I recently came across this quote on Pinterest and fell so in love with it that I immediately googled “The History Boys”. It turns out it is a play with a film adaptation. Since I can’t see the play, I’ll rent the DVD (it’s not available on Netflix streaming, I checked). I find it interesting that a quote about reading has led me to a movie. Even more interesting is that this quote from a movie, about books, has given me precisely the feeling it describes. Movies also are capable of taking us by the hand.
Actually, I believe all forms of media are capable of this, not just books or movies. Complex language makes the human animal special; we can communicate, if we are bold enough, with stunning accuracy our inner selves; this is astonishing and brave even if we only communicate these truths to ourselves. Writers go beyond the self and dare to use words to share their inner truths in an attempt connect with others. It doesn’t matter if the writer chooses music, movies, television, plays, poetry, novels, memoir or any other medium based in sharing words; the sharing itself is what is intrinsically valuable.
And yet, curiously, words that others must read are exalted as the superior form of sharing. For example, today is not a day for being outside. It’s dangerously icy, miserably cold and depressingly grey. I probably won’t even attempt to leave the house. If I popped over to Facebook right now and posted that I’ll spend this day reading I’d get lots of “likes” and approval, even from those who don’t enjoy reading themselves. Most people would think I was making the most of a day where I can’t go anywhere. If, however, I posted that I’d be spending the day watching Netflix I’d get some “likes” and some people agreeing that it’s a good way to indulge a “guilty pleasure” on an already wasted day, while reading would not be considered waste by most. I’d probably also get some silent judgement, perhaps even a few comments from people that they just can’t watch TV for that long, etc. (though again, no one would say this about books without being apologetic about it). This honestly baffles me. We value the written word and exalt it to a status above all others, usually without question, but few think about the idea that most of the spoken (or sung) words we’re exposed to started out as the written word. A writer sat down to use this gift of language to communicate their inner self and they deserve the same reverence as those who choose to share this in the pages of a book. (Conversely those sharing in book form deserve the same critiques but that’s another post.)
I completely understand that some people are able to connect with some forms of media more easily than other forms and that’s fine. But personally, I find ways to connect in most forms of media and that’s fine too. What I have difficulty understanding is the seemingly unquestioned idea that everything else is inferior to books. Please don’t misunderstand, I LOVE books. But sometimes I need the visualization offered by the film to really understand the author’s intent. I’m so good at putting myself into the protagonist role when reading that the aspects that differentiate the character from myself can be lost. For example, when I saw the reaping scene in The Hunger Games it had a profoundly different impact than it did when I read the book. In the book it was about Katniss and Prim. In the movie it was about all of District 12. There were elements of the book that far outweighed the movie but in that scene the movie nailed it, and I got it.
This seems to be a common theme for me. When I’m reading or listening to music I generally make such personal connections to the characters that their adversities and triumphs become a mirror of my own. When I’m watching movies and television I’m able to make these same connections but I’m also more aware, because of the visual input, that this character is not me. I generally find it easier for their pain and pleasure to mirror society as a whole instead of just me or those close to me. This is why, when it comes to learning about the human psyche, making connections with others, relating to characters (or actual people in the case of non-fiction), developing a deeper understanding of humanity and especially understanding myself, I find all media valuable. The movie I watched last night, the song I’m currently addicted to and playing on repeat in the car, the book I bought yesterday and have almost finished, my favorite TV shows and the human interest story I watched on the morning news, each in their own way, remind me of the simultaneous diversity and similarity of humanity.
So, on this cold, dreary, icy, must-stay-inside day I’ll read a little, watch a bit of Netflix, listen to music and clear up some space on my DVR. All pleasures, none of them guilty.