Friday, March 28, 2014

Stories and Bettelheim, Cont.

In my last post, I argued that pre-adolescent children need stories that speak directly to their distinctive emotional needs and crises, and not just to those of teenagers and adults.  This should be a relatively obvious point, yet it is often overlooked by media companies beholden to the marketing ploy of “family entertainment” (where the visuals are all for the young children, and the story, characters, dialogue, and humor are all for the benefit of adults and older siblings).  In doing so, these companies are engaging in a behavior that Bettelheim thinks will mar any good kids story, and which children themselves recognize immediately as duplicitous: that of “winking at the adults over the heads of the children.” (p. 168).   

Friday, March 21, 2014

Frozen (2013): A Bettelheimian Analysis

The fact of me seeing and enjoying a contemporary movie is such a rare occurrence that I decided it should be commemorated in a blog post, so I’m reviewing Disney’s Frozen (2013)-- even if it means I’ll have to repair my credentials as a highbrow in the weeks that follow.  More seriously, I've found myself ruminating about this movie to an unusual degree, which suggests to me two things: 1) that it is a quality film-- reasonably thoughtful and well-scripted; and 2) that it is probably a rather poor film for young children, who face very different crises of identity and consciousness than we do and often ruminate on very different subjects. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Review of E.P. Thompson's Witness Against the Beast (1993)

There are never enough authors around who seem worth reading.  To examine a book by one of these happy few, E.P. Thompson, written as a treatise about another of their number, William Blake, is therefore such a delicious prospect that it seemed almost immoral.  I'm the kind of person who, if there are both green vegetables and macaroni and cheese on his plate, will eat the resented flora first, just to get it over with, and realize too late that he filled up on it before getting to the good stuff.  I am the same way with reading matter, in most cases.  As soon as I realized, however, that the first two-thirds of Thompson's book was entirely going to be taken up with an exposition of the theology of an obscure heretical sect in Britain called the Muggletonians, my Protestant conscience relaxed and let me read on.  This was starting to seem more like work.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Same Sex Weddings and Discrimination

I usually complain about commentators who have been flogging the same dead horses for years.  The New York Times Op-Ed Page, say, can often seem like a veritable charnel house of decayed nags.  How can they stand, I wonder, saying precisely the same thing every day for decades?  Well, stones and glass houses and all that.  I now find I’m hardening into my own handful of redundant notions which I feel compelled to state and restate over again in modestly altered contexts.  It’s not that I enjoy repeating things—it’s torture.  Rather, I find each time after I’ve made a point that I made it with just slightly the wrong emphasis.  It struck just faintly a false emotional note.  Perhaps I spent a little too much time giving my adversaries their due before getting into my own argument, or not enough.  So I have to get back on the horse—the dead one, presumably.  There’s a good T.S. Eliot line about this, but I find I’ve already quoted that too—further indication of my shrinking repertoire.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Another Iron Law

Enunciating a universal principle of ideology:  "There's always a bigger fish."

The canonical textual citation of the principle comes from Star Wars Episode I and is spoken by Qui-Gon Jinn, whose craft is saved from a "Goo-ba fish" (or something-- the name is extruded from the lips of Jar Jar Binks and is therefore difficult to make out) by an even bigger monster.

In the context of ideological warfare, however, it refers to the universally valid proposition that no matter how stupid and pernicious an idea may be, there will always emerge some even more stupid and pernicious idea that will make it seem comparatively benign.  Like in the movie, these two will feed on each other.  Unlike in the movie, however, they will not cancel each other out.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Self-Consciousness and the Victorians

Historians should have their credentials revoked if they ever quote with approval something a modern-day politician has said about the past.  Politicians are in the business of presenting their ideas and policies as at once entirely new, which they never are, and immeasurably ancient, when in fact, very little in our culture is ever as old as we think it is.  They therefore should be the last people we trust as unbiased informants about times gone by.