RARA-AVIS: Re: willie or not

From: jimdohertyjr ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 10 Dec 2006


> I'm speaking, for the most part, about so-called
> escapist entertainment. The world of escapism has
> become much larger for producers in the last thirty
> years than it was in the previous thirty. When Doyle
> and Christie and Edgar Wallace were writing, they
> expected to be writing for an English public who were
> familiar with English conventions. They did not expect
> their little works to become world popular. Likewise,
> Poe, who invented all these genres and a few others,
> was writing for a 19th Century American audience. Few
> writers of popular fiction take the chance of
> un-identifying a character by setting them up as
> something with which any reader might refuse to
> identify. It's just good business.

But the evidence just doesn't support that assertion. Christie and Wallace were not just writing for an ENGLISH public, but for a British one, and Britain, at that point, included a wide-ranging empire.

C of E may have been the Big Dog in England, but Presbyterians ruled the roost in Scotland and Ulster and Catholics in the rest of Ireland. By your logic, it would have been the kiss of death for Christie to make Miss Marple so obviously an Anglican in her debut and, consequently, risk offending Presbyterians in Scotland or Catholics in Ireland, to say nothing of non-Anglicans in Australia, Canada, India, and the rest of the Commonwealth. And that's to say nothing of the clear, though understated, Catholicism, not to mention the upfront FOREIGN-ness, of her most popular character Hercule Poirot.

Yet she did.

> Chesterton was
> successful because he was always on the Catholic Book
> List as "acceptable" reading entertainment. Millions
> of Catholics in the US & Britain followed that list.
> Millions more people, however, did not follow it and
> some Catholics were especially attracted to books on
> the "other" list, book that were forbidden for
> Catholics to read. Robert Travers' Anatomy of a Murder
> proved this to publishers. A of a M was banned by the
> Church in 1957 and became the biggest best seller of
> the year. "We" may be discerning reader, able to
> analyze and examine the bigger picture behind stories
> designed for entertainment. But the people who make
> these books and films the huge successes they become
> tend not to think beyond their own sloping roofs. If
> you want to sell millions of copies, it's better to
> let the reader fill in the more controversial aspects
> of a protagonist's life.

You misstate the case here. There was a "recommended" list and a "forbidden" list, but it didn't follow that anything not on the "recommended" list was automatically on the "forbidden" list.

I don't recall hearing that ANATOMY OF A MURDER was on the forbidden list (though the film may have gotten a "C" rating from the Legion of Decency), but even if it was, it didn't get on that list just by failing to make the recommended list.

And the point you still haven't addressed is how much "popular entertainment" had characters, both sympathetic and unsympathetic, who subscribed to specific religious doctrines, or specific political opinions, or were members of specific ethnic groups, going back decades, any of which might have caused a reader or viewer to "refuse identification." This directly contradicts your assertions that such opinions and backgrounds on the part of fictional characters are a fairly recent phenomenon.


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