LNH: Legion of Net.Heroes Vol.2 #23

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 8 20:59:40 PST 2007

On Nov 8, 6:13 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at yahoo.com> wrote:
> On Nov 8, 12:53 pm, Tom Russell <milos_par... at yahoo.com> wrote:
> > I think pornography, erotica, what-have-you, is a "feel-good" genre.
> > At best they'd _have_ to be light comedies.  Can you imagine a
> > pornographic film about a man dying of cancer, or someone dealing with
> > substance abuse, or someone driven to suicide by mind-numbing
> > poverty?  It would be terrible, and it would defeat the whole purpose
> > of it-- few people can be simultaneously aroused and depressed.
> I was once taking an English course an a psychology course at the same
> time and I once saw the same argument made from both points of view:
> "Literary genre is a function of the emotional context."  It follows
> that there are exactly as many genres as their are human emotions.  To
> test this theory, imagine any human emotion and then imagine a story
> that would make you feel that way.
> Fear <--> Horror / Suspense
> Love <--> Romance
> Passion / Lust <--> Porn (includes soft and hard core)
> Wonder --> Sci-Fi / Fantasy
> Hate / Anger <--> Action (with the emotion directed at the villain)
> Joy <--> Comedy / Musical
> Sadness <--> Drama
> Curiosity <--> Documentary
> Satisfaction / Excitement <--> Anything really as long as it's good

What about ennui? :-)

> By extension, all literature is equally legitimate.

If by legitimate you mean that all literature is able to be called
literature, then, yes, I agree.  Whether or not its good literature is
another matter entirely. :-)

>  The plot of a
> porn film merely exists to connect sex scenes?  The plot of a horror /
> suspense movie exists merely to connect scenes of viloence.  The plot
> of a romance exists merely to connect scenes of couples kissing.  The
> plot of a sci fi or fantasy movie exists merely to connect scenes
> involving impressive special effects.  The plot of comedy exists
> merely to connect jokes.  The plot of a musical exists merely to
> connect scenes in which people are singing and dancing.  The plot of a
> drama merely exists to connect scenes of emotional turmoil.

I see your general point in theory, but I disagree with it in
practice.  I think most other genres occupy a different space than
porn and musicals.

The distinction I'm making here is that a musical and a porno are both
pieces of performance art.  While it's possible that the plot of a
comedy can exist only to connect the gags (see: W. C. Fields), serving
in the capacity of a clothesline to hang them on, more often than not
the comedy is built from the context-- from the ebb and flow of the
storytelling, from the build and the structure, from the characters

Musicals and porno don't _need_ characterization because no one cares
what anyone is thinking while Fred and Ginger are dancing-- they just
want to see them dancing.  That's why a compilation film like That's
Entertainment, which has no story at all, was so darn popular-- and
that's probably why most pornography is available in comp-reel form.

You can't really do that with, say, a drama.  Scenes of confrontation,
scenes of laughter, scenes of discomfort-- without a real context to
ground them, they can be confusing at best and hackneyed at worse.
The end of Yasujiro's film Late Spring is absolutely heart-breaking.
But it's just a shot of a man peeling an apple.  Presented by itself,
or in tandem with scenes from other films, it loses its power

Musical numbers, sex scenes, and, to a degree, fight scenes/action set
pieces, can exist in a vacuum, divorced from their original context
and still be exciting, entertaining, and thrilling.  You can take the
best scenes out of films from those respective genres and still
entertain your audience.  Again, these are performance pieces.  But
try to do that with, say, most science fiction and fantasy, and you'll
fall horribly flat.  Disconnecting HAL has no power if we haven't seen
the hour-and-a-half of film before it; the confrontation on Mount Doom
in LOTR would have no power without the journey before it.

So, context is very important, and plot in many cases cannot be said
to exist "merely" to connect different emotional moments or to tie
them together, nor can different stories or genres exist "merely" to
evoke those feelings.

I also think a story that exists merely to evoke emotions and push
buttons isn't really worth telling.  Art is about more than Pavlov's

Like the great Ray Carney once said about film, and I feel this
applies to all forms of art:

"You can give viewers new eyes and ears.  You can change their states
of awareness so that they see, hear, care, and feel differently.  Your
work exists to express things too delicate, too fluttering, too
multivalent to be said in any other way.  You're doing something much
more radical than telling a story.  You're rewiring people's nervous
systems.  You're doing brain surgery.  Art gives us more than new
facts and ideas; it gives us new powers of perception."


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