So, here's the thing. I've been trying to watch "classic" movies recently in order to further my movie education in a hurry. Here is what I have discovered after really, truly trying to sit through hours of this drivel:
These movies are quite simply that--drivel.
The books and movies we tend to remember as "Classics" are simply those that seem exotic or hoity-toity enough to be thought of as important years later. By 'important,' people usually seem to mean 'overly artsy, seemingly analytical of many things that matter not at all, heavy-handedly using some technique that filmmakers years later will still use and that will still annoy millions.
These filmmakers seem to have been so concerned about their potential place in history that they forgot to care about their characters, who leap in and out of bed with one another as though totally impervious to the pain romance brings people in real life. They then inevitably have a 'breakdown' moment in which they question the world by the side of the lover they will never allow themselves to have. No--these people inevitably must end up with someone who will only treat them poorly, never respect them, endlessly project onto them and make them generally into a fantasy rather than a person. This sort of 'my fantasy becomes your life' is never an effective way of seeking out 'true love' in real life, yet in movies, somehow, it always works. This is why most television shows and movies with an unrealistic couple at its core end directly after the two decide to take the risk as a couple.
They really have no place to go but down.
I don't like classic books, and movies are no different. Most books remembered as classics barely made sense in their own time and context; by the time they reach our own they have been stripped of all usefulness and meaning. 'Romeo and Juliet' relies on its viewer's ability to comprehend that a) it's perfectly natural for two teenagers four years apart to wed and b) it's completely impossible for them to simply explain matters to their families, because that would require hesitating in their self-destructive paths long enough to realize that they COULD use their situation to make peace. No--we're supposed to sympathize with these two losers stupid enough to try to run off together rather than stay and at least attempt to sort things out and fight for their right to be together?
Plenty of modern-day writers describe the poverty of this country--in which we are actually LIVING--better than Charles Dickens ever could, as he lived two hundred years ago halfway around the globe. We could read 'Empire Falls' in school, or 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter', or even 'The Prince of Tides.' Instead we read about dead white guys and their vision of how to make the world a "better" place for other white men.
Jane Austen's been bested by centuries of romantic authors, a fact I'm sure she would look upon with the satisfaction of one whose obsession with romance was taken up by entire nations. Yet because most comparable modern-day women's works have been dismisssed as 'frivolous' or 'unimportant' or 'not true literature', women are left with reading Jane Austen in public and Nora Roberts in private.
The irony of course is that the critics of her time assumed about Jane Austen the same things assumed now about Danielle Steel, assorted female fantasy writers, Nora Roberts...the list goes on. Funny.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with remembering the past. I don't believe that there is. I only think that we ought to do everything we can to realize we are not living anytime but now or anywhere but here. We've got countless forces that every day try to pull us out of where we're at by overwhelming our senses and lying to us so that we wind up buying stuff we don't really need in hopes of purchasing the same security these folks stole from us in hopes we'd buy it back at a profit for them. Do we really need to spend all our time learning about people with nothing in common with us, people living on the opposite side of the world or with completely different value systems or cultural backgrounds or lives, when we have plenty to worry about with living our own in the here and now?