Tuesday, May 15, 2007

John August and Shazam

Hollywood screenwriter John August wrote a little last month about his adaptation of the superhero Shazam (aka Capt. Marvel) and pissed a lot of people off with this little bit of insight.
DC publishes hardcover anthologies that gather up decades’ worth of Captain Marvel comics. If I were writing a dissertation on the evolution of the Captain Marvel character, these would be invaluable. But I’m not. So every time I read one of these, I’m struck with the same realization I encounter trying to watch The Honeymooners or a black-and-white movie: Wow. Old things suck.
Yes he was being deliberately provocative so people like me would write about it on their blogs and everyone on the internet would get all crazy. However, his next post on the matter does little to quell my feelings of uneasiness about his opinions.
[W]hat frustrates me is when society insists on elevating and fawning over these non-masterpieces simply because they were part of some mythical Golden Age. To me, that includes The Honeymooners. Sorry. I can understand why it was groundbreaking, and the enormous challenge of creating a live show, and why it was seminal. But I don’t care. It doesn’t connect for me whatsoever, and I’m too honest to fake any interest in it. Thus, to me, it sucks.
So there you have it folks. This is my gripe. Not that he prefers new comics to old comics (though how he could dismiss C.C. Beck is a mystery to me) or that he's going to be writing a superhero movie and I'm afraid he's going to screw it up (I never cared about Cap. Marvel much but I'm pretty sure it just should not be made into a movie)
No, what matters to me is the lack of analysis involved in his statement. You'd think someone with a job crafting stories would understand that "it sucks" isn't a critically defensible point of view. He admits that he can see aspects of what makes a show like the Honeymooners appealing but he has no personal connection to it. This is much different than declaring it a waste of everyone's time with an offhand "it sucks." That's the kind of thing you say to your friends when you're thirteen, not when you're a well paid screenwriter, not in print anyway, and certainly not when you're the guy that wrote that Charley's Angels movie.
Anyway, my point here is that a creative person should probably have well defined analytic techniques that they can apply to their own work. Declaring something inferior because of your own personal inabilities to "connect" with a given work is damaging to the creative process and will probably result in work that is lackluster and shallow.