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Due to the misfortune of a friend of mine having his computer going kaput (hopefully only temporarily) I found I had a somewhat free evening. Also due to the good fortune of getting a deal on Sky Movies I had a number of films recorded, waiting for such an opportunity. I chose Prometheus, since I have wanted to watch it since release. After all, Ridley Scott has crafted some of my favourite films. Also though I had read some rather critical views on the film post-release, and wanted to know if what those reviewers saw as weakness was a weakness that I recognised.

The credits rolled perhaps thirty minutes ago, and I can say I had a really enjoyable time. I think I can understand some of the disappointment others might have had in this film, though I do not think they can really blame Ridley Scott for this. This is connected to the Alien timeframe, but Alien it is not. If one was expecting a film such as Alien I can see where one might be let-down. Likewise if one wished to have some things explained this film is going to leave a somewhat sour taste – if it discloses one answer it is only to reveal more questions lurking beyond it. Also I suspect some folks have put some of Ridley Scott’s earlier work on a pedestal to which all his future work will be compared to, and in that comparison can only be found to be lacking.

Looking through his acting credits I discovered, to my surprise, this is not the first film I have seen Michael Fassbender in – he had a supporting role in 300 apparently though I could not place him by memory. I have seen none of his more recent work, though have heard consistently good things of his ability. Now I have had a chance to see him exhibit his talent myself, and he is a consummate performer. Watching Michael Fassbender play the android David, that modelled himself and his manner on Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of Lawrence of Arabia is an exhibition of ability that had be smiling at odd moments. Of course, it helps that I love Lawrence of Arabia.

David is one of a trio of characters that spoke to me particularly in the film. He is an android set amongst humans, a thing made to serve those who are his inferiors in physique and intellect, forever acting on the orders of another. His presence is almost like a mirror, to allow us to see ourselves mirrored in his eyes. His questions challenge, but they appear sincere. He doesn’t truly understand the motivations of those around him.

Ridley Scott is no stranger to androids of course – in particular there were two Androids in the Alien franchise – simplistically one good and one bad. There were also the replicants in Blade Runner, and there was nothing simple about them. David is a different incarnation yet, and a very good film could have been made just from his viewpoint. I think it would have been a more limited creation however than what we have. David is encompassed both by a sense of the sinister, but also by a sense of solidity.

Charlize Theron plays Miss Vickers, the lurking presence of authority on the ship Prometheus, whose will overrides even that of the captain. Vickers is present in quite a lot of the film, but rarely draws attention to herself. She has the difficult role to cast a shadow. She is threatening with very few words. She wears a mask, fulfils a role, but her motivations and actions often remain opaque, and little is actually explained. We are offered two particular glimpses of the person behind the face, but they are incomplete.

The lead character of Elizabeth Shaw is played by Noomi Rapace, and she turns in a stunning performance. She carries off that trick of being a strong woman and not a woman being strong. By that I mean she is herself, rather than playing the role of someone weak being strong in moments of crisis. Modern culture still offers shockingly few roles where this can be exhibited.

Elizabeth is a scientist, and a devout Christian (though her denomination is never explained). In the company she keeps – other scientists, hardened crew, and an android – this makes her something of an oddity. One of the central themes I found in Prometheus was the journey of her belief, which appears to be a thing of conscious choice.

There are some obvious mythological references in Prometheus, starting with the very name. However, I do not want to get hung up those. I think they get in the way of the meanings I take from the film – and for me the twin themes of journey and of choice are near the heart of things.

Choice is ever-present in the film. Sometimes these choices are obvious – such as deciding to take off one’s helmet in an apparently breathable atmosphere. Others are less clear and have clouded implications, such as accepting a drink in awkward celebration. These are highlighted by the fact one character – David – appears to lack the capacity to make choices, instead he follows orders. He is asked at one point “what happens when  [your creator] is not around to program you anymore?”. Just perhaps at the end of this film we have an initial answer, a sign that David too can make a choice.

The idea of a journey is a very old one. The oldest literature we know – Gilgamesh – is filled with journeys. The mythic character of Prometheus embodies more than one journey in his tale. So too this film has a number of journeys swirling about it. Chief amongst these is a search for knowledge – different knowledge for various members of the expedition, but knowledge all the same. It is this search for knowledge that I think binds the audience to the crew of the Prometheus, for us film-watchers too are on a search for knowledge – to know about the Alien franchise.

Our own search for knowledge is frustrated by the film’s innate ambivalence. This is not a film that really explains things. It shows, like its gorgeous prologue scene, but nothing more. Much of what we are told comes from David – and do we trust him? What answers we do get are often made irrelevant by events, dead-ends on the knowledge-quest perhaps.

If Prometheus is an ambivalent film, I also found it something of an impermanent one. What I found very interesting about the three characters I named above all feel apart from the main group of characters, not entirely part of the common weal. David is an android, inhuman. Vickers is apparently in charge, aloof and alone. Elizabeth is a believer in an apparently atheistic group. I get the distinct feeling that the rest of the group do not quite seem as real as these three, but also that these three are somewhat ephemeral to the group. Elizabeth alone appears to have a connection in the form of her lover, but even so there is a sense he has more in common with the group than with her. Love is strange, but in the presentation he wishes to answer in terms of science, she in terms of belief. There is a strangeness to all of them.

Elizabeth is also the source of the last journey I wish to write about: the one I reference in the title of this post. At the start of the film Elizabeth is a devout believer. The actions that the film depict are, as much as anything else, a test of her faith. She has her moment of doubt, a moment of crisis. Her faith survives, but it changes. By the end she is the only human left, and her language has changed. She does not “want” to know the answers to her questions, she “deservers” to know. She has nothing to live for now but her belief. It is a belief of conscious choice, and it is all consuming. She has the option at the end to turn back, to forsake her faith. She does not. In one of her last lines David says that he does not understand, and she replies that is the difference between him being a robot and her being a human. Yet there is a sense that she has now moved herself beyond humanity – she has no human ties and her quest dominates.

The ending of Prometheus is the start of a new journey, one of the central questions still unresolved. I love that it is so. I think it is fair to say I massively enjoyed this film, and would unhesitatingly recommend it. Just try to leave expectations aside.

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One of the ways I define myself is that I am a historian. History is one of my earliest passions, and is so far enduring. The past fascinates. However associated with this right from the beginning (thanks the Michael Wood’s six-part documentary “In Search of the Trojan War” back from 1985 – which I first watched a year or two after broadcast) is an interest in historiography. If history is the enquiry into the past, historiography is the study of history and the historians, archaeologists, and other researchers who are all involved in the study of the past.

As I started to watch Above Us the Waves recently, a British war film from the 1950s that tells the tale of the midget submarine attack on KMS Tirpitz in 1943, I could feel my historiographical nerves twitching all over. The film itself I will discuss in a moment is a fine enough film, but almost more fascinating for me was picking up details of how the war was being portrayed in the 1950s. In many respects films like this strike me as time-capsules shedding light on earlier times.

As to the film, it has two distinct halves. The first half deals with the statement of the objective – to sink the powerful German battleship Tirpitz which had taken shelter in the Norwegian fjords and thus was well protected, the selection of a team of men and the first failed attempt. The second half of the film portrays the second attack, using three X-craft midget submarines.

This attack is the main event of the film, and the action is entirely concentrated on three submarines. For what seems like a very long time the camera-work is almost entirely from within the confines of the three submarines, showing the cramped, claustrophobic conditions these men operated in. One immediately thinks of comparing it to submarine epic Das Boot, but in reality these are very different craft making the Type VII U-Boats appear almost luxurious. Like Das Boot though the tension of being almost blind, vulnerable, both hunter and hunted is excellently portrayed. Especially in the increasingly haggard looks of the faces of the men as their mission progresses.

If one is expecting flamboyant, demonstrative acting you will not find it here. There is a quieter form of acting here, relying more on cast of face or tone of voice. A submarine at the best of time is no place for histrionics. There is heroism here shown for us, the heroism that occurs under the greatest of pressures (and on a submarine pressure has one very literal meaning one can never forget). That said there are some quite obvious stereotypes here – the raffish Australian for example and reserved commanding officer.

What strikes me most is that not only is this a British war film, but that it is a naval war film. Britain’s self-image is of a nation of the sea. Unfortunately for this self-image World War 2 offered relatively little material for naval war films. There is the Battle of the River Plate (made into a film of the same name), the hunt for the Bismarck (made into Sink the Bismarck!), the sinking of Scharnhorst (no film as far as I know), and as far as the Germans are concerned that is just about it for the surface war. The gruelling Battle of the Atlantic – excellently portrayed in The Cruel Sea – is a different sort of film. This film offers another little way for the Navy to get positive footage against the more obvious heroism of the A0rmy and Air Force.

Note that I was only able to restrain my historiographical impulses for three paragraphs.

From a little cursory research it appears that this film is fairly accurate. There are a few small anachronisms, and some simplifications – and also some guesswork about what happened with one the midget submarines that took part in the attack.

Overall I can recommend this as a good war-film from an older time. While it tells a great story, however, I think it is almost more interesting as a window on the time it was made.

Over the last weekend we spent some time with my father and while doing so he and I ended up watching Molière. Now, I know virtually nothing about Molière, other than he was a comedic playwright in pre-Revolutionary France. I didn’t even know which century he lived in (the seventeenth, as it happens). I have never seen a Molière play, nor had any desire to see one (comedy being very much a hit and miss affair with me). In short this is a film I would never have watched of my own accord, but my father wished to watch it, and therefore so did I.

The conceit of the film is a flashback to a period early in Molière’s life, before he was famous, and a sequence of events which inspired him to his fame. In fact the entire episode is entirely fictitious, and as I read later, the film uses Molière’s own plays for its inspiration.

Comedy is actually quite a difficult thing for me to watch – especially situational comedy. I keep getting acutely embarrassed on behalf of the characters. It does not happen always, but sometimes I find myself finding an excuse to leave a room or bury myself in a book or something until the moment passes. It does not just happen in pure comedies, but also in comic moments in other films too. As it happens I did spent several moments of this film entrenched in browsing something on the internet now and then – but despite this I still enjoyed the humour immensely.

There are, at heart, four characters in this film with a smattering of others. I do not believe I have encountered any of them previously, given my miniscule exposure to non-English language films (this is a French film). The roles were all well and solidly played, and Romain Duris has a wonderful touch as Moliìere. However, he is a little upstaged by Laura Morante who captured her role to absolute perfection. If I were more of a cinephile I almost certainly would check out a selection of her other work, but realistically I am unlikely to do this.

While this film is a comedy, at moments it turns decidedly serious – like all the best comedies which do this it makes those one or two moments very powerful indeed. When Molière exclaims to Elmira Jourdain that there are comedies cannot tackle certain subjects she gives him the same advice she gave him much earlier in his life: invent it – and it nearly breaks my heart.

In retrospect the film this is most similar too – and one suspects it was part of the inspiration for it – is Shakespeare in Love. Thinking about it both Shakespeare and Molière had not dis-similar careers. One could probably right a parallel biography after the style of Plutarch about them.

Overall I enjoyed this film very much, and would recommend it to anyone who wished for an enjoyable masquerade with a serious twist – assuming there is no trouble either understanding French or reading subtitles of course 🙂 . Overall rating 3,5/5

Blazing Saddles is my favourite film of all time, for an intensely personal reason connected to my mental health. This post was and is in many ways a review of this marvellously silly and humorous film. However, it is also a post that requires context, and so it is a (very lengthy) post in two parts.

Five years ago I underwent what one of the people involved in my care later described as a ”severe psychological trauma”. The initial period of that I described in a previous post, here. When I finished that post we had reached a point when I was on new medication, which helped stabilise me. My illness has, amongst everything else, been a highly educational experience. Until I was ill, I always thought “depression” meant being very morose, or melancholic. Understanding is not helped because we use the same word to actually mean different things. For me however, depression meant the following: severe epileptic-fit style panic attacks, thoughts of suicide and self-harm, total lack of energy followed at times by periods of frenetic energy, inability to maintain any sort of sleeping cycle, being unable to laugh, and a total lack of self-confidence so severe I refused to leave my own house unless I was accompanied.

The new medication, over the course of September and October five years ago started to help deal with principally one of these symptoms, which in turn helped alleviate some of the others. Initially my panic attacks eased. At first this was at the cost of my temper sometimes wildly flaring, but that too passed as one medication replaced the other in my system. The reduction in panic attacks also lifted my mood a little – I no longer thought of suicide or self-harm. However, one side effect of the medication was I began to sleep much longer and much more heavily – indeed on one occasion sometime that autumn I slept for over twenty-four hours – but even sleeping for fourteen or eighteen hours occurred with some frequency. An old fashioned alarm clock position a foot away from my head could not wake me. Otherwise I still alternated between being absolutely listless to being consumed by the need to do something, and I only slowly started to leave the house alone – and never into town.

My new medication hadn’t “cured” me of course. Medication cannot cure this sort of mental illness. It is broadly like taking paracetamol to help with a common cold – it does not effect the virus that is the cause of the cold at all. Rather it acts as a palliative allowing one to function better whilst one’s own immune system deals with the virus. Likewise my medication did improve my life, because despite the many negatives I was not having regular panic attacks, and I was not often thinking of self-harm. In other words it was doing its job: giving me an opportunity to heal myself. Unfortunately, mind is not body. One’s body has an immune system that knows what to do without direction, but psychological recovery requires actual thought – and it was not something I was able to do by myself. My GP had referred me to the local Mental Health Trust. My initial appointment was in the beginning of October – an initial assessment for the team to try to work out what sort of therapy would be most useful in my case.

Either side of this first appointment, my farmor and farfar died, eight days apart. My farmor had been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer earlier in the spring, and her death was inevitable, though no less sad. She died the day she was admitted to hospice. It was as if her mind, absolved of all responsibilities by the progress of her illness, saw no point in continuing the struggle. My farfar, who suffered from Alzheimer’s which by that point was so severe he could barely interact with the world around him, passed away eight days later. It was as if somehow he realised his wife and life-companion of sixty years had gone, so there was no reason for him to stay.

One day I hope to write a post about just what wonderful people they were, but I cannot get passed this moment without writing giving a glimpse to my wonderful paternal grandparents. My mormor and farmor both grew up in London, and endured the Blitz. They both served in the armed forces, both out in Singapore during the Malayan Insurgency. The met on the troop-ship back home in 1952. When he returned home my farfar vowed never to leave these shores again, a promise he kept until the late 90s when he visited Normandy a couple of times to visit his brother’s grave. My farmor was always a traveller through, and spent time visiting various places in the world. She had a fascination for other cultures. She was also a working mum, who I believe earned more than her husband long before that became common. I believe very strongly that women like my farmor did more for women’s rights than the more militant feminist movement ever did – by going into workplaces and proving by their competence day in and day out there were just as good as their male colleagues, if not sometimes better.

My maternal grandparents had already died by this point – my morfar when I was only a few months old, and my mormor a few years earlier. To this day – indeed as I type – I tear up when I think of my grandparents. I was fortunate enough to have three very wonderful grandparents while I few up and into my twenties, people I could talk to about pretty much anything, secure in their love. I do very much wonder that if my farmor had not taken ill about the time my decline had started and my mormor had still been in good health if I would have avoided my own illness. We will never know.

In the event the loss of my remaining grandparents did not make my recovery any easier. My employer was aiming for me to try to return to work at the start of November, but this got delayed for a week because of the double-funeral we now had to hold. Funerals are tricky things, and I remember feeling drained at the end of it.

The return to work quickly proved to be a disaster. At first I was only working part-days, but it did not matter. By the end of the second day my thoughts once again were turning towards self-harm. After the end of the second week my supervisor called a halt to it, after she realised what was going on. I did not always get along with my supervisor – sometimes our personalities clashed. However when it mattered most she helped look out for me when I was basically unable to do so myself.

So there I was, still awaiting an appointment to start some sort of therapy – I was not exactly sure what it would be – having just failed to return to work. My grandparents were all dead. I had no idea what the future held, on those rare occasions when I could think further ahead than a few days. Into this mix I get a letter saying I would not be seeing anyone until February, over three months away.

To say this had a negative impact on me would be an understatement, and I seriously wonder how many lives are lost, or impaired beyond recovery, by the bureaucracy of mental health. I rang up the person who carried out my original assessment in a state of complete panic. In particular I was massively worried out my employment situation. She no doubt heard my utter desperation because she said she would arrange an appointment with an employment specialist in their service. My memory may be playing tricks with me, but as I recall I saw this specialist, whom I shall call M, that very afternoon.

The arrival of M into this story is something of a turning-point, as I shall describe in a future post. M remains involved in my care to this day. I owe him so very much – so much so he was one of two people in the Mental Health Service I sent an email to after Melian was born thanking them for all that they had helped make possible.

At some point around this time though I did something that I had not done for months: I laughed, loudly and with abandon, because at some point in those weeks I watched Blazing Saddles.

What is there to say about this film that has not already been said? It is a spoof, a send-up of racists and racism, and so subversive it using racist language (nigger and so on) to do so. Some of the jokes are very much rooted in the time of the film – satire so often depends on contemporary culture – yet the theme is timeless. It is a barrel of laughs from the start to the finish. It also mocks Westerns, small town-America, politics, the film industry, and so much more. Most of the satire feels like good-natured banter – except when it comes to the racism, where there is I think just a touch of a more scornful edge.

It is not just funny, it is silly. It starts silly and gets sillier and sillier as it goes. Just when one thinks the film cannot possibly get more absurd, Mel Brookes manages to smash through the boundaries of reality once again. It is quite possible this relentless idiocy of genius will put some people off this film, and that is fair enough.

For those that do not know the – very loose – plot of the film is a corrupt politician wishes to make some townsfolk up and leave so he can profit from a railroad going through their town. To do so he hires some bandits who do in the old sheriff. He then arranges to appoint the first black sheriff in the hopes this will do disgust those common folk they will up and move. The rest is, as their say, film history.

It is a film I had watched several times before, and liked. I do not know why I started watching it again – no doubt because I was bored. I enjoyed myself, and after the film had finished I realised something – I had spent minutes just laughing. Laughing loud and clear, at times so utterly creased up with laughter I had started to cough because I was not breathing quite properly. For a few minutes this film managed to transport me to a place where I was not staring out at (what seemed to me) to be a wrecked life with no hope of recovery.

The euphoria did not last – it could not. I was still deep in depression, after all. The memory of the euphoria remained however, and I rewatched the film several times over the next few months. Just as much as M became so vital to my recovery, so did Blazing Saddles. Given half a chance I can now recite large portions of the dialogue (this may not be a good thing for those in my vicinity) and I still smile when I think of my many favourite scenes.

 

Recently I had a chance to watch the TV Film “Ghostboat” that was shown in two parts on ITV3. When I saw the adverts for the first episode my interested was piqued for two reasons – the first was that it is set on a submarine, and secondly that the lead actor is David Jason.

Have you ever read a series of books, in which the last of the sequence just didn’t quite live up to the standards of the earlier novels? Ghostboat was designed to be broadcast in two episodes, and it just feels that the first episode received more attention than the second. I wonder if this had something to do with the fact the first episode has to sell the second episode, whereas the second episode doesn’t have a similar need – just as the first book in a series should make you purchase the next one and so on, but the final book no longer has that imperative. This felt a little like that.

The plot is simple enough. It is 1981, and a British World War 2 submarine suddenly surfaces. It is in pristine condition. The submarine disappeared back in 1943 in the Baltic, and there was only one survivor – Jack Hardy (played by David Jason) who had complete amnesia of the last week or so of the patrol. Now a mission is formulated to take this submarine back into the Baltic, retracing the route of the earlier voyage, to try to work out what happened … and stuff happens on the way. A large part of the story is how Jack, whose mental state is not the most stable, reacts to all the journey and to the changes that take place.

There is a touch of the supernatural to this film, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it horror – more suspense. There is alot of “stuff” that never gets fully explained because the characters do not understand themselves what is going on. I rather like that approach. The film also has a claustrophobic element since, apart from the first portion of the movie, it is almost entirely set in the confines of the submarine in question.

The submarine set is actually quite a beautiful thing if one likes submarines, and very much has the “feel” of a world war 2 submarine. Somewhat prettier perhaps than Das Boot, but that more or less fits within the story. On the other hand, the routines of daily life on a submarine are far from authentic. You do not need to know a great deal about submarines to have to fairly dramatically suspend disbelief. One rather suspects the screenwriter decided it was just not important.

This leads me back to my first point, in that likewise I think it is quite clear more care was taken on the first portion of the story than the second. The first half, or episode, is quite a well put together piece of film with a nice overall pace. In the second half/episode things just start to fray at the edges. The sense of timing is no longer quite there, the lines seem a little looser, and all in all it just does not quite “click”.

David Jason was very good in the role of Jack Hardy, and I think he played the part of someone with considerable mental fragility under strain very well. Indeed, if this story were told slightly differently one could quite easily be tempted to think it was some sort of dream or hallucination on his character’s part.

Apparently it is based on a previous novel, and I wonder if maybe some of those weaknesses relate to the original work. Despite its shortcomings however I enjoyed watching this story. I do wonder what perhaps it might have been with a little more care and attention and/or more money behind it. However, at the end of the day it is what it is – a tv film that does not pretend to be a way to be entertained for a few hours in an evening. In that role is succeeds admirably.

I am not a great film-watcher. In recent years the number of films new to me I see in any one year can usually be counted out on the fingers on both hands with digits left to spare. It’s been a long time since I was last in a cinema – it might very well have been Avatar.

However, when channel-surfing I realised that the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was showing on Film Four some weeks back. It had already started. Thankfully Film Four has a secondary channel at a one hour delay, so I set that to record on the Sky Box, and tonight I watched it.

I actually own the book, and have even read the first few pages. Also, I have picked up some of the plot from reading various random articles here and there. Mostly however my knowledge of this comes from Jessica at The Velvet Cafe, mostly in her discussion of remakes and her review of the Hollywood version that came out last year. At some point in all those discussions I acquired a desire to see the Swedish version before the remake. Perhaps it is my growing love for things Scandinavian, or (possibly more likely) it is me just being generally contrarian.

Mission success: I have watched “Män som hater kvinnor” in the original language, with English subtitles. The subtitles were adequate enough to allow one to follow what was going on, though I was amused to note my (fairly poor) knowledge of Danish was just good enough to realise some of what they missed out.

If I were to describe the film in one word that word would be “understated”. If I were given two words they would be “powerfully understated”. One of the things I dislike about the stereotypical Hollywood film (though Hollywood is not alone from doing this) is how they can hit you over the head with something so often it loses meaning. This film does not do that. Everything seems dialled down – and it is far more powerful as a result.

My favourite scene: when Lisbeth is about to send an email to Blomkvist, and the little flash across her face the moment she does, that instant moment of regret and knowledge that what she has done is irreversible. Just a little scene, probably not even a minute in length, yet I think it says so much about the character of Lisbeth. No words, just the touch of a mousepad, and a small twitch to a face – can, when done well, be exceptionally potent.

I think Michael Nyqvist did a very solid role in Blomkvist. I bought into to his growing obsession into the investigation that forms the heart of the film – I get the impression Blomkvist who gets obsessed with each and every case he covers. He is also curiously innocent for a man whose professional life is that of a muckraker. The film, in part, seems to be a journey for him in which he loses that innocence. Whether or not he is a better man for the knowledge he gains in return I think is a very much open question.

Noomi Rapace was just superb as Lisbeth. I think she portrayed this damaged person very well – by just being, rather than making a whole song and dance of it. Not my favourite scene, but one I think of the most powerful, is that image of her sitting on the sofa in the house of her probation officer, smoking a cigarette. Also there is a scene when Blomkvist asks her a question, and she suddenly gets up and leaves. That rings true for me – sometimes with my own mental issues I just suddenly need to leave the room. This film of course is also a journey for Lisbeth, where perhaps she in a way also looses her own innocence, though that is perhaps the wrong word. I do think the Lisbeth at the end of this film is a good deal more vulnerable than the one half-way through.

I have no desire to delve too deeply into the overall plot of the storyline, save to say that I enjoyed it. To be sure, like many mystery stories there is an element of contrivance to the whole affair – which it does not always disguise. Having not read the book, I do not know if this is as a result of the film or the material the film is drawn from. However, this is mostly a minor quibble that, while watching, I was easily able to ignore.

The overall look and feel of the film, including the photography, was – to repeat myself – understated. It felt Scandinavian too – in a way I am entirely sure I cannot define, only that I recognise it in some Danish television I have now watched.

In the event, I thoroughly recommend the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to all and sundry. I cannot claim it will be “better” than the Hollywood version – one man’s meat is another’s poison and so on – but I am sure it is a more authentic rendering.

5/5

Jessica at The Velvet Cafe has a rather good post about guilty-pleasures. Those things one likes of which “society” disapproves, for reasons of taste. The context of her post are films, in particular films she likes that “critics” do not, and those films that receive fulsome critical praise that she that (perhaps) make her think watching paint dry is a more valuable activity. Of course, these things are not restricted to just films, but to hobbies, books, clothes – even to the friends we make and the food we eat. Jessica, in her wonderful prose, says essentially to hell with all that and that these pleasures are all guilt-free, and to stop apologising for not liking the accepted “greats”.

All of which I very much agree with, because this is pretty much the attitude I have had my entire life. Not through conscious choice however, or any sense of it being somehow a “better” way of looking at the world, but through obliviousness.

One of the classic features of Asperger’s Syndrome is the inability or reduced ability to perceive social cues, especially nonverbal ones. This can be one of several reasons why someone with Asperger’s has a tendency to be something of a loner. Being a loner, of course, means less exposure to all those social cues, so even less opportunity to experience how the rest of the world operates.

This can manifest in a number of ways, and in my case one of the ways it shows was and is a certain bloody-mindedness about not caring about what the rest of the world thinks. My favourite colour, for as long as I can remember, is pink. I think this was a source of trial for my father on more than one occasion. For years, until hard use had reduced it more to a collection threads that a serviceable garment, I wore a full-length cloak (for most of my twenties). To be sure, I got a fair few insults hurled at me, such as Batman, Superman, Frodo, Harry Potter. Of course, they failed to understand I was hardly going to be insulted by people telling me I was a hero or superhero 🙂 .

Likewise I remember getting into a very energetic discussion with my English Literature teacher when I was 17 about whether Tolkien should or should not be considered a great author. I wish I knew more now than I did then, because if I did I would have reminded him that Charles Dickens was nothing more than a writer of the most populist fiction of his day 🙂 I still maintain that Guy Gavriel Kay, Lois McMaster Bujold, C J Cherryh, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Tolkien are all as good, if not better, than many modern authors who are awarded the “literary” fiction prizes – and I basically don’t care what others think about this view.

This stubbornness persists in me to this day, though I can mask it sometimes when necessary (sometimes I can’t however). In my casual dress I basically have no fashion sense. If my clothes do their job of keeping me comfortable and pleasing my aesthetic sense, I basically do not care if others disagree. If there is a pop tune I like, I am happy to admit it even if others cringe. When I was at uni I purposefully ensured a Britney Spears album was followed by a Metallica album. I am utterly unashamed to being enthralled by “Avatar”, regardless of the opprobrium placed upon it by those who disliked the plot or the setting or the eucatastrophic ending (I have been waiting so long to be able to use that word).

The same of course is true about gaming. The last time someone made a querying remark about “growing up” and it being time to stop playing computer games, I reminded them they had that lunch-hour spent a good twenty minutes talking about a soap opera. To be fair to that particular person, she acknowledged the point.

There is a downside to all of this, in that it is possible to get into quite meaningless arguments because I sometimes find it difficult just to walk away, and sometimes I make a point of advertising my differences from the common norm. However, on balance, I think this is one area where my Asperger’s is more of a blessing than a curse.