are always a lot of people in the snobbery camp who then say things like, "Yeah. That's just watering down serious academia." Good grief.

Not only are these folks disregarding those who create the literature they write all these essays about, they're also completely overlooking the fact that, in its day, most of said literature was the equivalent of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The whole point of books is entertainment. That's the soul of it. Jane Austen didn't set out to write Pride and Prejudice just so people two hundred years later could write Marxist analyses. She wrote it to entertain.

Joss writes to entertain. He also explores feminism just as surely as Austen's writing ever did.

Sometimes it seems like English departments define worthwhile stories in terms of how long the author has been dead. The longer, the better, and this TV/movie stuff? Bah! None of it can be worthwhile because there are so many trashy movies and reality shows. Again, blinders - what about all the trashy novels and garbage poems that were being written at the same time Shakespeare (who was, let's mention, the equivalent of Steven Spielberg) was scribbling out his plays? They forget that there's always plenty of poor quality writing going on and being published or performed in any period we study as literature scholars.

Can't we look past "the test of time" and venture into less canonized forms of storytelling? I mean, we've gotten to the point of including women on the list of the worthwhile, is it so much of a stretch to admit that these moving pictures might have something to them?

Of course, seeing as how three of my seven admired writers have either written movies or "sold out" to have their work made into one (in Neil's case, both), you already know what my answer is.


Jenny said...

Actually there are definitely four of your admired writers who have sold out, I think Tim O'Brien has a movie somewhere too so that makes five, and one of the other two is a poet (so it's a little harder to make a movie outta that one...)

Don't feel too bad about academic snobbery though. Apparently Adam had one teacher who felt you weren't doing anything with your writing if you hadn't sold/wrote a movie.

Ali said...

Oh that's right. I totally forgot about Jhumpa Lahiri's movie. I'll have to look into Tim O'Brien.

That's funny. I seem to have a disctinct preference for film compatible authors, and I never even noticed. Though, I don't know that I'd ever go as far as Adam's professor.

Jenny said...

I also looked for Terry Pratchett, and looks like he's a sellout too. =)

He's done quite a bit of television work. The Colour of Magic will be a TV movie too.

I'm not surprised. The last author I heard who wouldn't really sell her work was Willa Cather...but I'm betting she'd change her mind at the quality of films coming out nowadays. And I'm guessing Shakespeare would not whine about his level of attention via cinema either....

Mishell said...

Bingo! What the hell is wrong with pop culture? After all if millions of people like something, the odds are pretty strong that there are smart people, as well as not so smart people, enjoying whatever it is. I love pop culture!