Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why do you like the movies you like?

And now, time for a digression. A discussion of one of those pesky, perennial questions: why do you like what you like? Why does one movie appeal to you, and another does not? Is it a certain type of plot or themes or characters? Is it a certain emotion you like evoked? Do you know what drives your cinematic likes and dislikes?

A year ago, I would have had a convoluted and ultimately ambiguous answer. I would have said something along the lines of "I like action movies because they're exciting, they thrill me, I love to escape and they let me do so. I like the values of the heroes in action/adventure movies. I like sci fi/fantasy because I grew up with it and my dad's an astronomer." All of which is true... but tells you nothing. It beats around the bush. I've never had a satisfactory answer to why I like what I like. I just knew I liked it. No matter how hard I thought about it, I'd end up going into detail on what themes pushed my buttons, etc. But I never could get to the common denominator.

Well, I finally figured it out, and the answer is so simple it's almost scary.

The answer came after analyzing a couple things with a friend. We were talking about the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she had mentioned she didn't particularly like the title character of Buffy herself. I got hung up on that... how could you love a show as much as we both did and not love the title character? It puzzled me immensely, because, obviously, I saw things differently. We looked at a few other examples, and a pattern started becoming clear to me on my personal likes/dislikes.

Add to that, I did a 30-day book meme recently, and one of the questions was about characters you relate to. Once again, I got hung up on the fact that I absolutely adore Alistair MacLean as an author, his books are my top favorites -- and yet I don't actually relate to his characters. How was that possible? I asked myself. Why did I love those books so much? The same answer applied.

Which is?

I love a book/movie/tv show/story when I want to be the main character(s).

It's that simple.

Once I understood this, I realized it applies to just about all my likes/dislikes for me. It's like this beautiful, magical equation. There are other variables that do come into play, of course -- plot and theme are very important too -- but I can like some really dumb movies, and I will forgive the dumbness because I still want to be the main character in them. And as you can probably guess from the types of movies I love, the characters I want to be are the action heroes. (It should be no surprise that in real life I nearly went into the Navy, and I nearly became a LAPD officer.) Of course, what appeals to me in the main characters will be quite different from what other people want in their main characters. And the more characters in a story I want to be, the higher up my personal favorite list that film goes. Their gender is irrelevant. It's all about their personality, their strengths/weaknesses, their resourcefulness and intelligence, their honor and integrity.

This little revelation also explains all the books I love. I may not relate to Alistair MacLean's characters, but I sure want to be them. And my favorite book of all times, The Secret Ways, I want to be at least five of the main characters. No wonder it's my favorite book.

Television shows, movies... my goodness, it explains everything. I recently wrote about how King Solomon's Mines didn't do it for me. Everything I wrote in that review was true, but ultimately, above and beyond all that, it comes down to the fact that I really don't want to be any of those characters. I don't like most comedies... sure enough, I hardly ever want to be one of the characters in a comedy film. Westerns are my favorite movie genre... well, no duh! It's rare that I don't want to be the main character(s) in a Western!

Every day, I find myself looking at various things with this revelation in mind, and it just continues to astonish me how much it explains. And I wonder why it took me this long to figure it out!

So what about you? Do you know what draws you to your favorites?


Patti said...

Well, I read this post, and since I'm not entirely sure of my answer, I thought about clicking away without leaving a comment. In the end, though, I cannot do that, because I look at blogging as sharing your heart/thoughts with someone. Through reading your post, I have listened to you share, and to just click away and not respond to you is, quite simply, poor manners. If someone shares something with me, I owe them the courtesy of a response.

However, in this case, I don't necessarily know what draws me to certain movies and certain characters. Integrity, yes (Will Kane, Michael Logan, Thomas Thorn), but I am also drawn to movies and characters where the main character isn't someone I want to be. (Sunset Boulevard, A Place in the Sun, for example).

Bottom line, I don't know why certain movies and characters strike a chord with me. Especially when the main characters are lawbreaking or nasty people. A therapist might have some very unwelcome news for me if I ever consulted one.

You lived in LA at one time? Maybe still do? How exciting that is. I have only been to California one time in my life, and that was to the Redwoods, so I wasn't deep into California. I am definitely a big city person, so LA would be an exciting place to live.

Have a great evening,

DKoren said...

It's taken me this many years to figure out my own deal with what makes a favorite movie (what constitutes a favorite character is something different yet again, and someday I'll have to blog about that too), so I totally understand not knowing why things appeal. It's a tricky, subjective question! If you'd asked me last month, there's no way I could have told you anything interesting, myself! This is a brand new revelation.

I was talking to my sister about it, and she is completely different. She said she's never wanted to be a movie character, ever, it just wouldn't occur to her, so we're very different in what draws us to our favorite movies -- even though we share many of the same favorite movies! She's contemplating what the draw is.

Yep, I live in Southern California, but in the foothills with open space behind me. I'm much more of a mountain person than a city person, and I avoid LA proper unless I have to go that direction for some reason. I need empty land near me, or I get ancy. But it's definitely exciting and there's no shortage of stuff to see and do! I'll bet there's a lot down here that you would love! Including the weather! LOL! Although, it's in the 30's outside right now, so we definitely can get cold too!

DKoren said...

You know, a good example of favorite movie vs. favorite character would be Ben-Hur. I love that movie. I want to be Ben-Hur, because he's the hero, but my favorite character has always been Messala. I adore Messala, though I definitely don't want to be him. It's a totally different thing, what makes a favorite character vs. what pushes a movie onto my favorite list. Weird, no?

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