Friday, May 29, 2009

The Plaintive Children Assumption

The erudite Anthony Lane deconstructs yet another phenomenon in his recent review of Star Trek:
Here, in other words, is a long-range backstory—a device that, in the Hollywood of recent times, has grown from an option to a fetish. I lost patience with “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” once we learned of Willy Wonka’s primal trauma (his father was a dentist, and forbade him candies, so guess how he reversed that deprivation?), and, likewise, with “Batman Begins,” from the moment that mini-Bruce tumbled into a well full of bats. What’s wrong with “Batman Is”? In all narratives, there is a beauty to the merely given, as the narrator does us the honor of trusting that we will take it for granted. Conversely, there is something offensive in the implication that we might resent that pact, and, like plaintive children, demand to have everything explained.
Many recent movies (i.e., Slumdog Millionaire) do seem to have a deterministic developmental psychological bent to them. Basically if there is any scene with the main characters as children in it, I would be willing to bet that those experiences will have an outlandishly large role in forming the character's personality as an adult. This is especially odd considering recent research like The Nurture Assumption, which suggests that the causal power of childhood experiences on adult personality is generally overrated. But perhaps Hollywood has not caught on, or Hollywood does not think that the majority of the populace has caught on. Regardless, I'm not yet snobbish enough to say that this actually offends me, but it is somewhat annoyingly predictable.