Monday, 2 July 2012

Beeban Kidron: The shared wonder of film

http://www.ted.com/talks/beeban_kidron_the_shared_wonder_of_film.html

I love that she talked about communality. The lack of it is something I've noticed is a problem. 

For example, although bringing up children without TV seems like a good thing, as hopefully they do not get lost in technology but become more engaged with the world, they can lose out on the shared experience of stories which has come to be (for me) the thing I treasure most about TV. Talking to someone new suddenly become easier when you find out you both enjoy the same sitcom.

I often compare the role shared appreciation of TV shows can take to learning bible stories as a child. Bible stories were, once, common narratives of western culture. Parables that could unite (though they didn't always). More and more I meet people without knowledge of these stories, and I'm struck in the face with what that lack means: a fundamental means of communication is erased. 

Personally, I understand things in life through metaphor and figurative language... as Kidron said, through narrative. It's probably why I need context, not just information before I can feel confident about acting. Facts and details I lose easily, unless they are embedded in a memorable context.

The idea of film clubs do make sense to me... and at the same time they make me sad. We now have to create the shared experience/story before we can communicate meaningfully to each other. 

Perhaps there really is too much choice in our lives, leading to a disconnected society because we are not exposed to the same stories.

At the library, we think it's important for people to be able to read. Why? Why does it matter? If there are hundreds of thousands of books produced and available to us, how are the stories building community? Does community matter? Aren't books just another part of the isolating excess of our time?

I value community and communication, which doesn't make them absolute goods in and of themselves, though I see them as good.

How, in my storytimes that I run at the library, can I contribute to community? 

Back to the Ted Talk: I was also intrigued with how Kidron talked about Jaws, and how she articulated the value of scary films like this one. I've wanted for some time a justification for scary film. I understand the pleasure of being frightened, yet knowing you are safe. But, if there's not more than base pleasure involved, I don't think that's enough of a reason to argue for scary film. And I want to be able to argue for it, because I value it. I just wasn't able to justify it. I worried that scary films created and amplified fear, and there is enough fear in this world, paralyzing many of us. The last thing we need is more. But in this instance, Kidron related how it helped a child to express something. The scary film demonstrated something real that perhaps before seeing it, the child could not explain. I never looked at it that way before, or saw it as having that possibility.

Just as the films that show us the worst of humanity (Schindler's List, Hotel Rwanda, The Accused) are about more than shaming us. "These films held what was too hurtful to say out loud."

I appreciate this gift that film has given to me. I have had experiences in my life that remain too difficult for me to share with those I love the most. But the human experience is captured in film, and I can see my pain and suffering reflected there. Because of that, I feel comforted. I feel comforted because I know the way that film affects me. I feel that I am understood, though indirectly, because these films exist. 

In academia sometimes we disparage the popular (in books, tv, film etc.), but i think that's because we are not appreciating that the popular becomes a potentially uniting common experience. I, like many others, sometimes resist the popular, but perhaps that ego-response is actually self-destructive, because resisting the popular limits my ability to connect with others because I choose not to participate in the shared experience. Instead of evaluating a book or film or play or whatever, as a thing in itself, as if it were in a vaccuum, perhaps there is some value in evaluating these things from a perspective of their potential to contribute to community by the very fact that they are a shared experience. 

For example, I didn't like the Twilight series, because I found the 'heroine' to be reinforcing poor self-esteem, victimhood, and disempowerment for women, and this frightens me. But because I participated in the phenomenon of reading it, and seeing the films, I can communicate with others about my views when the subject arises. 

I'm elevating communication as a good here, and that's only my personal value system, but of course, I think i'm right about that. lol.

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