reenka: (Default)
[personal profile] reenka
Thinking about [ profile] anitaray's post about the ridiculous holes in the plot of DH and another comment in reaction to it saying it comes as no surprise to 'regular readers' 'cause plot isn't JKR's strong-point, I got to thinking about just how true it is that we all evaluate and form responses to books on quite different axes, generally without spelling out or even realizing what those are.

I mean, even saying 'I value complex/believable characterization over plot', it's quite likely I may value different aspects of it than someone else. In any case, it would be most correct to say that I vary what qualities I look for depending on the strengths of a given work. If a book is really strong in original or complex plotting or world-building, I'll probably enjoy that. If it's strong in magic or science fictional ideas, that's what I focus on. If it's got a central character I love, that's it for me, and of course if it's got a unique and beautiful style or flow, that gives me a lot of pleasure.

I probably have a more rigid/fixed list of pet peeves than any central focus in what I look for in fiction, based on the sorts of things my own mind is naturally drawn to and excels at noticing. Like, I always naturally note details of style, so I can empathize with a criticism of DH like 'I sat there and marked up her sentences with an imaginary red pen', because I've made a conscious decision to not do that with JKR's work. But I just breeze by most plot holes because my mind isn't naturally analytical in quite that way, I guess. Even if you tell me, I don't really care because it doesn't affect my personal reading experience. Just as I may very well leave threads hanging in my own writing, it would take something really blatant to bother me in a story, and it'd probably have to be directly related to characterization (like, 'omg why didn't Harry grieve/fixate on Sirius' death more??!' and 'how did he just overlook casting the Sectumsempra so quickly?' and so on). There are probably great numbers of people whose response to those issues would be a heartfelt, 'so what?' And, y'know, that's a valid response too, I think, as far as it goes.

I think this sort of thinking goes a long way towards explaining why critically panned works can be so popular in the mainstream and why crappy Harry/Draco fanfic gets so many raving fangirl reviews.

Usually, when people write actual essays defending this, they say stuff that gets on my tits before it gets up my nose, like 'ICness doesn't matter' and 'writing believably is for sissies and Mudbloods, so leave my wankfic alone you meanies!' (...or... not. you know, artistic license is important). It's not that it's not important, it's that we all read what are effectively different stories, such is the difference a change in focus makes.

Often enough, I find I cannot recognize the HP I love in people's critical responses, even though I don't actually think they're wrong in the particulars, for instance. It's like... we all see the same trees on some level, but the nature of human perception is such that this isn't as important as the subjective 'forest' we make by noticing some trees as 'foreground' and the rest as 'background shrubbery'.

A lot of it's that I think there are different truths; and in some ways, I value the way someone sees something with the eyes of love more than the way someone deconstructs that same things rationally, though this is a subjective preference for equally subjective response. I still think realizing the halfway objective 'true outline' prevents any writer or critic from putting their foot in their mouth and being completely stupid (mmm, yummy foot), but this, to me, is in service to the ultimately personal nature of reader's response. I think knowing why people love something can be as enlightening as knowing why that something doesn't work on a rational level, though these two things are useful for different purposes. I wish people were more aware of and specific about what their purposes were, too, futile as that may be.

There's a danger to taking either 'side' too seriously; the rationalist readers have a way of acting like the objective analysis is 'superior' and 'the only truth' by implication even at best, and the emotive readers have a way of getting defensive and proprietary about their idea of-- or more accurately, feeling about the text, as if it is 'theirs' and any cold/prickly analysis or deconstruction is an assault not only on it, but on them personally. And while I am most naturally of the second type, I've been on the former type's side often enough to know it's no fun beating your head against either part of the brick wall. :>

I think you can't really understand the whole of a text (canon or fanfic), especially in the fannish context, without bringing the readers' emotional responses and context into it. If you're a rationalist, without understanding the emotional impact of and intuitive reasoning behind the stuff you're critiquing, you're going to talk past most of the actual fans and only reach the part of fandom that's disenfranchised and not emotionally invested in the fandom/canon to begin with, so just like with [ profile] anitaray's post, a bunch of people 'me too' with no real discussion or new meaning generated in fandom. It becomes a bit ridiculous, to the point where it's like, 'if it's this bad, why are we here? what the hell is going on? are all these fangirls just complete idiots?' And in fact I do think the fangirls think that's the implied message-- that they're idiots as much as JKR, for being drawn in, right, for caring.

Conversely, just as I said in the recent post about how if you're not a canon!whore to some extent, or at least if you don't care about the nitty-gritty believability issues in relation to actual canon, your fic is going to suck. This sort of statement on my part is mostly addressed at the second type of fan, the emotive reader; this is because that's the reasoning I use on myself. "Reena," I said to myself once. "Reena, if you don't actually read the books, no one is going to take anything you say seriously. You realize this, right. Just checking." And lo, a lightbulb went on in my head. :P

It's fun to coast along, doing whatever the fuck you want and 'to hell with canon', until you crash-land on an alien planet filled with purple spotted wildebeests raping Harry's mom while eating cotton candy, and you ask yourself-- you ask yourself, 'what have I done? who the fuck are these people? and where, oh where are my PANTS??!' and so on. It's just not good for one's sense of sanity & grasp on reality, you know. It's good to have a few logical boundaries act as a filter both to one's writerly desires and even one's imagination. Otherwise, no one will know what you're talking about, basically, unless they too dream of purple wildebeests on Mars raping Harry's mum.

Which. I don't know, it gets a bit lonely out there, really, spewing stuff that no one understands 'cause it's too self-referential, too divorced from its 'actual' context, too stylized, too convoluted and just too damn weird. Ahem. But maybe that's just me.


ETA: I regret my misguided terminology. All I can say is that it depends on you just 'knowing what I mean'. -.- I'll try to never generalize about people thoughtlessly in the future.

Date: 2007-09-16 11:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mmm, but to say "too simplistic" is rational? I don't think is is necessarily. Anyone can misinterpret the text or misjudge where the direction of the text is. I don't see that as subjective/objective, because frequently both "rational" and "emotional" fans engage in "expecting the author to think in the same way or to the same degree you do." In fact, I associate the latter with the so called "emotional" fans.

Eh, but aren't you saying that the so called subjective fans are not truly subjective, in that they don't acknowledge that there are other valid viewpoints? I think even the so called "objective" people acknowledge that they are other viewpoints. Isn't defending your emotive stance (or whatever) saying "this is how it is!"? And in some ways, can't "this is how it is" be an emotive stance? Or do you mean that some people don't separate their emotive response from what they think the text is saying?

Yeah, but if you say that it's arbitrary what kind of values they're associated with, then it does devolve to a mode of self-expression. In other words, maybe what you want to say is "critical" approach, or "approaching as a text"? However, in many ways, it should be possible to both love something and acknowledge its flaws. A work can have both good points and bad points. There are precious few works that don't have large flaws, so why be shokku when people point them out?

Date: 2007-09-16 11:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh you're right-- it's unlikely you'd project expectations or beliefs onto the text if you're not emotionally invested; I guess it's just that I keep getting muddled between 'typical mode of engagement' and 'personality type', whereas I really meant the former. It's not that 'emotive/subjective' fan response is 'irrational', really... or that saying a plot twist is 'too simplistic' is all that logical from an objective pov.... perhaps it really is just a phrasing thing, but my point is that there are a lot of predictable sorts of misunderstandings anyway, even if people in fandom aren't that different. Saying 'we're so different' was kind of the opposite of what I meant, so inevitably there's bleed-through on both sides, not to mention hypocritical behavior, which makes a rigid duality totally impossible to defend. I never meant to defend it, and I think trying to just sort of confuses me about what I meant to say (if anything).

Even though disappointment is most misused by 'emotional' and obvious invested fans, and the rational types are more likely to 'just accept the facts', generally there are rationalizations involved if for some reason they don't attain quite the high standard of fact acceptance to be expected. Sometimes it's because canon really is irregular; sometimes it's because, like with HP in book 7, threads get dropped and 'revelations' don't make sense on some level that takes all former data into account. I guess I'd say that sometimes a story can be said to fail itself in some way, rationally enough. Usually it's a function of being too subjectively invested, though, yeah.

Hahah well, my first instinct is to surrender unconditionally if you confront me with logical loopholes, mostly 'cause I write in terms of intuitive leaps, hypotheses and hunches/feelings/etc so I wasn't trying to make a real argument to start with, but okay... already tried that. :> Um... however, I do believe you're right-- it doesn't make sense on the logical level that the subjective/emotive types are actually more fixed and 'faux-objective' in their opinions, 'cause at least the objectivity-driven tend to respond to new data. And it's true that 'this is how it is' may be an emotive stance (or at least, one's personality, which is.... if not illogical per se, then at least axiomatic). Perhaps I should say both kinds of approaches may be stubborn/closed-off or open to new data, though generally they'd go about parsing/filtering for that new data differently (ie, rationally you'd need actual events that change things or arguments that build up logically, emotionally you'd just need something that 'reaches' you). There are more 'evolved' subjective-oriented people who fully acknowledge the limitations of their own beliefs, but most people aren't so self-aware or reasonable, even if it's most logical to be so given their personality basis, I guess. I do mean some people can't separate their emotive response from what they think the text is saying, or conversely from what they want the fanfic to be saying from its actual quality. The emotiveness as I meant it lies in this basic type of value assessment, I guess, rather than... um, the subjectivity level of one's immediate preferences. It's what you do with the immediate response, rather. Maybe. I'm still muddled, really. ^^;

Date: 2007-09-16 12:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, that's what I'm saying, it's not necessarily "irrational" in that you can say that all emotional responses are irrational, and generally fiction is supposed to primarily engender an emotional response anyhow, and logistically, I agree that it's really a subjective thing whether a plot twist is too simplistic. Although, is a story failing for a reader an emotional or rational thing? Subjective or objective? I would say that it simply depends on the situation, but ultimately storytelling rests on subjective and emotional grounds, but that there is enough commonality between people culturally for this to take on the appearance of objectivity if certain standards are accepted, yet the acceptance of these standards may in itself be seen as subjective.

I agree that all kinds of people may be close-minded. Actually, I think the opposite of love love squee is actually hate hate denunciation.

Hmm, what do you mean people can't be logical/reasonable and true to life? Just because someone's actions aren't reasonable doesn't mean that they can't be explained, I think. The explanation might be wrong or right, but it's actually, IMHO, not that difficult to explain why people are defensive squeers. We've seen it a dozen times on fandom wank. /shrug

Date: 2007-09-16 12:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well... taking the objectivity level of lit-crit and the standards employed within it... I think that's really the central issue, actually. There are people who think you can talk about books and take these (subjective) standards as rules and then view eventual canon deviations from the quality standards as disappointing or 'wrong', or you can defer to the author and primarily 'enjoy what's there' happily, etc, even if you can write subjective/rational essays on those feelings. That person would still be coming from a different place to start with. A bunch of people are insistent about the 'rules of engagement' inherent in storytelling. And a bunch of other people are more lax and focused on their (subjective) preferences/beliefs rather than external (objective) truths/untruths as they see them, at least. Difference in focus moreso than a totality of nature, basically.

What I meant isn't that people's specific actions are difficult to explain (especially not in general)-- perhaps I should be more clear, in that I'm normally talking about myself unless I clearly state I'm making a global (rational?) statement :> I meant I was having a hard time because of various muddling factors present, mostly to do with working with objections that were true yet incomplete. The difficulty is more to do with untangling either misunderstandings or instances where I couldn't express my thoughts well enough. It's not just about wrong vs right when the person can't necessarily state their opinion fully and completely, nor even decide exactly where their opinion finally rests (since they're in the process of forming it). In my defense, though, I was referring to a more complex and wide-ranging subject than the detail about 'why people are defensive squeers', which I already mentioned in my post briefly :>

Ah well. Perhaps I'll be more lucid in the morning.

Date: 2007-09-16 12:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, I think in some ways, the authors also buy into these standards, and appear to be taking them as part of the rules. But then they become inconsistent to themselves, and that especially is when readers get annoyed. I think it also is that there is not necessarily one set of rules, there are several, and they differ on their preferences.

Date: 2007-09-16 11:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So yeah, the values themselves are arbitrary, and it does devolve into a mode of self-expression (bear with me, I've just gotten more confused. oh man.) I think that it's definitely possible both to love & to acknowledge flaws, though it's more likely to actually exist in actuality in 'rationalist' or critical types. Though as you said, rationalist isn't the same as critical in the negative sense and so on. It's difficult explaining the logic of why people are illogical, y'know :)

The reason people get defensive about flaws being pointed out even when they know they're there-- tends to be because they're defensive and miscommunication in opposing styles has occurred. A 'rationalist' approach isn't necessarily negative, but it's more open to the negative aspects; perhaps I can separate it into 'love-love squeers' vs... their opposite, but that's just another thorny tangle. The biggest issue is that you can't really make people sound both logical/reasonable and be true to life, so any explanation I come up with sounds cracked-out while your objections/suggestions sound like the obvious thing. :> It's not that 'critics' don't love, anyway... it's definitely about expression as a filter at least partly.


reenka: (Default)

October 2007

 12 3456
1415161718 19 20

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jun. 26th, 2017 08:50 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios