04 January 2006

Random Additional Comments about Bauerlein's Article

I tend to write in a stream of consciousness, and one thing about my brain is that it likes to throw in random comments that don't match the tone of the rest of the writing. For example, I recently rediscovered an old story I wrote back in fourth grade. The story opens in an appropriately dramatic fashion, with the main character speaking in impassioned defense of a person who promptly appears in a blaze of light to reward her by taking her to his country, previously thought fictional. (I had some unresolved issues with escapism.) Unfortunately, as he steps out of the wall of light, his foot gets stuck, and he has to tug it out. He mutters under his breath, "They don't make walls of light like they used to." And thus, a dramatic scene was spoilt beyond recognition.

I still do that to this day, which interferes with my serious writing (and my personal life, but let's not go there). I delete most irrelevant comments as I type them, but I still have to review the draft and remove the rest. So here's what came out of the previous essay:

I was particularly horrified by the student Bauerlein quotes as saying, "Who wants to read about [The Great Gatsby]?" Just everyone who wants to understand the Roaring Twenties, that's who, you illiterate boor!

Sorry. That's one of my favorite books. In fact, and somewhat ironically, given our subject matter, I've just added it to the list in my Facebook profile.

Regarding A Knight's Tale, I remarked parenthetically, "Some people tried to convince their friends that jousting on bicycles with lengths of PVC for lances was a good idea. But that's a story for another time."

Hmm, only two extraneous comments survived the initial purge. Not bad for an essay of that length. Maybe I can train myself not to do it at all.

I also had several comments about Dungeons & Dragons, all of which got deleted as soon as they were typed, because I'm interested to know what Bauerlein would think of students getting together to play D&D rather than watch the O.C. or whatever that show is called. I doubt it creates a peer consciousness as Bauerlein describes, since popular culture, a mainstay of Bauerlein's peer consciousness, is far from embracing D&D. Also, I think you could make a fairly decent argument for D&D at least having the capability of being an intellectual pursuit, given that a campaign may require characters that are three-dimensional, like my kickass werewolf lord paladin, and given D&D's strong ties to mythology, folklore, and Tolkien. Soap operas , on the other hand, don't have much chance of being intellectual. At least not if they want to hold the audience.

That in turn brings up the question: Are television shows characterized by juvenile humor and ridiculous plots because that's what people want to watch, or because network executives believe that's what people want to watch? My parents inform me that in their day, comedians were educated, with Andy Griffith retelling Shakespeare in his characteristic accent and Bill Cosby cracking jokes about the American Revolution. Would that be popular today?

I've often noticed that older books, like Jane Eyre or Mansfield Park, expect a higher level of education than the average reader would have today, and certainly higher than I have. For example, there are several passages of untranslated French in the former book, and the latter book has a remark about the elder Bertram girls studying "all the Roman emperors as low as Severus," who I know is a Roman emperor only because a certain Potions Master is his namesake.

But there's an obvious explanation for this observation. In the days when those books were written, the only people who could read at all were highly educated, and had to be financially well-off to purchase books. It may similarly be true that television in my parents' day was accessible to a generally higher-income bracket than it is today. That would suggest that we see a degeneration into filth because television is attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that's what the LCD likes.

That's sort of depressing. But then again, so is this whole topic. Go play Big Al instead. You'll learn all about allosaurs.


Blogger Chestertonian Rambler said...

Re. D&D:
In efforts to introduce you to the best of the blogosphere (though from his pre-blog days), may I present to you Andrew Rillstone on Maturity in Role-Playing (and If It is Possible):


(N.B. Rillstone has obviously never played a game with Jason. But still.)

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.gatsbyquotes.com - Quotes from “The Great Gatsby” along with detailed analyses.

11:46 PM  

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