The Viral View

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that most Friday’s I do a book review. Basically this review involves me talking about whatever I happen to have just finished reading at the time.

But lately I’ve been thinking about reviews a lot. Most people would look at a review of a book or a movie as a simple examination of the works strengths and weaknesses, a condensed rundown to give the reader some idea of whether or not they might like this particular book or movie.

But lately I’ve started to think of reviews as something else: viruses.

Okay, there’s no need to back away like that, and…whoa, where did that straight-jacket come from. Have you been carrying that with you the whole time?

I’m not crazy. Well, not with this anyway. Just hear me out.

Reviews are often tagged as being “spoiler free”. This means that the reviewer has not included any information that would “spoil” the readers enjoyment of the work being reviewed. But is any review, truly spoiler free?

Because I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I watch a movie or read a book after having read a review of that book I’m watching for the things the reviewer pointed out.

Weak third act structure? Yep.

Poorly developed characters? Check that one off the list.

Cunning use of white space? Got it.

Except those ideas aren’t my ideas. They’re not my opinions. I’ve been infected with the reviewer’s point of view.

It’s possible I might have made those same assesments on my own, but now I’ll never know for sure. Because I let myself be infected with the virus.

In truth this idea applies to far more than just movie reviews. We interact with others on a daily basis, taking recommendations, sharing opinions, transfering information. When you get right down to it none of the ideas in our heads belong to us. They’ve all come from somewhere external.

Immanuel Kant hypothesized that ideas like time and space existed “a priori” outside of external influence, because, he reasoned, thinking would be impossible without them. But with all due respect to Mr. Kant, he’s never lived in a universe without time. Simply because neither he nor any of us is capable of imagining how thought might occur in such place does not mean that such a thing is impossible.

In fact the idea for this very blog post, came from listening to someone else talking about how they tried to watch movies without any preconceptions and work out wether they liked it for themselves.

You might think that I’m leading up to saying that I’m going to discontinue the Bizzaro Book Review and let you all discover your own books without preconceptions.

But if you think that, then you obviously don’t know me that well. Because seriously? I have a chance to infect all of your brains with my ideas? Get me a ticket on that train.

Call up the CDC and tell them there’s a madman in Florida cooking up idea bugs in his garage. Make sure you scream as loudly as you can.

And don’t mind the men with the special jacket with the long sleeves. They’re only there to help.

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11 responses to “The Viral View

  1. Just want to say I’ve purchased several books after reading your review or mention of them.

    Also want to say that is the most chilling photo of a straight-jacket I’ve ever seen.

  2. Loved this! Hard to be objective when we are such social creatures. But being able to just make a mental note that we are indeed subject to the influences and opinions of others is a great step toward what I think is a crucial skill – independent thinking. Nicely written.

  3. I think the CDC might be headed your way…. Just kidding.

    You are so right and I had never thought of reviews as a virus, but they do infect your brain sort of. There has never been a time where I’ve read a review then been able to have a non biased opinion about what I’ve read or watched. Heck, just watching a movie trailer has me looking for key points in a film.

    But what would we be with out other’s ideas? Many times something you have said has sparked an idea in my head, albeit, a different strain of thought than what you have written. Does that mean that the idea is unoriginal? I doubt it, because if that were so, then what I wrote would be identical to what you wrote, and so on.

    Though it does bring to mind the movie Inception where Dicaprio’s character is saying that you can’t insert an original thought into anyone’s mind because once someone tells that person a thought, they can trace it back to the person who gave it to them. (usually)

    Great post. And thought provoking. Loved the straight jacket photo as well. Chilling is right.

  4. Such a frakkin’ hip blog, you word wizard you!!! :o) L-O-V-E I-T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I have said the same thing for years…..that is why I am trying to teach (infect with my understanding) people to envision their goals and their lives as FEELING The Best (with your gut a.k.a intuiton)….not an specific idea of how it all plays out but only the feeling you have when you know deep down “all is right with the Universe” and everything turns our for The Best. We have all has those moments and can relive and remember them to sharpen our sense of what that feels like so we can stop “infecting” our realities with preconcieved ideas of how they “should be”and start haboring the wonderfulness that going with the flow gives. I too as a writer/reader post to share ideas. Once we have been exposed to a vibration on any level, a part of it always stays with, such is the nature of a virus as well. :o)

    • I guess that makes the Universe one gigantor virus in a way huh? Sounds like a great sci-fi horror too-close-to-real story in the making….perhaps a collaboration?

  5. So think carefully before sticking your probiscus into any more unwitting mental flesh, Virus Boy.

  6. I take book reviews and esp movie reviews with a grain of salt. So often Hollywood plastic avant guard beteen me and you language is a turn off for me. My mindset would not agree with that mindset on much of anything except that Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are ignorant buffoons and Glen Beck is looney. Beside, forgive the obtuse example) if you like John Wayne movies, no matter what the reviewer says, even if that person is spot on, you are still going to think it was great no matter if is was good or garbage.

  7. That can be your signature line “You have been infected.” Mwahahaha

  8. Better not to look on other reviews then (or at least the reviews of the book you’re reading) so as not to influence you too much. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Altitude- a Flash Fiction Tale « CMStewartWrite

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