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Monday, August 29, 2011

O Sullivan, Where Art Thou?

There is an awful lot of attempts on the part of different artists to portray the grime of society.  Writers, painters, sculptors, and directors want to explore the dark heart of people.  They want to see what makes average people break.  These artists want to put people to the test to see what makes them compromise and transform into something less traditional.  Or, perhaps they just want to explore the dark depths of society's heart. 

Whether I am talking about Breaking Bad, the newest Batman movies, vampire fantasy, post-modern sculptures, or "alternative music," the trend is clear: enough with heroes and goodness, let's be bad.  Or: let's see what bad people do.  And so, here we have a society thrilled with Hannibal Lecter.  Serial killers work with police departments on television to solve cases.  Whatever, you name it. 

The whole situation has often left me feeling like a spectator at a Roman circus.  Not a happy colorful tent filled with animals, clowns, and contortionists.  Not that kind of a circus at all.  But rather, a colosseum.  A place where gladiators go to kill one another.  Where we go to see disobedient citizens tortured and executed.  Where we see "plays" of the ancient world, in which the lives of actors are ended in one scene for the sake of storyline.  A stage where starving lions rip apart martyrs.  This is the kind of circus I am witnessing these days. 

It leaves a shallow feeling in the heart, and one cannot help but ask what is left of our generation.  Does no one have any kind of a deep thought, or a longing for Providental Grace?  One statement that I heard in the last few years really summed up my thoughts on the present generation: Depth of emotion and sincerity are beyond my generation

To be honest, it was these troubled thoughts that led me to write what I thought was a silly short story.

But then, a fellow named Epiphany over on the Fisheaters forum told me about a marvelous film: Sullivan's Travels.  He said that the basic plot was that "a movie director wants to make a movie that the 'working man' can relate to.  He plans to make a depressing movie called 'O Brother Where Art Thou?'  In the process, he accidentally becomes a working man and realizes the importance movies made for pure entertainment."

I watched it.  It's great.  It is almost sad in its innocence, because you know that such a wholesome movie will never be made again.

Just as there are elements in our current culture that seek to explore and enjoy the darker parts of our society, Sullivan also sought to exploit the dark elements of his time--that is, the poor and downtrodden, the train boxcars filled with hobos, the soup lines, the prisons.  Yet, in the end, Sullivan realized that people wanted to leave the darkness and reach the light.  People did not want to be reminded of their grime and filth.  They did not want to linger on the dark elements that they struggled with every day; the people of Sullivan's day wanted to escape in happy fun cartoons that made them laugh innocently, or comedic light movies that brought them joy. 

I think that people of our day also want to escape the darkness that tries to influence us.  There is a longing for something better, brighter, and Divine.  People want to think there is more than "just this."  More than just this horrible world we are dealing with.  Increased crime, increased poverty, increased war, increased injustice.  Is it inconceivable that this desire leads people to watch all these comic-based movies, in which the typical individual radically escapes the same boring life and transcends into a fantastical superhero lifestyle?  Maybe this desire to shed our filth--perhaps a subconscious desire--is what keeps masses of young fantasy lovers waiting with bated breath for the release of The Hobbit in 2012.  Honestly, the only thing I can think of more wholesome than watching hobbits is Little House on the Prarie.

In the beginning, Sullivan did not understand that the poor did not want to be reminded of their state.  This in spite of the words of wisdom from his butler:  "If you'll permit me to say so sir, the subject is not an interesting one.  The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous." 

Still, Sullivan had to learn the hard way, didn't he?  If only others of our day could learn at all.  Unfortunately, I fear a great majority of artists have lost all touch of Grace and Divinity.  

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