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Flipping off the Author

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Oct. 23, 2021
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So Squid Game is a huge hit, and I'm glad I've been a kdrama fan before it was cool, apparently XD (though granted, it's been cool for a good while for a lot of people)

This is not an article about Squid Game, but it offers the opportunity to talk about something else: overwriting the artist's intended interpretation in favor of your own. Especially, in favor of your own if you pose as a critic or an opinion leader of any sort.

Squid Game's director Hwang Dong-hyuk has apparently gone on the record saying that he intended Squid Game as an allegory and decry of current capitalist society and how it destroys people.

This article isn't about that either. I haven't seen Squid Game so I can't tell how well he succeeded in his intention and though I absolutely love talking politics, I don't think you want to hear my diatribe on capitalism vs. communism. (Or you probably already suspect or know anyway)

What this article is about is erasing the author altogether. With articles like this one.

An author may not stick the landing when trying to create a story to illustrate a point. In fact they may get it so wrong that it may end up illustrating the exact opposite point. Is it possible that Squid Game (or any other story) is not anti-capitalism but actually (unintentionally) anti-communist?

Sure. I don't know. I haven't seen it.

Even if it is, articles with such titles as the one I linked to ( “The Director Of “Squid Game” Says It’s About Capitalism, But It's Really More Like Communism” says one Meghan Dillon) are in my opinion plainly obnoxious and wrong.

Not because the person writing them sees something entirely different in a piece of art. That is legitimate and totally possible because art is ultimately interpretative and in a way, in the eye of the beholder.

What I feel is obnoxious and wrong is the phrasing: stating her interpretation as true by overwriting factually what the author has officially said it is about.

She could have said “The Director Of “Squid Game” Says It’s About Capitalism, But I Disagree” (still somewhat audacious, but states an opinion, therefore legit)

Or she could have said “The Director Of “Squid Game” Says It’s About Capitalism, But The Delivery Drives Home the Opposite Message”. (a critique of craftsmanship, still stating interpretation opinions, therefore legit)

Or she could even have said “The Director Of “Squid Game” Says It’s About Capitalism, But I Think It's Really About Communism” (a discussion of views and opinions, totally legit).

What is it about the actual phrasing that gets under my skin? It is a sense of entitlement that the consumer of an art piece is more of an authority on the art piece's meaning than its own creator. It feels like infringement, in a sense, and an attempt to erase the creator's stance by imposing a different one, and therefore attempting to have the art piece work in a different way/ for a different purpose than what it was created for.

I think it's important to recognize and acknowledge what authors say they want to do with their artwork, if they go on record to say it. Whether they were successful in doing it is and should always be up for debate. But to outright relabel a work or try to argue intent of the creator to serve either an agenda or fortify an opposing ideological stance is infringement in my book, and the bad type of entitlement.

What are your thoughts?

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comment

anonymous?

Gunwallace at 9:04PM, Oct. 25, 2021

I tried reading the Meghan Dillon article, but when she decried "hating capitalism" as "trendy" I stopped. Some of us have wanted to Eat the Rich for a long, long time. Even before the 1987 movie 'Eat the Rich' and song, which I can thoroughly recommend.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 8:10AM, Oct. 23, 2021

I feel at this point I'm really not sure what message my stories may have or if they even have any. I don't think I've ever been sure. Looking back at the whole process it feels like I was just trying to force a meaning onto the things I wrote because I thought they HAD to have one. At this point I feel my stories generally just boils down to "this is my imagination and here's the funny, weird things it can do". I kind of realize now how patronizing society can be with meanings and purposes and messages. Like a story must always teach whoever reads or views a life lesson. It must hold the reader or viewer by the hand and tell them what's what. And now I feel like I just wanna reject all of that and just do whatever. And maybe it means something or maybe it's utterly meaningless. I don't really know. We'll just have to see what happens.

bravo1102 at 6:24AM, Oct. 23, 2021

So the critics are the problem, not the artists. One can do all kinds of weird stuff to just do it and shrug and say "make of it what you want, but don't ask me, I just want to create", because sometimes a story teller just wants to tell a story and what you bring to it is all your baggage and has nothing to do with what they created. It's you, not the artist.

bravo1102 at 6:19AM, Oct. 23, 2021

In the movie "Back to School" Rodney Dangerfield's character has Kurt Vonnegutt write his term paper on Kurt Vonnegutt only to be told by his English professor that he obviously didn't write it but whoever did doesn't understand Vonnegutt at all. That pretty much sums it up as far as I'm concerned. I was going to be an English major in college but the force feeding of MEANING into texts and id you didn't agree you were stuck with a "C-" just got me more into history where outside the box ideas are more tolerated so long as you make a convincing argument. Unlike literature where you're either in the school of analysis or all the pretentious types turn their noses into the sky and you better find something else to do because you're not welcome around THEM.

usedbooks at 4:05AM, Oct. 23, 2021

Much as I like writing, I hated literature classes because they were all about picking apart works and talking about "symbolism" and reading between lines. I was suspicious that 90+% of the te, the authors had no intention to have their works interpreted that way. It makes me think about people using holy texts to justify whatever opinions they cling to because you can read literally anything into any text that is long enough if you cherry pick it and the authors aren't around anymore to clarify (being written in another language and a different society adds an extra bit of ambiguity). I also find it interesting to learn an author's intent after I have enjoyed the story. It either gives me an "aha! I see it now!" moment or a "hmm... that really didn't come across that way." But to say a work is something it's creator says isn't is pretty insane. To say, "wow, that's not what I got from that piece at all" is different.

marcorossi at 2:29AM, Oct. 23, 2021

I skimmed the article about Squid Games, and I didn't watch Squid Games, but it seem to me the author of the article is muddling the two levels: on the basic reading level he agrees that Squid Games is an allegory of capitalism, but in his own opinion (over reading) he thinks that socialist societies are even worse (IMHO it depends what one means by socialism, it's a term that everyone uses differently). The problem is that the article author doesn't really differentiate the two levels so he appears to put in the mouth of the serie author his own political opinions.

marcorossi at 2:19AM, Oct. 23, 2021

As a matter of fact, all the critical interpretations that are intetresting are overreadings: Freudian interpretations that were fashionable 50 years ago presuppose Freudian theory, a marxist interpretation that stresses the links between changes in economic structure and cultural changes, like the one I gave, presuppose historical materialism; feminist interpretations of non explicitly feminist text presuppose feminist theory etc.

marcorossi at 2:13AM, Oct. 23, 2021

There is this approach to critical reading that there are 3 levels of reading: underreading, for example when I read the divine comedy and I read a sentence like "the one who made the big refusal" about someone who is in pre-hell, and I don't know who the author is speaking about; plain reading, where I read the same line and understand that the author is speaking of a Pope who abdicated, so I understand that according to the author abdication is shirking from responsibility and therefore a sin; and overreading, when I put the meaning of the book inside my conceptual framework and get some conclusion of it, for example that in the middle ages people were supposed to follow god-given roles because they lived in a very static feudal society, but at the time of the divine comedy the first commercial cities were starting to prosper, so the divine comedy shows a tension between the middle ages mindset and a more modern one.

skyangel at 1:50AM, Oct. 23, 2021

I've watched Squid Game and enjoyed the whole thing immensely, mainly because it never quite went where I was expecting it to go which kept me enthralled. As far as politics go though I really felt this story was about human nature and the simple fact that most people are either very selfish or see that caring for each other has a greater reward. I think the final episode where Gi-Hun returns home sums it all up very nicely. --------The first series could very well be considered to be a political statement but if that's so then does the decision to make a second series suggest that having made his statement it's now a cash cow too big for the producers to say goodbye to? Maybe despite whatever political views one appears to adopt, when it comes to money we always come back to human nature.

Ozoneocean at 11:37PM, Oct. 22, 2021

Erasing the author is dickish, but just the criticism itself show a titanic level of base ignorance. Squidgame is nothing more than a formulaic rehash in live action of a common Manga and anime fad for dark and brutal gameshows, therefore any criticism of the show HAS to take into account that context, without that it's simply meaningless. It's like criticising daVinci's last supper without reference to the bible or the renaissance: meaningless. i.e. because most of the themes, tropes and even the plot isn't at all original a critique on them in terms of author intention has limited value: he's not putting them in there to make a point, he's putting them in there because they're part of the formula of the style. To understand what they mean and why they're there you have to analyse where they came from and why they originated in the original forms.


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