Why I Watch Movies and TV

Image result for images of cat watching tv

Some of you are down on movies and television for celebrating immoral and even wicked actions and letting the characters in the story get away with it. Those are not unfounded criticisms.

As a fantasy novelist, I must plead guilty to writing in such a way that the story turns out as I want it to. King Ryons gets to Obann in time to save the city. Lord Orth passes through a phase of madness and idiocy to emerge as a true man of God. These things happen because I wrote them that way. It can’t be helped.

I watch a lot of old TV and movies. One reason is for relaxation. After a day of writing, I need to veg out. I don’t think any of you will accuse me of allowing these films to shape my moral outlook.

But there is another reason.

Writing a novel isn’t as easy as it looks. The only thing easy about it is that it’s very easy to mess it up. And as I write, I have two overriding concerns: character and story. Both have to be right, or the novel will be wrong.

So I watch for the same reason I never go to bed without a book to read until I fall asleep. I want to learn how to create and manage believable characters that my readers will respond to, and how to tell a story coherently, convincingly, and compellingly. I can’t learn that unless I immerse myself in other people’s stories. And because the story-telling art is so difficult, I have to keep learning all the time.

As hard as I try to avoid it, some of the stories I watch turn out to be dreck. From these I learn what not to do! From the others, the ones that are not pigs’ breakfasts, I pick up innumerable hints that I can apply to my own stories. From C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, Walter R. Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Upfield, and many others, I learn the techniques I need to make my novels stand the test of readership.

And daily Bible reading is indispensable as a guide to what I ought to put into my stories and what I ought to leave out. As a writer, I can do nothing without God’s blessing and guidance.

A steady diet of B.S. fiction, consumed uncritically, unthinkingly, for no other purpose than “because it’s there,” has a really good shot at rotting the consumer’s mind.

If you want to be a musician, you have to listen to other people’s music. The same hold true for story-tellers.

20 comments on “Why I Watch Movies and TV

  1. Lee, I understand totally what you are saying. I guess, for some of the same reasons, I watch portions of teachings by various TV evangelists and teachers. I usually can’t stand to stick with them for long, but I admit they do serve their purpose.

  2. As staunch as I am regarding the shortcomings of TV, my main criticism is with the reactions of SOME viewers.

    When I was a child, I would see some cowboy movie on TV and get very exited about the action. My ability to suspend disbelief was nearly boundless. Somewhere in my early childhood, the TV quit working and my parents didn’t replace it, probably for economic reasons, although they were concerned about violence as well, way back in the late fifties/early sixties. When we did get another TV I watched almost nonstop, becoming hopelessly hooked on it. I used to take it quite seriously.

    In the early days of my adulthood, my TV broke, which meant that it matched my bank account, I couldn’t afford to repair it. After being away from it, for a while, I found myself with a new ability, the ability to take note of the fact that every second of TV is edited and we see only what we are meant to see. This has definitely eroded my ability to enjoy anything I see on TV (and to some extent movies) but it has also taught me that TV is unreal at all times. It is an illusion seen through the lens of a camera and edited to serve the purposes of the producers.

    None of this is to say that I think it wrong to watch TV. I don’t think it is wrong, but I think that there is a real danger for many people because they see to be taken in by the programming and accept what they see without question. I think that the danger is greater for people younger and less experienced in life.

    The illustration regarding music and musicians is a good one. I’m a fairly mellow player, the wildest I get is early ’60s Rock n’ Roll. That having been said, there are many CDs in my collection which I have listened to as reference material and in some cases, these are albums I don’t particularly like. I don’t worship Jimi Hendrix the way many guitarists are prone to, but I do have some Hendrix CDs, because there were things I could learn from. The list goes on with numerous artists. Some of the well known artists of the late ’60s and early ’70s are truly disgusting people but I may well listen to their music as a learning tool.

    1. Remember Heckle and Jeckle, the Talking Magpies? In one of their cartoons, they started doing all these crazy things–walking on the ceiling, for instance–because, they boasted, “We’re cartoon characters, so we can do anything!”

      I never, never forgot the lesson embedded in that cartoon! And I was just a little kid when I saw it.

    2. I guess my point is that the lesson of Heckle and Jeckle applies to everything on TV. SitComs, Reality Shows, News, Weather, commercials, all of these are no more bound by reality than a pair of cartoon birds. Every single thing you see on TV is an illusion.

    3. And how about Roy Buchanan and Eric Clapton – as guitarists of course 🙂

    4. Both pretty good. Buchanan was a real innovator. It’s a shame we lost him so soon. Clapton took British Blues up a notch or two in his years and has given us some excellent music.

      For my tastes, it’s Chet Atkins and Wes Montgomery. Both excellent players and in both cases, a major source of inspiration, both musically and as positive role models. Both were devoted to their families and worked hard as providers.

      Most everyone in out age group has heard Chet play but Wes Montgomery died in ’68, so many in our generation lost out on untold musical riches.

    5. I guess I’m just old enough to remember Wes Montgomery’s music 🙂

      The junk being touted as music today is abominable. It’s not music by any stretch of the imagination. Noisy and abrasive and extremely annoying.

    6. Thanks, Unknowable! Perfect timing, too. I’ll listen while I mop my floors 🙂

    7. I can’t explain why I like certain music and artists above others. For example, Hendrix many times seemed too ‘loud’ for me (although he did some things I liked), and yet I liked Clapton – although some of his ‘loud’ stuff was too much for me too. I liked Buchanan pretty much no matter what he did 🙂 And the talent can’t be denied regarding any of them.

    8. With Hendrix, loud was the point. When I play Surf music (instrumental Rock from the early ’60s) it tends to be loud, but not overwhelming and certainly not heavily distorted. I won’t play loud enough to harm my hearing, and I’m closer to the amp than anyone else, so my audience should be fine, as well.

      Buchanan was a bit of a phenomena as a player. He was relatively unknown in spite of prodigious ability. Strangely, there was another guitarist by the name of Danny Gatton that was quite similar to Buchanan, but six years younger. There were many parallels between them and both died at the age of 49.

      I wanted to be a professional guitarist and was working in that direction at one time. I quit for a number of reasons, including meddling by some do-gooders at church, but in retrospect, I’m probably better off not having gone down that career path. Many truly gifted musicians have sad life stories, many die far too young. It should be a blessing, but the economic pressures of this fallen world make it quite hard to survive in the business.

      Most of the truly successful guitarists shared one thing in common, a wife with a steady job. I once chanced to chat with a famous, Grammy Award-winning guitarist. I’m not going to drop any names here, but he was world famous and at the height of his career. He told me about living in the Hollywood Hills and his Jaguar sedan, but he also told me that his wife had been able to quite her job only recently. Fame does not actually equate to fortune.

    9. I think what I mean when I say ‘loud’ is more like nerve-wracking. Some music, like acid/hard rock, makes no sense to me. Melody, not noise, is music to me.

      It’s so true. Many in the music industry left us much too soon. That life, many times, is drug and alcohol infused. And, of course, there are those who died in plane crashes traveling to gigs – like Buddy Holly and Jim Croce. Either way, it isn’t a very stable life.

    10. If you turn a guitar amp up past a certain point it will distort. Sometimes it’s a soft, somewhat pleasant sound, but it can be harsh. Jimi Hendrix cultivated that sound and used devices to produce greater distortion and the distortion tended to sound harsh to my ear.

      For decades ever since, guitarists have more words to describe distortion than Inuit have for describing various kinds of snow. There are all sorts of gadgets designed to achieve various sounds, some of which are more like a chainsaw than musical. I see it as a sad commentary on the state of our civilization. I like for music to be at least pleasant, if not truly beautiful. There are young people today whom have had little, if any, exposure to quality music.

    11. Beautiful is gender-normative and could cause a snowflake to melt. It implies that your truth is more valid than my truth and implies that you have an opinion, which is not tolerated in our age of complete toleration. 🙂

    12. Unfortunately, the young people today have cut their teeth on rap and hip hop, neither of which I consider music. Give me Perry Como, B. B. King,, Ferranti and Teicher, Ray Conniff, to name just a few, and a couple of those we’ve discussed 🙂

    13. Most modern music is formulaic and devoid of art. There are exceptions, but they tend to be rare. Remember Herb Alpert? He gave us some wonderful music. Perry Como was an amazing singer and seemed like a nice guy, to boot. B.B. King was amazing and truly a class act. He came from utter poverty and despair, yet he grew into a very gracious man. There are a lot of truly wonderful musicians from the ’50s and ’60s, but it sure has tapered off since then.

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