My wife and I recently rented Les Miserables. We had seen the stage version (thanks to DeAnne’s company Christmas party) and wanted to see how the film stacked up. It was good. We were both surprised by Hugh Jackman’s performance and both disappointed by Russel Crowe’s, but that isn’t what I wanted to talk about.
While we were at the video store, my wife suggested that we grab something new for our oldest daughter to enjoy. The place where we rent videos from has free kids movies, so it was a good way to show her something new without breaking the bank. After some discussion a while back, my wife and I decided to allow our oldest a half hour of video time each week. This way, she can be exposed to new things without totally melting her brain.
The video that we grabbed for her was the animated “classic”, Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat. I hadn’t seen it before, but I knew that my daughter loves the book version, so we thought it a safe choice. After all, I was familiar with the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas with its catchy songs and half hour length; this had to be as good, right?
It was terrible. The plot was only semi-related to the original story. The songs were just awful. It was a half hour that none of us will ever get back. But here’s the thing. My daughter didn’t care how bad it was. She watched it all the same. And she might even have enjoyed it.
How is that possible? How could she not know how bad it really was?
Well, for one thing, she’s two. She likes anything on a computer or television screen that moves. And for another, she has so few things to compare it against to know how good it was.
As we were watching the travesty that was The Cat in the Hat, I was reminded of a passage in a book by my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut. The following is from Bluebeard.
Circe Berman has just asked me how to tell a good painting from a bad one.
I said that the best answer I had ever heard to that question, although imperfect, came from a painter named Syd Solomon […]
“How can you tell a good painting from a bad one? […] All you have to do my dear,” he said, “is look at a million paintings, and then you can never be mistaken.”
It’s true! It’s true!
What’s great about this passage is that it applies to all areas of art, not just paintings. The more books, music, art, films, food, whatever we consume, the better equipped we are to tell the good from the bad.
This also answers how some books can become bestsellers when the writing is so honestly terrible. It is because the people who are reading it are not typical book readers. They don’t know it’s bad!
Anyway, if you are ever tempted to watch The Cat in the Hat, don’t waste your time. But if you want to ignore my advice, feel free.
Are there any things that you liked at first, but after expanding your repitoire, you realized were actually pretty bad?