the writer of the biggest tv show ever made saying "themes are for eighth grade book reports" is the natural end result of the literalist approach to fiction which has grown in influence over the last two decades and is a direct result of the ever-increasing size of media conglomerates and the abandonment of humanities education

i usually blame this on a certain strand of online culture but the truth is that the reddit approach to fiction is a symptom, not a cause

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the neoliberal transformation of the education system into a worker-producing machine has turned the humanities into a societal embarrassment, a jumble of bizarre cultural detritus, and the last few generations of schoolchildren have internalised this distaste. the cultural forces which work to undervalue less-profitable pursuits such as art are then internalised by creators and consumers of art

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so that the kind of response to art which accommodates its non-productive specificity, responses that acknowledge art's possibility for meaning, responses that are conscious of themselves as participating in the work's creation, are subject to a concentrated form of the stigma that strikes art in general.

while we fall short of the neoliberal ideal of the absence of art as anything other than an object of financial speculation, what encounters we do have with art still bear this system's mark

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we come to think of ourselves, whether readers or writers, as technicians rather than creators. we reduce the work of to a set of data, and its analysis to data collection. writers are praised for producing data which is more coherent (without plot holes or inconsistencies), and which stands out - as data - from other data (this is the emphasis on unpredictable twists). good analysis of art in this framework focuses on collecting the data (establishing lore and timeline, rating their coherence)

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we have created a way of thinking about art which erases its artfulness. instead of encountering a work of fiction as a work of fiction, we encounter it as a kind of history book for an alternate reality. its very nature *as fiction*, as something which is not and does not pretend to be real, which claims to be neither true nor false, which is outside of our productive world, disappears.

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@garfiald what about works of fiction that have "being an AH history book" as a central conceit

@garfiald e.g "For Want of A Nail" being the most famous example, afaict

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@a_breakin_glass hmm well it seems to me that those books are lying about that, you see

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@a_breakin_glass yes but im not sure you know what i mean. the kind of analysis which focuses exclusively on the coherence of plot and worldbuilding and denies the very possibility of thematic or allegorical meaning to the work treats texts of fiction as statements which are more or less true. which is not what they are.

@garfiald honestly, when it comes to fiction I prefer plot and worldbuilding, but without denying thematic or allegorical meaning. it's more that you can't get by with themes that aren't suppported by wordbuilding or plot.

@a_breakin_glass to give only one example, have you heard of samuel beckett

@garfiald correction: you can, but a. I'm talking about my overall preferences, which are pretty arbitrary b. no-one said the plot had to be coherent ;) c. lucky was godot :^^^)

@garfiald @a_breakin_glass i wouldn't say that allegory is entirely dead — it's just been reduced to a sledge hammer.

similarly, we have a rich set of themes to choose from in modern media: dark, gritty, dark *and* gritty,,

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