Thursday, May 27, 2004

Jimmy Crack Corn... and I don't like musicals

It still baffles me the interest level in the nouveau-Star-Search, pretentiously called "American Idol". Apparently, someone vaingloriously named Fantasia won the contest last night. When my girlfriend had the clicker the other night I was subjected to about 10 minutes of the show. Seriously, this is quality programming? I will aver from expressing contempt towards people who revere and/or buy the products shoveled out by theses shows, and just chalk it up to one of those things I am not conditioned or programmed to appreciate.

That list has included, for many years, any and all manner of musicals. I've never been able to appreciate musicals in any form. For those minor musical movies I admit are classics and I quote from, such as Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory, technology comes to the rescue. Through the miracle of DVD I jump over the dancing/singing scenes so I can enjoy the twisted humor and sharp dialogue.

Coincidentally, the other night I also (forced, could not acquire remote) watched about 20 minutes of Chicago, purported to be a top-notch musical on film. Again, I just couldn't maintain much of a passing interest in the routines. The conversation good and the plot seemed pretty interesting, but when the characters would break into song in the middle of dialogue, for me it would bring the film to a screeching halt.

The best way for me to explain what I mean is to make a parallel to science-fiction. In the genre of these movies there is an ability each viewer must possess to fully enjoy the films, and that is suspension of disbelief. What this means, in short, is that the viewer must be able to put aside his/her doubts about the validity of the technological devices or bizarre characters being seen in the film and just accept that these things or characters are 'real'. Failure to do this will seriously impair the viewer from getting all the enjoyment out of the film.

To illustrate (I have time on my hands and I feel like it, so there), let's use an example from AN EXCELLENT FILM called Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Roll your eyes if you must, but you might learn something here about yourself. Now, if someone watching the film observes him/herself that 'lightspeed' is physically impossible, or at least beyond our present comprehension, and that fact sticks in their head they won't be paying attention to the film or enjoying it as much. This would be analogous to a student listening to a lecture who gets stuck on one point and starts daydreaming about it, thus ceasing to hear the lecturer for those few minutes.

Or, let's use the more famous example of the beloved and hated Jar Jar Binks. Preconceived notions brought on by contemptable and ridiculous racial reviews of the character might make observing his role in the story difficult because the viewer will be upset or put off by how they are offended that this space alien's voice sounds as if a black man is doing the reading (he is!!!). Whatever the reason, the viewer's mood is soured and he/she is unable to suspend their disbelief about the character. They are jarred from the filmgoing experience (I could have used 'jar-jarred', but I'm not cruel).

And that is what happens to me every time a character inexplicably switches from dialogue to a song. THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE! my mind shouts. And it's too late and I'm thrown for a loop. In other words I am much more able to suspend disbelief, film-wise, that a man can shoot webs out of his wrists than burst into song and dance with 100 strangers on the street.

There is that major problem, but, lo, there's another: the songs themselves. I DON'T LIKE SHOWTUNES IN THEMSELVES. I don't like the songs, I don't have records of them (despite my aversion to musicals, I have heard quite a few numbers in my time -- you can't avoid it), and I don't sing them or like listening to them when driving in a cross-country car trip to get my Sure Thing. I don't remember a time it hasn't been that way, and, like my political convictions, it's not that I don't understand the issue or the concept, it's that I just don't like it or don't agree with it.

The only thing I can expect, and hope to in turn deliver to everyone I meet or write to, is the same consideration that we are not all of the same fiber, the same genes, the same background, and there is nothing wrong with [most of] us. That I don't like beans or disagree with liberals or Christians doesn't mean that there is something wrong with beans (ha). It just means that opinions are like assholes -- everyone's got one -- and if you respect mine, I'll respect yours.

Unless you like American Idol.