Entries in the Category "sense and sensibility"
This morning, I was reading a fun story over at the AV Club: Life-Changing Art
Some of the blog writers talk about works of literature, film, and art that changed their tastes fundamentally—that made them say, “if a movie can do this, how can I be satisfied with a movie that does less?” and so on. And I have a few of those: The Philadelphia Story, Flannery O'Connor, Arrested Development.
But somehow, my immediate reaction to this question was to remember my experience with Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility.
It came out in 1995, when I was a freshman in high school. Even though I was already mostly an oddball, not interested in skating along with what was popular or cool, at fourteen I was still feeling a selective kind of peer pressure. I had my small group of friends, and I believed that my tastes needed to be in line with theirs. If I took a step in a direction they didn’t agree with—well, they would drop me like a hot potato, wouldn’t they? When you’re fourteen and everyone around you allies themselves based on shared tastes, liking the wrong thing is fatal. The logic is unimpeachable, so long as you haven’t lived to know better.
So anyway, one day I was watching TV with Jamie, my best friend at the time. A commercial came on for Sense and Sensibility, and it was all British, and full of straw hats and gowns and fancy dancing. Please be aware that this was Pulp Fiction times. Absolute baseline requirement for coolness at the time was subversion—drugs and violence and swearing, the harsh, the crude, the angry. (I’m talking of course about popular culture, because in our own lives we were totally suburban honor students.) And Jamie scoffed at the commercial, because Jane Austen was clearly a tool of The Man. Any movie you could see with your mom was officially lame.
As it happened, I had seen Sense and Sensibility with my mom, and I had dug it immensely. And at that moment, all my teenage frustration and righteous anger—and outright exhaustion with the effort of trying to keep up with who and what I was supposed to be—overcame me, and do you know what I said? “I loved it. And I bought the book, and I’m going to read it.” I didn’t hedge, I didn’t hesitate, I may have said it in the timid mouse-voice I was mostly using at the time, but damn if it didn’t feel monumental. And Jamie? She considered for a moment, then shrugged and said, “That’s cool.”
And thus it started. Half my lifetime ago I came to a realization: if I like something, that’s justification enough to like it! In fact, it’s cool of me to be sincere about what I feel! It shows strength, and people respect it! And never again have I apologized for liking anything. My tastes—broad and diverse—are all a part of the strange and sometimes contradictory sum of me.
I have sometimes gone almost too far in the opposite direction, sharing my opinions much too freely. I remember discussing movies with someone once, a person I didn’t know that well, and getting a little bit too excited, and responding to one of their recommendations with, “No way—that SUCKS,” and then having that person look at me very confused and insulted. I sometimes have to remind myself that not everyone communicates this way.
But we all should! I’d like to inspire everyone to express a controversial or embarrassing opinion about art today, and to not care what anyone else thinks about it.