29 March 2008

Michael Gruber on Life and Fiction

Recently completed Michael Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows. Through his characters, he makes these provocative points about life and fiction.

"And so, thus adrift, I naturally produce nothing but more fiction. I am a lawyer and what is a lawyer but someone hired to produce a work of fiction, which, in court, will be compared with opposing counsel's work of fiction by a judge or jury, and they will decide which fiction most closely resembles the fictional picture of the world in their respective brains and decide for one or another side and thus is justice done."
Later, in a conversation between this same lawyer (Mishkin) and an aspiring film maker (Crosetti), they are speaking about,

Whether movies really determined our sense of how to behave, and more than that, our sense of what was real.

"Surely not," Mishkin objected. "Surely it's the other way around - filmmakers take popular ideas and embody them in their films"

"No, the movies come first. For example, no one ever had a fast-draw face-to-face shoot-out on the dusty Main Street in a western town. It never happened, ever. A screenwriter invented it for dramatic effect. It's the classic American trope, redemption through violence, and it comes through the movies. There were very few handguns in the real old west. They were expensive and heavy and no one but an idiot would wear them in a side holster. On a horse? When you wanted to kill someone in the Old West, you waited for your chance and shot him in the back, usually with a shotgun. Now we have a zillion handguns because the movies taught us that a handgun is something a real man has to have, and people really kill each other like fictional western gunslingers. And it's not just thugs. Movies shape everyone's reality, to the extent that it's shaped by human action - foreign policy, business, sexual relationships, family dynamics, the whole nine yards. It used to be the Bible but now it's movies. Why is there stalking? Because we know that the guy should persist and make a fool of himself until the girl admits that she loves him. We've all seen it. Why is there date rape? Because the asshole is waiting for the moment when resistance turns to passion. He's seen Nicole and Reese do it fifty times. We make these little decisions, day by day, and we end up with a world. This one, like it or not."

"So screenwriters are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind."

"You got it," said Crosetti.


cce said...

Oh gasp...if this is true we're all in big trouble says she who has watched No Country for Old Men and The Superhero Movie in one weekend.

Ron Davison said...

have you NOT been paying attention? We are in big trouble.