RARA-AVIS: Re: noirs

From: George C. Upper III ( gcupper3@yahoo.com)
Date: 22 Mar 2006

I have trouble thinking of Christianity as noir, but that's partly a result of my definitions of Christianity and noir. (Disclaimer: I work as the Principal of a private Christian high school, so I have a very specific definition of Christianity.)

Noir, to me, seems to fit the pattern of "protagonist wins, is screwed anyway." (I know we've gone over possible definitions of noir and hard-boiled over and over again on this list, and I'm not attempting to re-open this line of inquiry.) This is not a definition, exactly, but a framework. If a plot fits this framework, it is--as far as I'm concerned--noir. Maltese Falcon fits--Spade solves the crime (wins), has to give up the girl (is screwed). Many of the Travis McGee novels, taken independently, fit this pattern pretty well, although I'd argue that the series taken as a whole presents a more optimistic view of life.

Christianity, on the other hand, fits the opposite pattern: "protagonist is screwed, wins anyway." I call this the "Good Morning, Vietnam" pattern, and for some reason, I hate it in fiction--and particularly in film--despite the fact that I think it fits my personal beliefs pretty well. The name derives from the film, of course, in which Robin Williams loses his personal battle, but wins anyway because he has refused to compromise--or some such thing.

So, anyway, I think of Christianity as sort of anti-noir, but, again, that statement hinges solely (or dually?) on my definitions of those two words.

I'm in the process of selling my house and moving, so I'll probably slip back into lurker mode. But I read the digest daily, and I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this subject--particularly on a name for what I consider the ill-named "Good Morning, Vietnam" pattern.


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