Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Okay, so they are VERY pretty people--Angelina and Brad. This isn't about them. It's about the script, or even the genre.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading a NYT article about why today's children are so rude--an entire generation, in fact. The gist of the article is that while our parents were taught to make decisions based on how that decision would affect the community--what will the neighbors think?--we have left that standard behind and today's kids make decisions based on "what will help you get ahead?" It would seem that America has become a land where looking out for number one has become quite important.

Not everywhere and not with every one, of course. But in Sunday's NYT, I read an article about "Neanderthal Men"--about how prime time has become saturated with heroes that look out for number one: Sawyer on Lost, Jack on 24, etc. Sydney Bristow on Alias never kills innocent people--in fact, characters have an almost hilarious tendency to fall on their own knives. But these modern men never hesitate to blow their opposition away.

Where am I going with this? I'm not sure; I'm musing aloud. But I'm reminded of a movie review I read in the Wall Street Journal last summer:

“Who knows what Mr. and Mrs. Smith are feeling, if anything, when he shoots at her car, she throws a meat cleaver at him, he kicks her . . ., she beats up on him, they pursue one another in a grotesquely overextended freeway chase, or reduce their pretentious home to a fire-ball-belching ruin? . . . More to the point, though, what are we supposed to feel, if anything, about these barely sub-nuclear Bickersons when, for example, she says, “I’m sorry” after flinging a knife into his thigh and he says “We’ll talk about this later?”

“Maybe the answer on both counts is nothing. The script . . . was the final thesis project for Mr. Kinberg’s Master of Fine Arts degree at Columbia University’s film school; maybe “Mr and Mrs. Smith” is on the cutting edge of a new genre, the feelnothing movie that sidesteps all concerns about scale or tone in its pursuit of spectacular action. But the movie reminded me of a relatively new product, the little translucent wafer that you put on your tongue to freshen your breath. One hit of intense flavor and the thing dissolves without a trace.”

My point—and yes, I have one—is that I’ve noticed this in new books, too—rush, rush, high concept, boom, bang, that’s it. Pages turned, book done, nothing remains. No message to ponder, no sacrifice to haunt you, no characters to miss. No one questioning decisions or values.

Have you noticed the same thing?

I think that's why I love novels by Jodi Picoult--her characters are involved in moral quandries where all the questions are raised. (I don't always agree with their answers, but at least she's raising questions.)

And perhaps this is where Christian fiction excels--characters who follow Christ operate by a higher standard than situational ethics.

Something to think about, in any case.

Angie

4 comments:

Cindy said...

I've noticed the same thing, Angie...very discouraging. And yes, it is one reason why I read mostly Christian fiction.

Dee said...

Great entry. Topix.net picked up your entry, so expect more traffic.

I saw the movie and thought the same with two supposedly good actors, I wanted more from that script. And the conflict didn't seem raised enough for me to care if they kill each other or not.

What concerns me is that I've reviewed some christian fiction books this year that are sliding close to that scale.

Robyn said...

I agree wholeheartedly Angie! I think past generations used to do the right thing regardless of personal consequences and now we only think of ourselves. The prevailing mindset seems to be "I've got to love me to love anyone else" so we continually put ourselves first. Self love is in fact a lie. It's only when we share love outwardly that it grows and returns to us. (I read that somewhere and it's stuck with me).

p.s. I also enjoy Jodi Piccoult's novels. They do make you think.

Anonymous said...

I noticed the same lack of thoughtfullness in the direction and mindless enjoyment some people seem to be getting from the new King Kong movie.