Friday, January 6, 2012

The Holy Shee-at, Bedazzled Purple Button

Somewhere in the brain scientists have yet to discover, I'm convinced there lies a mental button that when pressed leads to unquestioning jubilation, unfailing loyalty and a precise, resounding note in our soul's song. What should such a power button be labeled? Words like glee and awesome are watered-down. Holy shee-at!, while closer to the exuberance the button captures, seems to Lindsay-Lohan it up. I'm pretty sure mine is purple and bedazzled, but the real beauty is in finding what pushes it.

Remember when I told you I watched a 1948 movie called Portrait of Jeannie over the holidays? One obsession habit I have after watching a film is to hit imdb to find out more about the movie: goofs, trivia, Q&A, discussions. While I'm still on that movie-high (you know that high, right?), it's like breaking out the York Patties and hot cocoa with strangers who just took the same ride you did and are forever bound because of it. Yes, there are the jack-a-nubs who get on with bad grammar and comment on something as Linsday-ish as the visibility of the protagonist's nipples in a particular scene, but mostly they are people who love good stories and seek a deeper level of understanding.

The Portrait of Jeannie boards contain post after post of people who not only liked, not only adored, but obsess over this movie. Some had watched it two or three times in succession. They loved it so much they asked for other movies that would make them feel the high they felt at the movie's conclusion. Their Holy Shee-at! button had been pushed. And when I considered other movies that captured what I felt after watching it, I realized mine had been pushed as well. We had identical buttons. This movie, though seventy years old, hit the exact note of inspiration from which my fiction germinates. Every movie the imdb visitors suggested I had had the same visceral reaction to: time, love, gothic, dark, suspense.

So what is it about them that makes movies like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Somewhere in Time gather a subversive, cult-like following? Mattel produces a Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney Barbie/Ken set that probably sits adored somewhere deep in a Kansas farmhouse curio cabinet. Mackinac Island has a weekend where people gather from all over the world to be part of Somewhere in Time's Grand Hotel setting. I've certainly seen movies with better plot lines, better characters, more memorable themes. What is that magical, elusive note that makes people want to replay it over and over?

I can no more define it in myself than I can anyone else who also has this button. I can pinpoint market and genre and target demographics, but even that fails to satisfy. I could lay out a line about the redemptive power of second chances, the human urge to have a reset button in our journey, the belief that love surpasses all that we presently understand about our world. But that would be like a Devo song: sounds great until you actually try to understand it.

If you believe in the supernatural, let's call that note magic. If not, we label it luck. Either way, it is what writers spend a lifetime tuning and readers and audiences spend a lifetime listening for.

What pushes your button?

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana will miss parts of movies in order to look them up on IMDB. Then she will try to tell me information about the movie while I'm watching the movie. Sometimes I listen politely. Most of the time I just say: "I'm good."