The Refutation Proclamation

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019-05-21 12:00:00 No comments

A comment on the New York Times site (which I can't link to directly) went like this:

... [The Wire] purported to be about how Baltimore really was. Instead it was a compendium of how criminals, journalists and police share fantasies. Like Mafia movies where the myths which animate real lives are presented as entertainment, there was nothing I could see but conformity to stereotypes which turn out to be romantic. I watched soap operas for years and years, fascinated by the plot turns and the acting, and I still watch Perry Mason. These took themselves seriously enough to stay on the air. But they don’t feel to me that they think they’ve found a higher truth, when they have just seen themselves in the mirror.

Most every discussion of the meanings of our entertainments turn into the question of what we want from them. No two people answer this question exactly the same way. Some of us want to turn our brains off; some of us want to turn our brains back on. Some of us want idealized fantasy as a contrast to all the crushing reality we face during the day; some of us want a bracing dose of reality as a contrast to all the lies and frippery we're offered as a culture. There is no point in trying to make everyone happy, except maybe by accident, and even then you don't really do that.

Readers of this site know I'm no fan of Game of Thrones. I find it unappealing in the extreme. I read the first book, just barely, and found it so repellent in every respect, especially its Jacobean/Hobbsean worldview, that I decided I had plenty better things to do with My One Wild And Precious Life.

But all the reasons for why I don't like it are things that other people might well find as the very things that draw them to it. I can't argue them out of those positions; they weren't argued into them to begin with. Something about it draws them in and keeps them there. They come up with the reasons later. We all do this. The difference is that some of us are more willing to revisit our justifications critically over time, although that's not a stamp of moral superiority over others, just a sign that we are cut out for a different kind of enjoyment.

Within every critic who takes his work seriously is the ugly little impulse to come up with that one devastating argument, that one Wisdom Of The Staircase that would allow them to take any total fan of something they despise and break them of their culthood. This impulse surfaces in me from time to time, and I try to do the sensible thing and ignore it. All my objections about why GoT turns me off miss the point for someone who has found something in it that is, one way or another, theirs. Arguing them out of it wastes both our time. The better response is to make something that is its own refutation.

The problem is that isn't an avenue available to everyone to detour onto. But for those of us who have that luxury, or that drive, it seems the way to go. Don't argue people out of the things you can't stand; show them what you think there should be instead. You can't make everyone happy with it, but that's not the point. You just have to plant your flag in the ground somewhere. Make something that is your answer to all the things in the world you don't want.

Tags: Game of Thrones creativity creators