What’s making me happy this week – week 28
Posted by Hedwig on July 15, 2012
In this post: The Wire season 1, TV recaps, A Clash of Kings, Locke Lamora, A.S. Byatt, comics, Joseph Campbell and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
The main thing making me happy this week is not pop culture related: it’s that the good stress has finally kicked in for my dissertation. I’ve been stressed about it for a while, but it was mostly the diffuse, abstract kind of stress, the kind that makes everything feel overwhelming but doesn’t stop you from wasting time (the internet, especially, being both the best and the worst procrastinatory tool ever created by man). Now, however, it’s finally the focused, propulsive kind of stress, the kind that allows you to write 14 pages of introduction in a week. Granted, it’s a first draft at best, still missing some crucial elements, confused about its audience and with some structural issues that need to be worked out, but it sure feels great to see the page number creep upward.
I did still manage to consume some media, however. I finished the first season of THE WIRE, for instance, and it’s finally starting to click. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great show. I see that it’s a good show – I can appreciate its intricacy and fine character work and the diversity of its world. It just offers fewer moments or scenes that immediately make you go “awesome!” than, say, a show like Game of Thrones or Justified. It’s very precisely crafted storytelling, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but I have to admit I really have to tell myself to concentrate on it, my attention span weakened by thrill-a-minute TV. The occasional funny scene aside (there’s a great one where McNulty and Bunk investigate a crime scene and only say “motherfucker” and variations thereof), it’s TV you have to have patience for. But I do feel like I’ve started to get to know this world, and I’ll continue to watch along with Alyssa.
TV recaps, by the way, are making me happy pretty consistently. It started gaining steam only during THE WIRE’s original run (the A.V. Club, for instance, didn’t start covering it until the last season), but there’s no doubt that it’s a show enriched by reading more about it, and while I know David Simon himself is not a fan, reading the reviews as I go along is really an incentive to keep watching.
I’ve also been reading a lot lately: I finished A CLASH OF KINGS (I’m saving book 3 until my thesis is done) and RED SEAS UNDER READ SKIES (which I’d started before immersing myself in Game of Thrones, meaning I’d forgotten about some of the intricacies of the schemes), picked GIRL IN LANDSCAPE back up and started A.S. Byatt’s RAGNAROK.
All this, together with the comics I’ve been reading lately (post forthcoming) and two recent episodes of EXTRA CREDITS about Joseph Campbell have really made me think about story structure. Byatt says quite a bit about it, not just in Norse mythology but also in the Bible, remarking for instance that prohibitions are usually just there to be broken, and that attempts to change fate will always have a loophole or be otherwise incomplete. In another book (I won’t specify for spoilers), the death of a character surprised me but was obvious in retrospect: when couples start dreaming about the future, at least one of them’s usually not long for the world.
You’d think that being aware of the scaffolding or skeleton of a story would decrease its power, just like people often think that I analyse movies too much to be able to just enjoy them. It doesn’t, though. There’s a lot of pleasure to be had in seeing a story get to its pre-ordained conclusion – and you have to be aware of the rules to enjoy seeing them broken.
That’s why I’m also not mad about the Spider-Man re-boot: sure, it’s a story we’ve seen before, with only some cosmetic details changed. Sure, it would have been nice to start in medias res, for once, and bypass the origin story. But there’s power to that story, too, and there’s fun to be had in seeing the same story unfold with different shades and accents, to see how it works to have Spider-Man be a geek instead of a nerd/dork, to see how New York has changed in ten years, from 2002, when 9/11 was still fresh, to 2012’s less earnest, more bristly version. It’s too bad there’s nothing here quite like that upside-down kiss (when BF and I do the horizontal version of that one, we actually call it a “spider-man kiss”), and I wish they’d dared to tweak the story a bit more, but Spider-Man’s origin is a fundamentally good story, so why not play with it?
Next week, three cinema visits. Which movie will make me happiest: LE CERCLE ROUGE, MAGIC MIKE, or THE DARK KNIGHT RISES? Place your bets…