Draft

Ragged days for an old fave

Draft of 2005.07.20 ☛ 2016.07.25

Tim Burke at Easily Distracted gives warning that The Muse Has Left the Building:

“Me? Well, see, when I was about eleven we had this dog. It was the dumbest dog we ever owned, and unfortunately was also a constant barker, with a very irritating bark. I got dispatched to obedience school (two of them!) with the dog. Both trainers pronounced the dog untrainable, and both of them appeared to be relentlessly cheery optimists otherwise. One finally in desperation suggested this special collar that would give the dog a mild shock when the dog barked.

That didn’t work either. My parents had some acquaintances who lived out on the high desert with lots and lots of land. They liked the dog and the breed and agreed to take her. Good thing too since our neighbor was about to sue us.

I bring this up because I’d fit Tim Burton with a shock collar like that one, designed to go off whenever he starts to do something terrifically stupid or miscalculated in a film that’s otherwise humming along just fine. Only I don’t think it would help him any more than it helped that dog.

I’m with Burke. Several times Burton has presented us with works of inspired genius. Once, with luck, we can all manage some genius, so right there he pulled ahead of the pack. But seems to now be falling back.

That said, even a bad movie can make you think: Surely some (possibly very small) proportion of kids will prefer this new thing, the way some demographic group probably loves the De Laurentiis King Kong, and will thus remember it fondly forevermore. How do we interpret that, besides “there’s no accounting for taste”? When talking about popular culture, should we worry that when a new work provokes a gut-twisting negative reaction because it sidesteps our sensibilities about plot or maturity or humor, it might be a generational thing? As in “kids these days”? Or “those people”?

Somewhere in this is a kind of gradient, starting from the unconscious familiarity of fitting in that lets us review, and extending towards the sense of being weirded out by the culture of the folks around you, to the point of needing to bring the tools of cultural anthropology to bear when you really want to understand them. And dilution and attrition inevitably shove us all out towards that far end as we get older.

Not that this applies to this case. After all, Burton’s supposedly along for the ride on that gradient, so he’s not off the hook.

So I’m not saying Burke’s gettin old or nuthin. No sirree. Just thinkin’. After all, he’s younger’n me. Though—proportionally—less so all the time….