Saturday, May 31, 2014

Flanderization

Flanderization:
The act of taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character. Most always, the trait/action becomes completely outlandish and it becomes their defining characteristic. Sitcoms and Sitcom characters are particularly susceptible to this, as are peripheral characters in shows with long runs.
I think it would be better to call this 'Homerization.'

Watch the first season Homer sometime. First season Homer is so much better a character. I think the same goes for at least many of the other characters as well, but I've long dwelt upon the phenomenon in Homer's case.

First season Homer is kind of a real person. He's complex. He's sympathetic. He tugs at your heartstrings because his flaws are part of a kind-of-real person who tries but can only overcome his disastrously flawed nature, when at all, due to heroic efforts and dumb luck. Or something.

Even the voice acting is better, more complex...richer or something.

Later Homer is...well...a cartoon. One or a few key characteristics distilled into a clear, simple, basically on-dimensional character.

Early Homer is just a lot better.

I think the same thing happened with most of the Buffy characters.

And I've wondered whether this is related to two other seemingly similar phenomena:

1. I'll put this as a question: of an arbitrarily-selected band, which of the following are you more likely to hear/think:
(a) Their older stuff is better
(b) Their newer stuff is better
?

2. Although I think I'm a better teacher than I used to be, I think my classes used to be better in certain hard-to-characterize ways. Something roughly like: when I understood the material less well and/or hadn't refined my methods of presenting it yet, what I was doing was more like feeling my way through the material along with my students. Or something. Now maybe I'm just giving them this highly-refined, highly-digested take on the material.

Maybe there's something here worth thinking about.

3 Comments:

Blogger The Mystic said...

I've typically chalked this up to a lack of developmental energy on behalf of the artist(s) involved combined with the ease of traveling a rut.

It's hard to write something interesting and original, so concepts which begin as such will likely fade as the energy of the artist(s) fades. In the fading process, the artist(s) will naturally settle into that groove of material which has been most successful in drawing support. Cracking religious jokes about Flanders or stupid-guy jokes about Homer, for instance, are easy things to do with an audience which happily eats it up.

If artists lose energy and they don't settle into the path of least resistance in gaining support, the work will die off from lack of support. So, we shouldn't be surprised to see continually-produced-and-related art, such as musical albums or episodes in a TV series, either continually evolve, grow stale, or disappear.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I don't think it's a lack of energy--or anyway, I'm skeptical.

As I've said, I seem to detect something similar in my teaching...and it's not for lack of effort.

Rather, it just seems like the earlier, more organic, less-refined versions had something good that the later stuff lacks...even if the later stuff is better in some ways...

My $0.02...

12:53 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Well, one counter-point:

As you develop your material, the amount of developmental energy necessary to push it even further increases, so you may be putting in the same amount of effort you always had, but that bar is getting higher and harder to hurdle.

With all your refinement (which you just ooze, of course), you may be required to operate at a level much higher than that which was previously required in order to put forth an excellent lecture.

It may be the case that not only is the effort required of you higher as your material's refinement increases, but poor execution is more costly with more highly refined material, as well.

The same thing goes for music; a lot of bands hit on some really excellent thematic elements both musically and lyrically, and the requirement placed upon their later works is to advance beyond those elements. Moving forward with and beyond already-good ideas is much harder than initially putting forth good ideas.

One additional point:

The use of the word "organic" to describe these matters kinda annoys me, I must admit. I'm not sure what it means in these cases, but it seems to be some sort of stand-in word for "not (yet) well thought-out."

Can you provide a better definition?

5:14 PM  

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