Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Modest Rant

You’re at a party, and someone says, “Hey, did you see Top Chef last night? Can you believe that Hosea and Leah actually made out after swearing they were just friends?” Now look around. You know that guy in the group that crinkles his nose like he smelled something foul and says “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t watch TV” in the same tone you'd tell people that you would never serve Hot Pockets to your wedding guests? That guy is a bookist. And I can’t stand him.

Bookist n. 1. One who dogmatically assumes the superiority of the book over other forms of communication or entertainment.

That’s right, you just saw a term being coined. You can say you were there when.

This guy and his ilk are also known to say the following:

“I’m sorry, I only watch PBS and C-SPAN.”
Ed. Note: This one is a dead giveaway. Nobody watches C-SPAN.

“No, I didn’t see that. I rarely go to the movies anymore, too much Hollywood crap.”

“That movie was terrible. The book was so much better.”

That last one is the one that burns me. Bookists use reductive logic, starting with the given that they are smarter than you because they think books are better than movies. Besides, they don’t even count Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution or Sports Illustrated as books! What kind of bullshit is that? They do not accept the very basic idea that filmed entertainment and books have drastically different dramatic requirements. Movies are two hours long, and yes, parts of the book have to be condensed or eliminated. Take out your favorite novel, Fauntleroy, and read for two hours. How far do you get? Not very fucking far. Frankly, many times the story improves when a lot of extraneous crap is excised. Books and movies are separate works that should be judged on their own merits. Either medium can produce genius or trash, so don't act like Moses brought Confessions of a Shopaholic down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets because it's a book. You know who I blame? Educators. Teachers are the ones that taught us that books are good and TV is bad. And they want raises?

So why are bookists wrong?

One reason is that the golden age of English literature was the 19th century. One key characteristic of the 19th century is that there was NO TELEVISION. Books were the popular medium of the day (except for street theater, which sucked just as much then as it does now), so all the happening creative types wrote books. Is it outlandish to suggest that if Charles Dickens lived today, Great Expectations would be an HBO miniseries? Hell no. And that would just leave your average bookist in the fetal position crying for mommy.

The other reason is that the mass media are the only thing left giving us a shred of connection to our fellow man. Anyone of a certain age remembers watching the moon landing. The Kennedy assassination. Hosea and Leah hooking up on Top Chef. It’s a sad thing, folks! Network TV = Community. Nobody stands around the water cooler talking about the Utne Reader.

I don’t think I’m any smarter than these people (as far as you know.) But don’t be a hater. Especially since I know…deep down…in my gut…you sit home on the odd Saturday night with orange Cheeto dust on your fingers, watching some guy in an undershirt get dragged out of his trailer and whaled on. And Cops ain’t on PBS. Yet.

17 metawords:

Dr Zibbs said...

I've met many snobby jerks like these dicks and they're usually the most boring people in the world.

Cora said...

They're charlatans!! And damn annoying charatans too.

Charles Dickens would sooo be working in TV, if not movies, absolutely. He'd be picking out an outfit for the Oscars right now.

That being said though, (blushing in slight shame) I've never seen Top Chef. I'm crap at cooking, so I hate cooking shows because they only rub my nose in it. Although Hell's Kitchen is pretty good! (Why is it we American's can't get enough of angry, rude, screaming British guys?!).

My embarrassing TV addiction is American Idol. Which does in fact include another one of those angry, rude, screaming British guys, of course. I actually start getting butterflies in my stomach from sheer excitement about three weeks before the season starts up. It's really sad! Oh well.

The Diva on a Diet said...

"Nobody stands around the water cooler talking about the Utne Reader."

This line nearly made me do a spit-take. Hilarious!

I'm not to proud to say that I'm addicted to both Top Chef and American Idol. (Project Runway and LA Ink too!)

Anonymous said...

Oh, um, wow. I'm totally a bookist.

BUT! I do watch TV, and I do what I can to not miss my favorite shows (COPS and AI). I just think when it comes to "movies from books" the book is better because I can escape my own depressing life more effectively than I can with a movie. I can get inside the character's heads, and as you said, books are more detailed.

For instance, I don't have to wonder why Isabella Swan was wearing a beautiful blue gown to prom, because I read the book and found out that is because Edward loves blue on her (which is revealed through a touching conversation they cut out of the movie).

I also learn new words, which I get a real kick out of. I just learned "imbibe" btw. I'm very proud. Even though sometimes I still end sentences in prepositions.

Does this mean we're no longer cyber buddies?

red said...

I'm a psuedo bookist, but only because I read a lot of books. But I love Top Chef, too (though I haven't seen the episode this week yet. Thanks for the spoiler, jerkface).

I will say, I loathe, with the fire of a thousand suns, NPR snobs. Talk radio is boring! It does not make you smart/cool to listen to it.

words words words said...

Cora and Diva: I watch American Idol, too. I was proud to say that was the only reality show I watched until someone *ahem* from this here Blogger site turned me on to Top Chef.

Kimizzy: We can still be cyber buddies. Probably. I'll just imbibe a lot first.

Red: Oops. SRY! I totally made that up. No, really. Swear. And oddly, I don't hate NPR, just NPR people. NPR is like Radiohead - okay, I guess, but all the slobbering overpraisers make me irrationally hate it instead of just being indifferent to it.

Gwen said...

I'm 1/4 bookist on my mom's side.

BeckEye said...

It's so funny, I was just thinking of posting something similar to this. The reason is, I was just reading a short interview with Brandon Flowers of The Killers in Time Out New York, and the interviewer said something about Gossip Girl, and he said, "I don't know what Gossip Girl is." Fucking liar. Even if you don't watch it, everyone has heard of it.

This kind of stuff always reminds me of something - I think it was David Spade - said. He was talking about people who think it's so hip and cool to say they don't watch TV, and then a real douchebag would be like, "I don't own a TV. I don't even know what a TV is."

Wilwarin said...

Confessions of a shopaholic is a movie now too. It's coming out soon.

Cora said...

Had to come check out the new manga avatar. :-)

I like it. I don't see what the problem with it is. What's not sexy about that?

~E said...

Ive heard about bookists before. Only they weren't called "bookists"...they were called "evil stuck up snobby hell minions".

But you know, "bookists" is more pc.

Brandi said...

Lol I'm the person who says "Oh I loooove TV!!! But don't watch it when I'm in Minnesota." Which I don't, BOO.

I do love me some Top Chef though! : )


Fancy Schmancy said...

What does it make me if I read books, only watch tv for American Idol, and worship the Internet as my number one form of entertainment?

SouthernBelle said...

SO TRUE!!! I love TV, and I can't sustain a conversation with someone after they've said something wankery like "Oh, I haven't watched TV for like two years now."

red said...

Rad new avatar. And I cannot believe Leah made it through another week. She is so annoyingly terrible at this point.

Anonymous said...

That would be very interesting, as I don't drink. That means I could have my way with you. Muah ah ah ah ah!

Falwless said...

YES! You're watching Top Chef! This may or may not be the only thing I gleaned from this entire post.

Oh and I effing hate bookists. DEATH TO BOOKISTS!