In one of the chapters of Himalaya, Michael Palin writes about this Bhutanese concert he's attended. And there's a throwaway line where he mentions that the final piece is "anti-climactic", because it's this slow flute solo that follows a tempesteous group number.

And it struck me, that that's the perfect example of how we look at or expect our entertainment to be (or not, in this case).

All concerts must end with a bang. All jokes must have that punchy one-liner. All stories must have that all-conclusive tying up of threads. All films must reach soaring new heights. We litter our lives with such words - Showstopper. Crescendo.

And when anything goes against the grain, we instinctively react with a sense of discomfort and alienation. It's such an ingrained process this - that everything must build/converge to a singularity of maximum impact - that the concept of serene goings-on after the big explosion feels....wrong.

And what struck me particularly, was that's it's just like sex.

Build up, build up, buiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild up....bang. See?

Oh sure, a song may have a quiet note or two after the screech, and a book may have a small epilogue. And that's just like sex too, the gradual climbdown after the big event (that is, if you have one).

But a slow piece following a rock anthem? A film where the crux happens in the first half, and the rest is spent meandering? A crime thriller where the motive/identity is revealed with six chapters to spare, and the rest going on about food? Happens, but very rarely. And when it does, the large proportion of those who partake of it, don't like it. For instance, remember how many people cribbed about the ending of LoTR 3 - despite the fact that it was based on the book, and they even cut out the Battle of the Shire - just because it followed the blowing up of Sauron?

And I wonder whether all these other modes of entertainment happen to imitate sex (because that was the original template), or whether it's just coincidental that they do? Did we subconsciously mould our....expressions to resemble that which first gave them joy, or is it just that this behaviour indicates that this is how humans prefer to enjoy anything? I'll even throw in a feminist angle, about how it could be argued that this 'standard' template of songs/books/stories/films resembles sex because for large parts of human history, they were created and propagated by men.

Fanciful theory, but interesting, na?


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

It's a theory. Any way to test it?

I read your last 4 posts (or 5, if we include the one-liner) and liked muchly. Were you always this good?


RukmaniRam said...

i buy the theory... but not the feminist angle.

Came here from Pri's blog. will come again.

km said...

Great post.

I have a really long response to this but prefer to blog it.

//And Palin is God.

Shyam said...

@ JAP - He's pretty much always this good :)

??! - if a joke didnt have a point, it wouldnt be a joke.

But a movie without a climax, or a book that doesnt have all the threads tied at the end (deliberately, that is - not unintentionally), that's okay... although to be honest, it takes me a little time to get used to the deviation from the norm :)

??! said...

You commented! Yay. But you're not blogging. Bleh.

Also, just the last four posts? Sigh. You have missed out on genius, sir, genius I tell you. And one was always like this.

Well, if someone would care to do a study of a large sample of books and films and categorise them and then run regressions, yes. Falsie, do the honours?

Welcome, and please do.

It was far-fetched, but worth a punt.

Oh goody goody, long post from you. One waits.

Why thankee.

Also, the point is that we feel jokes need to have a point. Have we even tried to see if there's an alternative? Mind you, I'm not saying there is.