Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sweet Emotion

Charles over at Razored Zen wrote a cool post about emotion. He wrote it from a writer's perspective and how hard it can be to find the emotion and convey it to the reader. This post really spoke to me and it's a topic that has stayed with me. At first I connected to the subject because I have struggled with the same thing in my own writing. But on further consideration I realized how important the emotional component is to virtually every form of entertainment that I love. Music is actually the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of emotion and entertainment. I like pop music some of the time but none of that really touches the soul. It took me a long time to appreciate how a song that is sung with feeling is so much more than words on a page. Whenever I hear a Janis Joplin song I am always struck by how much of her heart she poured into her music and I amazed at the bravery inherent in her performances. Obviously I am not the only one who remembers her remarkable talent, but I think it's the outpouring of emotion that makes her timeless. When I look at movies that I have loved since childhood I am also struck by how much I love them because of the way they made me feel. Being a Sci-fi fan, there is no movie that stands out as much as "Star Wars," but I have never connected with the later movies that George Lucas made to go with the original trio. I have written posts on this blog about that before and I usually site the wooden acting as a big part of the problem, but it struck me as I was thinking about the topic of emotion in entertainment that it was the feeling, the passion, that was missing from "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones." (I have yet to see "Revenge of the Sith") People have often said that George Lucas focused entirely too much on the special effects in his later films and I think that's an obvious point. But truly, the biggest flaw was that he didn't focus enough on what the audience needed to feel in order to connect with the characters. The original "Star Wars" was brilliant on so many levels, but in the end I think I loved it because I could relate to the characters no matter how extraordinary their circumstances. Who hasn't felt the uncertainty and earnestness of Luke Skywalker? And maybe even the occasional arrogance of Han Solo? (Though we love Han the best don't we?) Even the villains had more depth in the original mostly due to the fact that we saw their anger and ambition. But there really isn't a whole lot in the later series' to connect to is there? I can't say I ever really felt anything from Amidala and let's face it, the youngest Anakin just came across as a kid who was acting in a movie. On reflection, I think the movies' could have kept all the CGI and still been very good if only Lucas had remembered that it was what we felt when we watched the earlier films that made them great. And I think the difference between the two Lucas trilogies really demonstrates the fact that emotion isn't only important in high drama. Films like "Rocky" touched a nerve with the underdog in all of us and made us want to cheer when the music swelled at the end of a big fight. Or what about the end of "Se7en" when Brad Pitt asks "what's in the box?" God, I shudder just thinking about it. Good movies make us feel. And I think that holds true of any great sci-fi/fantasy film I have ever seen. "Alien" made us feel terror at the prospect of alien contact just as "E.T." made us feel hope. Dystopian movies like "The Terminator" make us feel dread at a world we don't understand while comic book movies like "Batman Begins" and "Spiderman" allow us to step into the role of the hero for a little while. But in the end we go to theatre, listen to our favorite music or read our favorite books (again and again in my case) because of the emotional cord they strike. If I can, just once, create something that finds emotional resonance with the rest of the world, then I would be a happy woman indeed.


Charles Gramlich said...

I think you've hit squarely on the head the differences between the original Star Wars trilogy and the second one. I believed in the emotion of Luke, and Han and Leia. In the second series I just couldn't see the emotion. The most emotional was Yoda, which I think is pretty bad when the puppet/cgi upstages the actors.

Jennifer said...

I'm not that familiar with Star Wars, but what you say makes sense. In my experience comedy or action will keep me entertained for a while, but it's the stories that appeal emotionally that I'll reread, buy on DVD and never miss an episode of.

ShadowFalcon said...

What an excellent post. I have to agree with you about Star Wars.

I love certain films just because they move me, despite not being the best films ever made.

Its hard to find the line between sentimental and truly emotionally charged, but your right its that ones that make you feel something that stay with you. Just like Music

Carl V. said...

You've nailed it. It is that emotional connection we get stories, in any sort of medium, that make us passionate fans. Whether it is something as simple as a throwaway book or film that has one stand out character that we identify with or a critically acclaimed masterpiece, it is that sense of connection that turns the exercise of reading or watching a film into an 'experience'. I would encourage you to just be real with your writing. If you care about what you are doing I honestly believe that will be translated through what you create and you, and your readers, will feel the emotional connection you want them to feel.

SolShine7 said...

Perfectly said. :)

Your blog makes me "feel". It makes me feel like I'm not the only lady out there who's into talking about sci-fi and fantasy on a regular basis. So in a way, you've already created a piece of art that connects with people. So thanks!!!