Monday, August 19, 2013

Reflecting On What We've Learned

So it's been a few weeks that we have been doing the Academic Theory series. I've found it a challenge if I can be honest. These are huge themes that we are working with, and distilling them down threatens the integrity of the belief as well as the underlying philosophies that can be used in writing. Yet, beyond all reason I have managed. I decided then, after covering Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, that it would be a good time to change gears. Academic Theory will continue, but for today I would like to address the nature of philosophy in writing, specifically its integration.

Integrating philosophical notions into a text can appear as preachy, which is never good. It's a big problem with most television shows, where the writer will inject into the pilot or episode a broad spectrum of themes that are controversial. Fox's House and Family Guy are both big offenders. There is a required subtlety when writing a narrative that approaches beliefs and philosophies which these shows, among many others, fail to exercise. One reason why discretion is important lies in the fact that the average audience is more intelligent than what we often assume them to be. Blasting a slew of demographics with hot botton themes is nothing more than a pull for ratings. Good writing, I think, is closer to shows like Comedy Central's South Park or Cartoon Network's The Boondocks, where issues and themes are integrated in character actions and quirks. The Cartman character on South Park is representative of upper middle class Americans with critical attitudes towards anything "non-American." Homer from The Simpsons embodies the attributes of the lazy, uncultured American that abdicates social and ethical responsibility. Each of these characters establish a variety of philosophies that are subtle with their actions and behaviors. When Homer goes to Moe's Tavern, the symbolism of the unconscious doping of Americans to avoid conflict and responsibility emerges. Cartman's attitude, which is self-absorbed, entitled, and racist, lampoons the rich upper middle class America that takes action against the poor, rather than assisting them, thereby engendering a service society built on the backs of the lower classes.

When writing, a character needs to speak less with words and show more with actions the aspects of the philosophy that you want to discuss. Certain philosophies will be harder to discuss than others, obviously. Class stratification can be discussed by placing a protagonist or antagonist into a situation where the reality of such social gaps become apparent. If the character walks into a nice restaurant, attention can be drawn to the exhaustion in the wait staff, subtle clues of their unkempt hair, dirt on their face, etc. You don't have to write a story set in a dystopian future to get class stratification across as a literary theme. It's possible to show it in a variety of contexts. The more subtle, the better the writing. Now if you were to discuss something like abortion, that would be much more challenging. Abortion is salient in our culture as an issue. It garners a lot of attention and focus for its divisive stances. To deal with this subject in writing, symbolism plays a larger role. Abortion could be discussed in the context of another issue, so while the book may appear to discuss deforestation, the language would hint at abortion being the issue at hand. It depends on what the story aims to ultimately achieve, but take these things into consideration when building a plot.

Lastly, I will say that I have attempted to write using my methods of subtlety in all my Academic Theory blogs thus far. If you take a look at the concluding narratives, take the opportunity to see how I adapted specific worldviews into the narrative. I think you will be surprised at my approach. I tried to associate characters with object or hobbies that could invoke the philosophy's core tenets and beliefs. Take a look at them for yourself and ask why I used the images that I did and consider how to employ such images.


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