Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Episode 57 - And the Moral of the Story Is...

Art communicates truth. That's a given. But we all know stories *cough* FernGully *cough* that shove the meaning down our throats. They have an agenda--and you shall comply! Or at least feel angry and/or guilty when you leave the theater.

But where is that line? When does the message of the story overtake the story itself? When does the agenda destroy the art? Into the deep jungles of such questions dive our intrepid explorers Tim and Nick.

Then in "Our Take on Takes" we emerge from the last rain forest to journey to The Sound and the Fury and Big Trouble in Little China as well as a few places in between.

Once upon a time there was a little boy who didn't listen to Derailed Trains of Thought. And his brain turned to mush and he spent his entire life licking postage stamps for a faceless megacorp in post-alien invasion L.A. Moral of the story--listen in to your premier podcast about storytelling. Now. Before it's too late.

It's almost too late all ready....


Show Notes

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  1. I'm still listening to the episode, but the Faulkner quiz might be one of the funniest things you guys have done, and I've never read Faulkner. I've heard his work is almost incomprehensible. Reading from the surface, his works seem interesting, though.

  2. I just wrote out a long comment. Did it go through?

  3. Nope. Stupid website!

    Now to try to remember what I wrote...

    I have opinions...

    Tim, I’m not surprised you reacted to “Big Trouble in Little China” and “RoboCop” the way you did. The former is a strange one. The director, John Carpenter, is known for horror movies (1982’s “The Thing”) and quirky action flicks (“Escape from New York”). “Big Trouble” was a movie that was entertaining when it’d normally be stupid because the right combination of elements came together (Carpenter, Kurt Russell, the ‘80s, etc.) and caught lightning in a bottle. I enjoyed it, but you know I like strange stuff.
    The ultra-violence of “RoboCop” is meant to be satirical. It was a riff on the over-the-top action movies of the era. Does that justify all of its content? Not necessarily, but I do hope it makes more sense to you now. Regardless, I thought it’s story was strangely effective science fiction (better than the remake, I can tell you).
    Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” is colorful, just not in the same way as “Pacific Rim.” It doesn’t have as broad a color palette, but it does look bright in its desert and/or tropical settings. So much so that some complained it’d been darkened on the non-3D transfers on DVD and Blu-Ray.
    Netflix recommendations? I’d say, “Daredevil,” but you’ve both seen it. Other than that, my most interesting find on Netflix is “Hot Girls Wanted,” a documentary that’s exclusive to the site. It’s about how the porn industry lures and exploits young women. It made me hate the porn industry even more. It does this without showing anything explicit. I initially watched it because it was getting some hate on both IMDB and Netflix (a two-star overall rating). I realized it was because it dared to criticize porn. In other words, it attacked many peoples’ idol.
    Now for the main topic:
    Message stories are a tricky lot. They’re usually bad—especially in the Christian realm—but as you pointed out, there are many examples of classic literature with on-the-nose messages. Regardless, they have to be particularly good for me to like them. I avoid most faith-based movies because they’re far more interested in their message than their storytelling. If I wanted to hear a sermon, I’d go to church. It takes far more skill, I think, to subtly inject the message than to make it overt. On the other hand, kids’ entertainment often has overt messages. Some would say that’s because they wouldn’t understand otherwise, but I think they underestimate how smart kids are. Heck, that could be said about audiences in general (though I often wonder about modern audiences…). “Star Trek” is one of my favorite franchises, but many of its weakest episodes are the preachiest ones. Ironic considering Gene Roddenberry originally created the show to tell stories that discussed then current and often controversial events by disguising them with sci-fi trappings.

  4. Yeah, I've noticed that over-the-top bloody violence rarely works as comedy for me. (The black knight scene in Monty Python might be the rare exception.) The only satire I probably picked up on in RoboCop was the news reports scenes; the rest of it read to me like it was trying to be a popcorn action flick, only with extra gratuitous content. I guess it's a style that just doesn't ring true for me.

    Thanks for the Netflix recommendation! I don't watch a lot of documentaries, but that sounds like one that deserves a higher star rating.

    How much kids pick up on messages in entertainment probably varies somewhat on from kid to kid. I do think the success of educational shows like Sesame Street, Square One, or other PBS shows demonstrates that there is value with pairing entertaining stories with overt lessons. Not to say that there isn't room for kids' stories where the messages are more subtle – for example, there's plenty of subtly in Avatar: The Last Airbender. But I believe both types of kids' entertainment have their place, and the same is probably true in grown-up art as well.