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Saturday, March 8, 2014

March 8-9, 2014: Crowd-Sourced Non-Favorites

[Much of the time when I’ve highlighted something specific in this space, it’s been because I want to emphasize something positive about it, something I enjoy or appreciate. Well, the heck with that! For this week’s series, I’ve focused instead on stuff about which I’m not as keen, and tried to AmericanStudy some of the reasons why. This crowd-sourced airing of grievances is drawn from the responses of fellow AmericanStudiers—add your complaints and critiques in comments, please!]

On Facebook, a number of colleagues followed up Monday’s Scorcese post. Donna Moody writes that “Scorcese is brilliant, but his films are often dark and depressing.” Nancy Caronia adds, “I could write a book on this issue. I actually think he wants us to root for the light, but he likes rumbling around so much in the dark, he often forgets. Goodfellas was a truly cautionary tale, but then everyone was roped in by that one shot to the Copacabana first date and forgot that people are killed and others are duplicitous and we got Casino, even more macabre and unrelenting—but that was a much lesser film.” And Rob LeBlanc argues, “I don't think we're meant to root for the dark in a lot of Scorsese's films. My favorites are After Hours, Mean Streets. I agree with Nancy about GoodFellas having a moral message as a cautionary tale about lusting for power. In that movie, many of the characters are portrayed as villains who seduced their friends into further and further immorality/crime/violence/womanizing, but I think that's how the protagonist experienced the mafia, as a seduction.”
On Twitter, LaSalleUGirl suggests an alternate and very different Scorcese film, Hugo.
A blog commenter adds, “Every time I begin a film unit in my school my students will always ask for films that I've loved. Ultimately one of the students (usually a boy) will point out that I haven't mentioned Goodfellas or Casino, as though that's just a given and we all have to like those films. (Guess they are too young for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.) But I've never enjoyed his films. I just can't get into his narration or subject matter. Same goes for Coppola who I can honestly live without. Maybe it's because I'm a woman, maybe it's because I'm a geek but I just can't take that ‘tough guy’ movie narrative. Like these mobsters are neo-Robin Hoods and not the drug pushing womanizing unreasonable violent jerks they are.”
Following up Tuesday’s post on Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain, Roland Gibson Jr. cites a 2002 article in The Independent that began, “Kurt Cobain’s diary entries, published in The Age today, reveal a man tortured by drug addiction and illness. But his iconic status grows by the day,” and then writes, “I'm not myself a fan of Kurt. And I'm no music historian, either. However, if I was asked whether Kurt through his work achieved musical/creative ‘iconic status’ in my book, I would also have to say no. That being said, I'm now finding it interesting—and even fun—to have an opportunity in the blog to learn some things about the man behind the music, anyway.”
Following up Wednesday’s post on The Beats, Tim McCaffrey asks, “Given this post, I'm curious how you feel about works like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and, in a different way, the Rabbit novels by Updike. Regarding the Beats, I have always considered their work (I am most familiar with Kerouac) to be a cultural ‘first-step’ (although it was not the first step) away from a culture that celebrated a strict paternal structure.” He later adds, “I enjoy Thompson (especially Fear and Loathing), but I feel like the hero worship that has been accorded to him by people like Johnny Depp is a bit over the top. He was an original mind, no doubt, and a talented if tormented voice of his times. Updike also leaves me cold - in a way that makes me wonder if I just have a hard time connecting with the mindset of that generation of writers. I can't seem to relate to the pressing need to escape, perhaps because I did not experience the weight of social expectation that was likely a heavy burden to those writers. As an aside, Updike's piece on Teddy Ballgame was inspired, although also a bit distant if I recall correctly.”
On Facebook, Rob Velella defends Jack Kerouac, arguing that we have to “Read Visions of Gerard before you pass judgment. I found it brilliant, more sincere, and more rewarding than On the Road.” Nancy Caronia adds, “I've never been a Kerouac fan and I like Howl, but other than that, Ginsberg does not move me. There are, however, other Beat writers that I not only appreciate, but think are brilliant--like Diane DiPrima.” And Jeff Renye highlights “Episode 4 of Series 1 of Star Trek (the original series), where there is a reference to a crewmate borrowing some of the works of Kirk's ‘longhair’ writers.”
In response to my call for other non-favorites:
Anna Mae Duane nominates “Thoreau. Just can NOT with that guy and his beans.”
Stephanie Hershinow worries that “This isn’t the right place for me to confess that I don’t get Joss Whedon…” (but it was exactly the right place!), and adds that “I also dislike Hemingway. (But for different reasons, I think.)”
Rob LeBlanc notes, “One comedian that I've never understood the popularity of is Howard Stern. His show contains offensive moments, and also ones that are boring to me. I'm also not a fan of the writing of Henry James.
Emily Page nominates, “The Great Gatsby. I read it in high school and tried again about 10 years ago, but just never took to it.
Rob Velella goes with, “Emerson. All of him. He's overrated, difficult to understand (even in his letters and journals), and just doesn't seem to be saying much. Margaret Fuller, now, I like her and find her very readable. As a person, Emerson also comes across as a snobby, occasionally misogynistic, elitist who hypocritically never wanted to get his hands dirty. Join Brook Farm, RWE, and put your muscles where your mouth is!
Mike Valeri nominates, “Apple pie. That counts, right? I have the quintessential ‘sweet tooth’ and it just eats at my core that apple pie is touted as ‘the American dessert’ when there are about 10 million sweet treats that frankly just do it better. Plus, I'm not eating anything that could have touched Newton's head...
Kate (Larrivee) Smith asks, “Do sports count? Because I love to hate football.”
Patricia Ringle Vandever nominates Cooper’s The Deerslayer.
Erin Fay notes, “I tried watching the show Girls because everyone said how ‘genius’ it was. The premise sounded appealing to me (a struggling woman writer living in New York and all that), so I forced myself to watch the first two seasons thinking eventually it would get better, but it just didn't. And the worst thing is, it's one of those things that people make you feel like you ‘should’ like and believe that if you don't you're either a prude or a misogynist.
Ian James aims high, nominating Abe Lincoln! He later elaborates, “I dislike Lincoln for a number of reasons. First, suspension of civil rights. If you dislike Bush Jr. and his civil rights suspensions well, Lincoln's actions were equally bad or worse and he did it with significantly less consent. Let's not forget the war crimes of his subordinate Sherman either. Next, he's credited with freeing the slaves which is wholly inaccurate. The Emancipation Proclamation was a political move, not a social move, and he clearly designed it that way since it didn't free any slaves in states loyal to the Union or areas of the Confederacy that had already been captured by the Union. Next, I'm someone who believes in the right to self determination and so I believe secession should be legal so long as it is carried out democratically. He was also easily one of the least popular (and most likely the absolute least popular) president during the time of his presidency.
And I’ll give the last word to someone with whom I have to disagree entirely, but this is a crowd-sourced post: on Twitter, Thaddeus Codger nominates Bruce Springsteen!
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What else gripes your cookies?


  1. Some additional non-favorite suggestions:

    Jeff Renye: "Beasts of the Southern Wild--so much hype, so much disappointment. ... Felt little for the story of Beasts for the Southern Wild, overall--though folkloric auracs bit was mishandled, and not much of a performance for that young actress when nearly all of her lines were delivered as voice over. The boys in Tree of Life outdo exponentially any child acting in Beast."

    Anna Consalvo: "Star Spangled Banner -- it's too hard to sing. How's that for grumpy? If I were Queen of the World, I'd have chosen America, the Beautiful."

    Jaz Barry: "East of Eden. I'm sorry, but I just can't. I remember attempting to read that novel MULTIPLE times. It's just so damn boring. I get through a couple pages and just go, "Nope, not happening."
    And I have to take this opportunity to call out John Philip Sousa. That "marchy" sound...ugh! Grates at me like nails on a chalkboard. I hate it!"

    Marcy Colalillo: "I'd have to go with Thoreau. A man who was actually quite wealthy, yet waxed effusively about living without amenities, all the while buying a shack that belonged to someone else and then paying to have it taken apart and put back together in the place of his choosing. The part that really kills me is going home to dinner at mommy's or the Alcott's. Or ordering take out and having it delivered. I think he embodied the definition of the term "slumming", albeit rural slumming. And then had the gall to tell us we should live in nature among other things."

    Tim McCaffrey: "Mine is General Douglas MacArthur. Him winning the Medal of Honor over General Wainwright when Wainwright actually stayed in the Phillipines and endured the suffering of captivity is ridiculous. Plus I think he was a pompous blowhard."

  2. Charlie Shipway adds, "No more flags, flags and flags. Nothing to die for, nothing to go to war over, and no excuse to do terrible things to your fellow human. Our World without flags would be much less divided, more peaceful and caring. We would be less controllable and less willing to blindly follow because of nationalism. But in this dualistic world, us and them seems normal because it's what we are told over and over again. Flags unite some, to divide the many, for the ugly goals of the few. This is not my idea, it is the belief of a great man who was one of the first people to liberate the concentration camps in WW2, Arthur Roy Railton. He should know better than all of us combined. No Flags!"

    For more on ARR, my paternal grandfather, see:

  3. Erin Fay follows up on her above thoughts on *Girls* with a full blog post on the topic: