Over the last couple of days, I have been subjected to all manner of “amazing” revelations about what things “really mean.” Cordelia and Fred from Joss Whedon’s Angel are secretly deep metaphors for affluence and its effect on the human psyche (with the added bonus that Cordelia can showcase all manner of plots that symbolize rape); Piper Halliwell from Charmed isn’t just an amusing and beautiful character who points out the amusement of having to be a business owner, mother and badass demon killer; she’s really a godess symbol, a metaphor for the Supreme Mother in all Womankind, and a sign of female empowerment and how they don’t need any stupid men in their lives. And on a more personal level, the deaders in Rotten Apple are really thrilling social commentary on the struggle of African-Americans for equal rights, with my “Dead President” Kennedy a bit of biting satire regarding the whole Obama situation.
This leaves me just scratching my head.
I’m not saying those things aren’t there. If you want them to be. Sure, you can take those messages away from it – in fact, I recall Cordelia saying something along the lines of “Can’t we, just once, visit a Hell dimension where something isn’t trying to impregnate me with demon spawn?” – and to a certain degree they’re likely intentional. I tend to figure “Hey, whatever you want to draw out of something, that’s what it worth.” But when you start seeing everyone bickering over the “deep and hidden” messages supposedly embedded in any form of entertainment, when every aspect suddenly becomes this insanely Freudian manifestation of the secret fears or desires of society or the individual, I start thinking people have missed the point. That being, of course, that it’s entertainment.
Do I watch Angel for the “intense internal battle between Good and Evil, characterized on the outside as Angel, Inc. fights the demons and internally characterized as the battle between Angel and his evil alter-ego Angelus, symbolizing the struggle of Id vs Ego within all of us?” Not so much. I watch it because the characters are amusing, growing and evolving over time, there are some great action sequences, some pretty ladies, and at least one good laugh per episode. When Charmed comes on, am I meditating on the Sacred Feminine and how men like myself are insignificant in the face of the creative life-force of Woman? No, not really. I’m drooling on Piper (and Pru, when she was still on) because I think she’s gorgeous, intelligent and funny. I’m rooting for the demons to kick the crap out of Phoebe (never cared for Ms. Milano.) and for Cole, Leo or Daryl to inject a dose of snark. I’m waiting to see how terribad the makeup on the demon of the week is. In short, I’m watching to be amused. This apparently makes me an insipid, stupid American who can’t see the deep and thrilling psychological tapestry that lies beneath that plebeian demeanor of television entertainment.
Within my own work, it’s even worse. Someone started waxing poetic on how some of my Rotten Apple content did an amazing job of satirizing the Obama situation and how the deaders and their struggles with lifeists and the like forms an excellent allegory about the evils of socialism, the fight for equality, the plight of the African-American (and a few, after seeing Dinner for Two and Fifth of Jack, claim there’s a chunk regarding marriage equality for the LGBT contingent as well) and the question of “Who’s really the monster, here?” Now, do I say those themes aren’t there? No. We’re all products of our environment, our education and our times and those situations are going to leave their mark in some way or another. But when I said “I wasn’t really thinking about it that way… I just was telling a story to amuse myself and maybe others,” I was branded as some kind of monster, throwing these “powerful concepts” out without pondering their deeper significance and without having any belief in how important they really were. Some kind of idiot savant who had tripped over something worth saying without knowing it.
Nope. I just wanted to write about zombies who weren’t drooling, brain-eating, mindless hordes. Yes, I drew on the things I’ve seen regarding racial and sexual equality to try to paint that story well – since I was aiming for a pseudo film noir style, more grounded in realism than might otherwise exist… but I didn’t write it to be some deep social commentary. I just wanted to tell a story. I’m sure that Mr. Whedon didn’t sit and overthink the rape metaphor when he tossed Cordy to the wolves on occasion; I think he probably just wanted to show a good looking woman in a skimpy outfit and needed a plot device to get Captain Broody… er… Angel off his butt and into action. (Besides, those who have this fixation on Cordy being symbolically raped seem to forget how often she bails her own ass out, or has it bailed out by Faith, Buffy, Willow or other female characters.) I don’t know that Misses Combs, Milano, Doherty and McGowan (or the creators and writers of the show, or any of the other producers of it) set out to show the power of women and make a statement of how little they needed men… I think they just wanted to make a show where hot chicks could kick ass, then go home and chat about boys, work and ice cream.
Such thinking apparently brands me a Neanderthal, not bright enough to understand the deeper social significance behind these things. I’m just scratching my head, wondering why we can’t just do something because it’s fun. Why it seems like so few people can just take a story literally and just enjoy it, why it feels like everything has to mean something, man! Sometimes, a cigar is just a smoke, you know?
Anyways, ranted enough about this for now, methinks (and probably alienated a bunch of people by showcasing my own foolishness by not noticing the deep meaning in these and other shows, let alone my own work) so I’ll toddle off now. What’s your opinion? Does everything have to carry a deeper meaning, or can we just be amused by the literal level of it? Is it wrong to sometimes just want a nice and simple experience, or is it somehow offensive to “ignore” these deeper meanings that serve as the true purpose of the “art”? Let me know; drop a line below. Until next time, folks!