Lately, I’ve been pondering synchronicity. That’s just a fancy way of saying I’ve been pondering the artist and the audience and how often their expectations meet. In an ideal world, the creator and the audience would share the same expectations. This would ensure that, for good or bad, the artist’s work would be judged for its merits or its attempted merits. It wouldn’t guarantee everything would be great, but it would make criticism easier.
Christopher Nolan is a director who has achieved pretty solid synchronicity with his audience. He gives them exactly what he says he is going to. In fact, he often point blank tells them, in the film, what he is giving them. His movies are full of telling, and while from a technical standpoint, that might be bad storytelling, it really isn’t. Because it works, and it works very well. As an audience, we might say we want subtlety, but more often, it flies right over our heads. We like to things (mostly) up front and center. We like to be told, point blank, what we are experiencing and how we should feel about it.
That’s a gross oversimplification, but it isn’t wrong. Rather, it’s not wrong as often as we might like to believe.
It might sound like I’m bashing Nolan or the audience. I’m not. The only wrong way to tell a story is in a way that nobody enjoys. If the artist is pleased with what he / she produces and the audience is happy with what it gets, then goal achieved. Giving the audience something they understand is far more important than giving them something subtle. You can do both subtle and obvious, but it isn’t easy.
This is why the character monologue will probably never go out of style. In the end, a character just point blank telling us how they feel and what they want will work almost every time. It has to be done well, but if it is executed with some skill, then it won’t matter. Tarantino’s movie are full of exposition and monologues. Shakespeare lives on it. And I might be one of the few people to compare these two artists, but when it gets down to it, this is what they share. For all its talk of subtlety, Shakespeare works because a character will tell the audience they are sad, happy, angry, etc., and will leave little ambiguity about it.
Again, this doesn’t mean there’s no subtlety in Shakespeare. It just means the foundation isn’t very subtle. It’s laid bare before us, and we like that. Why shouldn’t we? Life is subtle. And complicated. And unsatisfying. Stories written like real life aren’t very good. Let’s not even pretend that they are, considering we can’t even make “reality” television interesting without manipulation and gimmicks.
It isn’t impossible for the artist and audience to be asynchronous and still produce a successful piece of art. I have fans who consider my mostly just a funny writer even as I see myself as something else. And if being synchronous was easy, we wouldn’t even need critics. Often, the disparate view of what the artist and the audience is what makes for some truly fascinating art. And if communication was always right-on-the-money between humans, I’m not sure we’d even need to create art. If we did, it would probably be different than what we do now because it would most certainly be satisfying a different need.
All I know is that it never really seems to hurt to just have a character say how they feel and act upon those feelings. It only seems wrong because most of the time, this is done by bad artists in an unsatisfying manner. But this is true of most art created. I’d offer more thoughts on the subject, but right now, I am hungry, so I am going to go get something to eat.
See how simple and satisfying that was?
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,