Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cinerati Lexicon #2: Gothtentious

Last August we presented our first Cinerati Lexicon entry. That entry focused on what we like to call filmic cultural selectivity. It has come time once again for the Cinerati blog to share another definition with you based on our movie going/appreciating experience.

Like most film fans, we have a flixter account and are fond of examining how closely our "friends" and our tastes match up. In the past, this has led to some pleasant surprises. Not the least of which is that Anne Thompson's opinions match Cinerati's so well that we are considered "Soul Mates." This is true even with our vast disagreement on Pretty Woman. She likes it a lot and we think that it overly debases the Eliza character from My Fair Lady and is thus only worthy of scorn. We must admit though that the recent episode of Flight of the Conchords had a compelling review/interpretation of Pretty Woman. Suffice it to say, that the close proximity of our film tastes will make Cinerati more likely to trust Thompson as someone who likes the films we like.

Other comparisons have been less rewarding. During our most recent foray into the flixterverse, we encountered something we thought impossible. One of my flixter friends, who shall remain nameless in order to protect their life, rated The Incredibles a meager 1/2 star out of five. We had believed that such a rating was only possible when the reviewer lacked this little thing we call a soul. Alas, it appears that this misguided individual does in fact have a soul -- and is a pretty good reviewer to boot -- so their must be some other explanation. Cinerati has yet to discover what affliction this individual suffers from that makes them hate The Incredibles, and makes them believe that Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds is better than The Matrix, while simultaneously having a proper love for YouTube videos featuring Bettie Page photographs and music by The Cramps.

Our initial suspicion was that this individual was extremely Gothtentious.

What do I mean by Gothtentious?

Gothtentious


Gothtentious is a neologism combining the words Gothic and pretentious.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (in a March 2008 Draft Addition), Gothic can be defined as: "Of or designating a genre of fiction characterized by suspenseful, sensational plots involving supernatural or macabre elements and often (esp. in early use) having a medieval theme or setting."

Additionally, Gothic may be defined as (OED Additions Series 1993): "A style of rock music, and the youth culture associated with this, deriving originally from punk, and characterized by the dramatically stark appearance of its performers and followers, reminiscent of the protagonists of (esp. cinematic) gothic fantasy, and by mystical or apocalyptic lyrics."

The most common definition of pretentious, according to the OED, is: "Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed; making an exaggerated outward display; ostentatious, showy."

Thus gothtentious would be when someone is "attempting to impress by affecting a demeanor which disdains all that is not suspenseful and macabre. Especially, the gothtentious person reserves particular disdain for lighthearted and bourgeois entertainments. The individual will also praise material that is otherwise lacking in merit for the mere fact that it contains an appropriate amount of macabre or suspenseful content."

The gothtentious person would often be willing to take a position of disdain for a particular entertainment vehicle merely to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Such opinions may be driven by a narcissistic desire for attention, even negative attention, from others, or from an underlying sense that one is held in similar disdain by society at large. In these cases, the gothtentious person is acting out against society either for attention or as revenge.

An example of this kind of gothtentious would be the following:

Films like The Incredibles are a perfect example of Hollywood, and America's, obsession with bourgeois morality tales. In it, the dichotomy between hero and villain is clear and even the "children" of the tale can act without fear of any real consequences. We all know how the story is going to end...happily. It is time to move beyond these stories and grapple with the underlying sense of despair intrinsic in the human condition. It would be much better to devote storytelling resources to narratives like insert Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, or Poe reference here.


Another example might be found within Michael Moorcock's excellent Wizardry and Wild Romance:

I think my own dislike of J.R.R. Tolkien lies primarily in the fact that in all those hundreds of pages, full of high ideals, sinister evil and noble deeds, there is scarcely a hint of irony anywhere. its tone is one of relentless nursery room sobriety: "Once upon a time," began nanny gravely, for the telling of stories was a serious matter, "there were a lot of furry little people who lived happily in the most beautiful, gentlest countryside you could possibly imagine, and then one day they learned that Wicked Outsiders were threatening this peace...." ...That such nostalgic pre-pubescent yearnings should find a large audience in England is bad enough, but that they should have international appeal is positively terrifying.


As Moorcock demonstrates, the gothtentious person could also be described as a kind of social provocateur who -- when in possession of a serious intellect -- forces other individuals in society to examine what it is about a particular entertainment vehicle they find so rewarding. Gothtentiousness need not be a character flaw but it can certainly be irritating when it is done without the wit and sophistication of a writer like Moorcock. One should also point out that when Moorcock was writing Wizardry and Wild Romance he was drafting a polemic which argued for a new form of fantasy fiction. Specifically, it was arguing for the style of fantasy that Moorcock himself was writing. This is no small coincidence and is evidence of the gothtentious nature of the work.
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