I take criticism seriously. By listening to people, especially when they have something to say that feels painful at first, I find many opportunities to grow and be better. I recently received some feedback to an article I wrote that gave me just such an opportunity, and because of it I am going to change the way I interpret movies in the future.
My Moment of Clarity
A few months ago, I published an article entitled “Aladdin Is a Love Story Between Mankind and Jesus Christ.” In it, I discussed how a number of characters and plot points resemble ones found in the Book of Genesis and other parts of the Bible. I thought I was being quite clever in my descriptions, but one commenter disagreed. He said it felt like I was reaching in my assumptions and claims, beginning with these words: “Were you getting something down from a high shelf as you wrote this because you are…reaching.” He then gave a number of ways that other films, using my logic, could be seen as delving into complex topics they are clearly not supposed to be about.
After some reflection on his words, I realized he was correct. I have no right to put words in filmmakers’ mouths or claim that a movie means something it wasn’t intended to mean. From now on, I will do my best to avoid making that mistake. When I want to talk about an important theme using a movie, I will use the movie as an example of what I’m talking about without making the error of interpreting my way of looking at things into the movie itself.
A Better Way
For instance, I could easily claim that Superman: The Movie is an allegory of the stories of Hercules, Moses, and Jesus. But, while the filmmakers may have been inspired to some degree by those stories, I don’t think it was their intention to do an explicit retelling of any of those. They were trying to do justice to the character of Superman, who has borne a strong resemblance to classical figures since he was created in the 1930s.
A more appropriate way for me to approach that kind of article would be to reference specific characters and aspects of Superman: The Movie as I talk about the topic I’m truly interested in. That way, I’m not trying to invent some outlandish theory about what the filmmakers intended to say with their work, but I’m simply applying their work in a different way that still makes sense because of its limited scope.
Likening, Not Manipulating
I don’t want to decide something is true and then manipulate movies into fitting the predetermined mold I created for them. That’s putting the cart before the horse. When I want to say something, I’ll lay it out clear as day and then proceed to liken it to a film that I believe demonstrates it or has something to offer on the subject at hand. But I will avoid claiming that my perspective is explicitly what the film is saying. The film is just an example I’m using in a larger discussion.
This may seem like a small change or something akin to arguing over semantics, like I’ve heard ascribed to the saying “hate the sin, not the sinner.” That’s not the case, though. This is a significant change for me. It might take me a while to get used to it, and I’ll probably make some mistakes along the way. But my goal is to improve, and the only way to do that is to keep trying to do better. If you notice me falling into my old ways, feel free to call me out on it.
That Was a Long Introduction
It might sound strange, but I started writing this as the introduction to an article about Escape to Witch Mountain. The trouble is it got extremely longwinded as it took on a life of its own, so I decided to separate it into its own article. Stay tuned next week for the article I was going to finish. It’ll be a good one, and you’ll get to see if I’m able to actually hold myself to the new standard I’ve set.
Hopefully this change means I’ll go from reaching for farfetched interpretations to reaching solid conclusions using well-thought-out examples of what I’m talking about. I’d like to thank the commenter who inspired this change and remind everyone that I appreciate all of your feedback. I’m a better writer because of all of you who reach out.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Excellent article. It teaches us all, by example, to examine how to choose our words carefully. Thanks, Robert. 🙂
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Thank you very much, Lita. I learn a lot from your great example, as well. 😀
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