Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lemme See Your Narrative: Imagery, Aesthetic, Beliefs

One aspect I think makes my anime blog distinct from most is that I'm so vocal about my values, so open about their level of influence on my choices, so actively hyperfocused on figuring out what I think about something and why that it can seem I kill any desire I have to negotiate those terms. And from time to time, this makes my tastes seem more schizophrenic than they actually are.

For example: I genuinely dislike NisiOisin's work. I don't think he takes genius, sexual and social perversion very seriously at all, for all his thematic obsession with them. I readily understand the veneer effect of seeing text and repetitious scene splayed all over the screen, the cocky jauntiness, the constant feeling that things are happening, even if one can't understand them. I can appreciate some of the questions he asks, like maybe in Zaregoto (maybe), or a bit of Katanagatari. I don't think he really wants to take a hard, careful look at and through a construction of what is named "shittiness" and figure out thoroughly, meticulously, how it is that values, destructive or affirming, are constructed. Ergo, I find his--as opposed to Shaft's--stuff morally unhelpful and menially entertaining. The single (and I mean single) reason I haven't closed the book entirely on his work is because light novel translatoractively appreciates him.

Froggy-kun, who is a beast, .

I've seen clusters of blog posts pointing out the so-called cleverness of Monogatari's dialog, but nobody seems to be proving or evaluating it. From the looks of it, nobody in the West is picking up on it, either, which for our intents and purposes means it doesn't exist until it, of course, does. And I think I have the right to demand proof. I mean, I performed extensive, formal readings in my case against and against . Seriously, guys--what the hell? Get it together.

Still, I own multiple Monogatari figures, which must stand for something. It brings to mind of whether or not his heart was warmed by Yoda, which was that if he had seen an FAO Schwartz figurine in the shop window for all of three seconds, he'd have had enough.

Deeply reflecting upon my own experience with Star Wars, this point makes a lot of sense, because the films still don't matter much to me. I saw them as a little kid, again in my early teen years, in scenes over later years. I even based part of an early version of my current fiction project on them (about age 13 or so). But I never could care about the plot. The characters were always incomprehensible to me, uninteresting, even stupid--particularly as an actual kid at serious odds with his father. What it came down to was the fact that I liked fast-paced lightsaber fights--ones I could make up in my head--and Jedi costumes. I found Liam Neeson's presence in Phantom Menace reassuring and at times, Qui-Gon's, too. I've always liked beards, you see.

Original gangstas.

Darth Vader was always misguided, the Emperor always wrong. Throughout, Lucas never once struck me as one who cared about ambiguity. Except to get me obsessed over morally-dubious swashbuckler novels, it seems the fictional dream of Star Wars didn't succeed in drawing me in at all. I genuinely considered it to be a failure in that respect. It thoroughly failed me. It wasn't fun, it wasn't worth shoddy rationalization, it didn't make me a more moral or reflective person.

This sort of conclusion used to sadden me deeply. I used to feel badly about my total ambivalence toward hip-hop, or Rjazz does best (Ella and Louis, Coltrane, Dizzie, and Miles). Not even anime music hits me this way--just Taku Iwasaki, really, and not even all his stuff. Just specific, tiny snippets of his music. For the vast majority, it's always been snippets--even for art music, which I love immensely.

I used to try to validate my credibility within various nerd or geek communities, but frankly it grew exhausting because I was too solitary to develop genuine concern. I don't really like sci-fi deeply--I just like the moral questions, at its best. Same with fantasy, which I even find to be largely redundant (got a story? there's a medieval romance for that). Nobody seemed to hyperfocus in the ways that I cared about. So I carved a niche for myself. It worked.

Take the believed death of Kamina. Motif of the demigod's terrain-changing death subverted? [Shrug.]My digression ties into the subject though, mainly in qualifying the question of why art matters, and why worldviews are necessary. When has the reader put in "enough" effort? What does it mean to "connect" with a story or character, and how should we judge success? The author and philosopher William Gass jokes in his essay "The Concept of Character in Fiction" that they are constrained by text. It's our tendency to dream and make connections to life that infuses the constructions with something ghostly and "real." What does it mean when a "man" is described as "tall" or "red" or "balding?" How is it that "he" can conceive "children" without reproductive organs? Animation is incredibly deceptive because it fools us into thinking we know characters--more so than films, in which they are played by real people. We may be given hinted background things to think about, but we can never have the full story--we have to invent it.

When people say, "You've misinterpreted and here's why," what they're in fact claiming is that you've missed supposed signposts or road markings in the blizzard. They may even imply that your realm of experience--your field of vision--is inferior or wanting. We assume, of course, that interpretation can be likened to a road, though the analogy is dubious. Road to where? Why would it matter?

After tomorrow, indeed. "Pretty sweet, huh?! There's nothing to be afraid of!" A tale-weaver at work.

What you think are an artist's responsibilities derives from your own responses to such questions. Kamina was the artist Team Dai-Gurren needed. Homer created, even outright invented, a vision that got Ancient Greeks thinking about the way their lives might be. "For better or worse," Homer says, "there was a time when all we divided, colonial peoples came together for a common purpose." If artists do construct such visions, and if artists do imitate life to a degree, what then? Proponents of mimesis claim that all art imitates life, badly or well. Proponents of antimimesis maintain variations of the converse. By even antimimetic standards, Bakemonogatari and Star Wars worked on me--somewhat--just not in the ways I needed or was expecting.

And admittedly, there is a little bit of Gurren Lagann thinking to all of this, where one doesn't settle for what the ceiling appears to be, and aims to stretch the spectrum of possibility--even as that person may ignore the norms and ethical standards of his community (this concept had its most visible resurgences in the more chaotic iterations of Romantic thought and in the works of Nietzsche).

One of the reasons I wrote on two similar MLP episodes last summer was because I wanted to do precisely this. The last paragraph of that project literally exclaims it; I just never expected it to mean anything so quickly. Digibro read it soon after it was completed, assimilated its formal approach into his developing style, and was inspired to take the game to new heights. . My own text-reading ability has skyrocketed since then, though it's nowhere close to where I desire it to be.

What is aesthetic? How accurate is it to call it "taste," and random? Is it a term we assign to auteurs or to members of an audience? What, for a quick example, is the aesthetic of Cubism? How does aesthetic come about, and how does it inform our text-reading conclusions? JS wrote an fantastic a few months ago, exploring the various directions our interpretive trajectories can take. Most of us exhibit tendencies toward all four types, the fourth one (apathetic) often occurring near the beginning of our trek with the work, sometimes in our outright desire to resist interpretation of any sort. Thus, aesthetic strikes me as a point of interest here; we seem to assume some distinction between "deep" and "surface." Why is that, when interpretation itself is either on autopilot or well, not? When interpretation doesn't need to be reflective? There are multiple levels: we interpret diegetically (character indirectness within the plot) and extradiegetically (particular phrases, audio, camera focus). Perhaps more importantly, we construct interpretations of not only what an event means, but also what it performs. They may seem to be statements of fact, but beyond the point of "obviousness" all bets are hypothetically off. Arguably, they were off to begin with. And one can talk about real-world environmental concerns as depicted in the Pok mon anime, but what will sell those claims are variable perceptions of what is being done. Done to what, or to whom? To the audience, ultimately: events are perceived to have been bloated, manipulated, signposted, blipped. We assume that the text itself has been so distorted. These distortions constantly leave their mark.

Is it enough, one asks, for a story to make tiny imprints? I tend to answer in the negative. Interpretation, obviously, will continue. But we know that depth may seem inaccessible or even worthless due to aesthetic; the distance between scorn and oversight is small. I love Gurren Lagann, and I acknowledge that altering it even slightly means changing the core feel, but I'd never settle for the way it tells its story if I were looking for utter seriousness. I don't like the Nolan Batman films, because while I understand that the defamiliarizing effect of a brooding, highly verisimilar Gotham can be exciting--or, at least, valuable--the patchwork results are just not my idea of a fun time. What's the point of going halfway with the verisimilitude when you're still going to pull vague-ass, superhero bullshit everywhere? Why can't I have super-fast super-cool boss fights like I get in my cartoon versions? Once the novelty of Batman Begins wore off (it was ambition and novelty that carried that film for me), the rest was just a groaning drag. By contrast, I didn't complain much about the relatively thin, even flimsy plot of Avengers because my aesthetic demands were met, and it blatantly advertised its unseriousness. And don't pretend for an instant that movie didn't have real shit to say. It did. Even this fight is chock-full of re-contextualized spectacle, aspects that have taken on new meaning by this point in the film, imagery that clicks. And, more so than symbols, images are often all you need:

Giving the matter more thought, I seem to have expected "more" from Nolan than from Whedon--not merely something "different." Why is that? Why do I shrug at the strangeness of the Avengers film, when I can't really even figure out the climax and resolution (the plot went way over my head somewhere right before the last third).

According to JS's model, I should be omnivoric or discerning most of the time. I seek life lessons everywhere, because I believe art encodes, enlivens, imagines values, decipherable or indecipherable. So long as an argument hits me, and/or is cogent, I won't laugh at people who interpret things a certain way (though I'd be lying if I said I've never done this, or don't ever do this), because I think there's something to interpretation itself. Still, I do believe that in society, right and acceptable answers do matter, and when we're trying to forge an image of what a work is, we're going to be making value judgments.

Except it's too messy. I doubt I really believe much of that stuff about myself, and I'm not really so easy about my worldviews. It's what strikes me as the right thing to say, given what is taught and what seems to be in vogue. I tend to execute an incredibly focused strategy most of the time (or incredibly omnivoric, or discerning, because it inherently depends on your scale), and what I often do is geared toward gathering support for my arguments, fashioned together into a massive dialectical thesis. Then again, what does it matter if I (not purposely, of course!) research extensively to prove my points? I think this is why Pontifus continually emphasized in his that he was describing strategies, rather than making actual claims about personalities (cf. comments). My takes don't necessarily have to be right, just thorough (hence my tendency to overexplain). I may not reject any of your claims--but I will lean toward ones that are phenomenally-argued and/or are compatible with my pet worldviews. I will swallow your claims and regurgitate some semblance of them as part of my own. The question is, why does it matter if readers are right? How often does being right even matter to me? Do I just want to feel right? Wait, did I just contradict myself? Yikes. Bricksalad's on reviewing mistakes is worth reading.

This extends to movements, too. Shit is real, I'll admit. Uncertainty does pervade. I may seem like I'm super-open to modernity or postmodernity, but I'm often not, except in a little-kid-being-excited sense. I get it, sure. I don't think it's wrong--but something in it seems to me cowardly, selfish, even stupid. Even the not-ironical postmodern strain (my favorite such works are those that resist irony, and some consider MLP:FIM postmodern), strikes me as disordered, because if I'm not deeply drawn in, where the hell's the novelty? Where's the fun? Am I supposed to say that the emperor has no clothes, or would that spoil it? Is that the punch line? Considering the utter destitution whence Kamina and Simon rose, waiting for inevitable death, would they settle for such thinking?

At this point, we could get into the whole beliefs-values-ideology-philosophy-metanarratives debate. How conscious they are, where they come from, how they're constructed, how they're undermined or dismantled. Though I've read various sources on the topics, I don't care to elaborate too much of that here; I tend to bungle this thing we call theory and philosophy, and I don't want to work through it in a place where there aren't any authorities who can correct it on the fly. This just comes with the territory, i.e. not having a readership.

What I can do, though, is think through my own experiences and posit a mad conjecture. Which is the following: the various aesthetics you tend to be genuinely okay with will be governed less by mere conscious opinion or convention to which you are resigned, but metanarratives. Certain aspects of Cubism may elicit an effect from me (I find myself drawn to or repulsed by a defamiliarizing presentation), and a particular work may or may not hook me. In any case, the expression of my appreciation for it comes down to how I hierarchize value, meaning, and truth. It makes sense when people are skeptical of deeper meaning, or sound meaning: they doubt they've been cued to it. They doubt that their response to the work has been encapsulated, or even touched. Whether or not that matters comes down to what you believe about knowledge, and of responsibility in light of it.

It may be clunky, but the conjecture is at least coherent, somewhat intuitive. It's obvious that, because I care about snippets so much, I would pay more careful attention to such things in works of art, tend to find incredible meaning or purpose in them, whether or not they're actually "there." Because I'm so picky, it obviously isn't enough for me that events happened (genre stems from motifs). Extrapolating significance from them isn't something I'm usually interested in. That is, until it is! I have to believe that I see something significant or worthwhile in a particular parsing of an event. This is what I consider aesthetic to be, in a very rudimentary sense: the perceived principles of how a story elicits feeling (usually some variant of pleasure, like satisfaction), which ultimately comes down to how a story's pieces cause one to react (ideally, keen reflection will be foremost). We are either more or less open to the feelings images give us. On the other hand, while aesthetic may cover many different areas (repetition of various sorts, story events, characterization, etc.), I don't particularly like it when I'm called wrong or insensitive for not appreciating an aesthetic at a level I then believe to be too variable or unsatisfactory.

What I take from all of this is that any value might be held strongly in the universe, but all values are not equally cogent within or central to our belief systems. We're conditional beings. The beliefs that make up our worldviews are not equidistant, which is most likely what makes them coherent to us in the first place. Unless you are thoroughly unconvinced, it's therefore disingenuous to say, "We can't know X for sure, so therefore it shouldn't matter." It's also insane. It's silly to push the responsibility of deciding between good and bad onto others, ignorantly, and where our own fates are concerned. We have to help form their many instances, sift them actively, carefully, responsibly, from moment to moment.

I'm not even [sigh.]My standard of "good" or "bad" tends to come down to morality. Do you, one way or another, push your reader--not by lecturing or "spoiling" things for everyone with constant snark--to consider honestly the way people live and choose, construct meaning, tear down and build up their own lives, caught up in incongruity, pettiness, and nonsense? Do you inspire people to choose the better and to eschew the worse?

Though I may not use the particular words, my other standards are "accomplished" or "entertaining" or "experimental" or "vibrant" or "inventive." Still opinion, but describing something more recognizable. I doubt there's any real semantic point in saying, "X was good/successful because it entertained me," because I might not care about any of that tomorrow, or ever again. It's too utilitarian, also. Films don't entertain in the same way. To claim that all art potentially entertains reduces entertainment to something too equidistant. A smiley on construction paper may be considered moving art, or a stylized letter "A." Someone could take a massive poop on the ground, and that could be art, why not? How many artists are out there who're obsessed with poop? No problem!

The BLEACH anime entertained. I loved the aesthetic of the first two plotlines--Ichigo's figuring out his powers, and his saving Rukia from Soul Society. I loved the grittiness of the artwork. By the time the Aizen stuff rolled around, visuals had been smoothened, the aspect ratio changed, the music had gotten orchestral, then really weird. I mean, have you heard this song before? It isn't without reason that you haven't:

Character arrogance was now commonplace, Aizen's strange gambits commonplace. Twists were highly questionable. Motivation monologues were placed in different contexts. What had originally been marketed as a war was turning out to be anything but. An audience was in increasing numbers discussing matters of changing aesthetic. On one hand, most accepted the outright changes in production value (notably, some did not). On the other, many believed there was less (pertinent, valuable) entertainment happening at the level of story and of plot, even as others countered with "It was always" and "Stop ignoring." People believed it was wrong to change the aesthetic, that Kubo was lazy, or running out of ideas, etc. My own appreciation of plot, worldbuilding, or meaning was fast diminishing; I just had to read the chapters because I wanted to know what was happening next. Because I wanted to steal Kubo's ideas, and write a better expression of them whenever I got around to it in my own fiction projects. I even wanted to build a personal continuity, imperishable (so I thought), appearing mystically in my mind, eliciting the emotions I wanted, when I called for them.

Even when taste seems personal and random (and, sure, there is uncertainty to the whole thing), we still seem to be touting expectations about what changes should do, when they're warranted. We have been exposed to frameworks of storytelling, works that align with frameworks even as they strain against the limits. Some found it offensive that Sagisu Shirou's music now seemed repetitive, or that the genre had changed, that it made them feel awkward in ways they didn't like. Some found it offensive when they were given filler arcs seemingly out of nowhere that they were hard-pressed to thematically contextualize. It's true that taste is developed, and it's true that we find things entertaining, but we ultimately rank. We even say things like, "Good for children" or "Good for a cartoon" when in reality the best works of literature seem to have eschewed these questions. To what degree is it really all that sensible to claim that the works of Barrie and Carroll, of Sendak and Rey, are "for children?"

Did I "like BLEACH?" When I think of it, the feelings I get are positive or ambitious, because moments that made me feel good come to mind. Yet I don't plan on re-watching the series in the near future, or on re-reading the chapters, because the prospect genuinely puts me off. What I will most likely do is continue to reminiscence on the good feelings, or watch YouTube videos of various fights. I might listen to snippets of the music, or look at a few pictures. What am I thinking about at those times? In what precise sense is that inferior to sitting through, and reacting negatively to the work "in full?"

The sun rises, that music plays, and your heart just swells. Hell, I--I still burst into tears listening to it.

Legend of Zelda: Windwaker may be a phenomenal example. I don't know how good it is, and only a few of the particulars really stuck with me, but I feel extraordinarily happy thinking about it. Is the game a "commentary" on postwar Modernism, simply because of Toon Link, revamped baroque music, silly special effects, a rediscovered Hyrule, and the fact that in, one particular battle, additional arrows are basically the snot of a robotic "god?" Who knows? I certainly haven't researched it.

So it isn't that text-reading and personalization don't happen. How many people actually seek to dispute this? The matter at hand becomes figuring out what role this plays in our comprehension of reality.

Let's say your average Joe, or rather my 11-year-old cousin, were to ask me what I thought of Korra--he was present when my 21-year-old cousin and I were going on about why we disliked it. What would I tell him about what moving pictures mean to me?

What I might call my "simple narrative," or the simplistic expression of a grand narrative, is the following: art makes people explore the (perceived contours of) truth. Granted, we're so skeptical about everything that we'd doubt this. To be honest, having written it, so do I! Such a statement demands clarification, both metaphysical and epistemological, which means I have to caveat, reshuffle, and bracket absolutely everywhere.The aesthetic potential of animation is far more expansive than that of images, text, drama, and music, because it incorporates all of these media and is seemingly freer from reality, even than film is. Not quite free, because seiyuu are real people, and in fact idolized in Japan--we would need silence, or Vocaloid-type creations at their technological apex.

Because some obsessors do care.

And if he were to ask me, as kids at his age tend to, "How?" I'd tell him that people express their dreams on a thing, and that expression on the thing inspires other people to look at what people tell them is, and to think about what might be.

Then he would scratch his head.

I'd tell him that dreams are not expression. I'd tell him that his nightmares about slug monsters are not equivalent to his telling his sister about it the next morning, that the "thing" turns out to be all that his sister might or might not perceive in his actions and placement, that his sister doesn't particularly care what he means or what happened (at this point, she would protest), until something intersects with her value system.

He'd ask me anxiously where dreams come from, and to put him at ease I'd shrug genially, verbally admit our empirical ignorance, or reply, "From God." Y'know, something like what the ancients would say.

A metanarrative, I ought to add, is not quite a set of personally-held beliefs or values. You'll also notice my skepticism signposts everywhere, which, ironically, is kind of what . Or not; otherwise, the most extreme positions held about what Socrates or Cicero were about would likely have too much validity--that they undermined X and Y and Z and left nothing standing and couldn't be bothered to build. Even with the signposts, though, my points are clear--or should be, anyway.

Anything could happen, sure--but at the end of the day what I (if only metaphorically) find myself believing more often than not is that my cousin is "filled" by "knowing gods," or "d mons," with "visions." He works on them, adds a certain something to them, attempts to share the product with his sister. His sister observes the spectacle, considers what he might be "saying," and whatever is sensorily comprehensible to her is her experience of art. It's a delightfully classicist framework. Certain conclusions are probably assumed here: that "gods" know "more," or that they express a greater amount of "truth." It likely assumes that "true truth" is static, as opposed to ever-changing, that "gods" exist beyond the fringes of the mutable universe, that they either represent the fullness of ideas (la Christianity), or are superseded by them (Platonism). And it tends to reject the perceptions-are-art premise as containing necessary-but-usually-insufficient aspects. One interesting iteration of this concept may perhaps be found in Jane Smiley's essay "What Stories Teach Their Writers: The Purpose and Practice of Revision."

As I suggested a few paragraphs earlier, the principles guiding aesthetic strike me as rather strange. My mind goes to work. In what sense do they derive power from such a metanarrative? To what degree is the beautiful the pleasing? Should the goal be satiating the sweet tooth, wolfing down the cauliflower, developing a palate that comes to find vegetables sweet-tasting or tolerable? Again, how do we hierarchize that which pleases us? How valid is the supposed contrast between immediate and suspended effect? A work that makes us feel consistently awful or strange might very well align, which is what I presume we mean when we claim that not liking something doesn't make it bad. When I make claims of how a story "works," I directly or indirectly make claims of how it makes me feel, and I elaborate (even extrapolate) notions of what certain stories should aim to do. Shinobu Oshino is loli-rific, scrumptious, delectable--but the work isn't necessarily discredited as art if I only weakly grasp other elements. Until of course, such broader arguments seem to me to be made.


Froggy-kun gets props for his recent, thought-provokingon the various effects of modern fanfiction. This is his "person" framework, which I think works awfully well (I mean, osmosis? A cell? What's not to love?). Worldviews restrict, experiences broaden. When we construct fanon, we insert parts of ourselves into the conception of narrative (or in the case of fanfics, actual narrative). By the way, I phrased that sentence as I did specifically because of the Venn diagram metaphor later utilized. The workings of art, eh, eh? I have no problem understanding this conclusion, because it happens very blatantly within the brony fandom. It reminds me of Digibro's point in an authorial intent video: "I usually try to limit myself to what I see as THERE, things that are present in the text to me, so that I don't end up going off the rails with my canon and making it unrecognizable to anyone who isn't living inside my own mind." Note the operating word he uses. Of course, if you've taken anything from my post so far, you know that this blur is thoroughly inevitable.

Given the worldview I presented here, which happens to work as a metanarrative, how would I read Froggy-kun's model? What would my gut reaction be? He takes the theory "down" from the story to fanfics, while I take it "up" to "source." Simple as that. Wait a sec! Directional modifiers? Ah, that's right. Hierarchy.

What does this mean for works of art? Merely this, I would think: whatever the supposed purpose of aesthetic (e.g. getting us to want to reevaluate and re-experience)--or the essence (is it really surface, or is it inherently total?)--there are limits to what we can care about at a single point time that go beyond an ambivalent openness to something new, to moderated opinions. Additionally, whatever collective narratives most move the most powerful forces in society will influence our claims of hierarchy and importance. I don't really believe we've reached the point where grand narratives have collapsed, and your views are utterly what goes, and you once had total confidence in this single narrative of knowledge, but you now don't care about any narrative in existence that suggests how things are. When people claim that a a work is enjoyable simply, they are still speaking incoherently. When they say a "superficial" work is "deep," something will strike you as odd, off-putting, or possibly even offensive. This happens, and it's okay. People need to know that it's thoroughly okay.

From Sumarii's post, linked .

Before I grew civil in discussion, I used to be a monster (still a work in progress--). I continually struggle with frameworks I don't like. I get that people think Ikuhara's great and all, and I can read his work just fine, but I find people's belief in and adherence to imaginary mythoi kind of weird, even as I played with it as a kid and think upon it myself from time to time (as a folk-fairy tail/legend, I handled Utena a bit better), I don't really gel with Gnosticism, and I find his style unnecessarily overwrought. Granted, we could take things in Elizabeth McCracken's direction, when she , "I feel so strongly that every rule of fiction is a way to prevent writers from making mistakes. And mistakes are literature. Bad habits are what make writers individual." Granted, animation is usually imperfect, and haters will use any excuse they can to tear down a work. And granted, these are opinions informed by a narrative, rather than the narrative itself--thus, likely not vital to it. There are too many ways in which my viewpoint is limited, wrong, or unreliable.

I used to rage. I used to get mad that Isaac and Miria were such stupid immortals. I mumbled to myself for days angrily as a 10th grader after I saw The Sealed Card, because I was convinced the heroic couple didn't know the first thing about love (by which I mean that their love was incredibly risky and I feared desperately for them). It took me hours to explain my ranting, flailing actions after my anime club viewed Katanagatari years ago. Things have since mellowed, and in any case I appreciate the different media pieces. If I vocally dislike a series, I probably have its OST volumes and singles on various playlists. This is true even in the extreme. Samurai Girls is terrible, almost too much to watch, but I can't help collecting stuff for it. I went through Zero no Tsukaima F recently and it was painful. The newer Shakugan no Shana stuff too. Six or seven years ago, I thought that shit was off the hook, but now? Unrecognizable.

The original point of this meandering post--the one I initially meant to build up as thought-out anecdote or something but ultimately found to be kind of dumb and intuitive--is that imagery and images in fiction (in the case of anime and film, actual frames) can hook you, as can particular sequences, even when the work itself offends your tastes or beliefs about what is true/how we know what we know. I guess I'm saying that we aren't all fanfic writers, because I don't really believe deep down that feeling or sudden, immediate vision is equivalent to the creation of art, but I do believe we are all, at the very least, fictionists. And that is a very big deal. It's actively--and not passively--what makes art matter to us, which for most is more important than what it means.

At the same time, I don't want to be unreasonable, or a fool. It'd be super-easy to end this post by raging that you should reduce all of your thoughts to empirical, "I felt X when I experienced Y, which is probably informed by my operating out of Z metanarrative and Zgrouping of opinions-beliefs-values," but forcing that down people's throats doesn't sound right, because most people haven't actually thought their metanarratives through (and might never do so).

I was always going to like the way Shaft characters look (had trouble with Madoka). I was always going to have a weakness toward Monogatari's tendency to wag its dick around, because who doesn't enjoy pulp fiction in at least some kind of tsundere way? Note the term according to which I've labeled it. True, the experience was somewhat masochistic. It wasn't fun, going through it, but with time and space, I was able to slice out the parts that I could cuddle up with. And once people started arguing for depth, yeah, I started flipping, all the more so because the arguments didn't really take me past my own experience and because no way was I about to make a similar leap.

So that's it. I doubt this post has added much to the table, except to call into question the sense that taste is so subjective. I mean, okay, it is, but we framework it all of the time--so it may not be as much of a defense as we tend to think. It informs our views of what we think texts do and can do. I suppose your favorite flavors of work, as well as the flavors you perceive, largely come down to this. But most likely this whole time I've been speaking in grand narrative terms. Wouldn't such a twist turn out to be super-cute?

Wait, no, hold on, I actually sort of mean that.
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