Around this time of year I start to think about this topic. It is the epic battle of entertainment value versus dramatic merit.
This is coming from a guy who said that he was weeping over a comic yesterday because of its artistic integrity and yadda yadda. Now it depends on what personality you get me in (I have multiple), but I can argue both sides of the coin quite well.
This battle grew from the fact that, one year at Oscar season, I sat down to watch every single fucking film that was up for awards. I can't remember the year, but I remember that after sitting on my ass in theaters watching people fuck themselves up, or get horribly killed, or kill themselves, or kill others, or commit emotional brutalities to one another I went into a state of depression that is was hard to rise out of.
When I talk about killing and the like, I mean suicide, genocide, dying a horrible death from cancer and all sorts of nasty things like that. Yes, I realize that death is a part of life and it is better to have one's eyes opened to the brutality that is happening in this life, and the horrible atrocities that people commit to one another, the everyday tragedies that happen to people, and on and on. I realize that these movies are meant to elicit an emotional response from the audience. They are written and made in such a way to do so. These are the movies that garner awards. My local movie store has a joke written on the cover of Precious (which I haven't seen but have heard about thoroughly) that basically calls it Oscar bait. Can any more horrible things happen to one person in the time limit of about two hours? Fuck my life, but that doesn't sound like something that I want to sit down and watch. I would be depressed for weeks.
I think that this can apply to comics as well. My fiancee, Chantelle, took a graphic novel course last semester (she is in University) and the course load included Fun Home, Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Black Hole, Watchmen, Weathercraft, and maybe one or two that I'm forgetting. I have never seen someone cry so much from reading comics. On top of all that, she was seriously affected by the readings. I read all of the books too, and liked them all, but they were a head full of craziness. I remember reading Skyscrapers and reacting in such a way that I didn't know quite what to do. That book is full of despair, and every time something good happens, another more horrible act surfaces from beneath the depths. Now, I told Chantelle that she might have some problems with this book (she doesn't deal well with certain things like violence towards animals, and a couple of other topics in the book), but she had to read it. She put it off until the last evening and while she was reading it gnashed her teeth, wailed, moaned and had a horrible time of it.
Which brings me to my point. I think books, and movies that take on heady topic (rape, genocide, infanticide, slow death) are completely warranted. I think they are generally well done in certain cases, and not in others such as that shitball known as Atonment. But, I don't think that someone can watch these types, or read these types of dramas and not have them move them towards a place of depression or something like that. Now keep in mind that I live in Canada, and the winters are long, and we have short, dark days. These days are good days to watch movies in, but in certain circumstances these Oscar bait movies just don't do it (I don't think that the comics are generally vying for awards though, but they tend to get them too).
Once in awhile I like to watch steak for the eyes, or read about some men smashing each other in the face. Steak for the eyes is a term I use because I am a vegetarian. When I watch a movie that took a ton of explosives to make, that is my steak, it makes me feel all manly and gets my blood rushing. Actually, I would say seventy-five percent of my entertainment is fluff, and I am proud and not proud to say that at the same time. Does it make me shallow? Maybe, but I like genre things. Zombiesa, superheroes and dragons have been in my blood for thirty-one year now and I really like them.
Yes, I like the dramas too, at times, but not all the time. Sometimes the folks that really dig being depressed a lot (or that's how I imagine it) seem to thumb their nose at the fact that I enjoyed the first season of the Walking Dead, or Misfits, or that I'm looking forward to seeing Thor and Captain America more than my nine year old nephew (well, maybe not, he ordered the new Bone book as soon as it came out, and out-geeked me on that one by a couple of months), but I am not ashamed. I just want to be transported somewhere else every once in awhile, and not have my feet firmly on solid ground.
I like my entertainment without the drama most of the time. But if I have a little dose of something that enlightens me and makes me emotional I'm fine with that. Just not twenty nights in a row.