What does Snakes on a Plane have to say about western civilisation?

This style is familiar:

Snakes on a Plane comments on western society’s hypocritical view of sexuality, and its repression of said sexuality through the symbolic use of snakes representing western society.

The most obvious example of sexuality in SoaP is the actual sex scene. This is an important facet of the movie, because the people having sex become the first victim of the snakes. This simple first act already lays out the snake’s hatred for sex. Western society’s (the snake’s) disdain for sexuality becomes more and more obvious as the specific targets of the snakes takes focus during the movie. While the background attacks are given no great importance, the targets that deal with sexuality are. The breast, the genitals, the tongue, the buttocks, and even the eye are all popular signs of sexuality in today’s society. While the eye, at first glance, may seem a-sexual, in fact the eye can be used as a primary tool of sexuality. When one person sees another of the opposite sex, they subconsciously (and sometimes very consciously) observe their figure to determine their potential virility. Even this kind of unconscious sexuality can get you killed in today’s society. Snakebites on the neck also appear as a motif repeated throughout Snakes on a Plane. While this might seem normal, in fact, it is a subtle nod towards a lover gently kissing his companion’s neck. In all these attacks, the bites kill or injure. This shows western society’s hatred for any open sign of sexuality.

I’ve no idea whether this is serious, but it feels like a school essay and is a great example of how to get good grades in the humanities 🙂 I used to produce this kind of thing all the time in my English Lit. classes, which seem stranger the older I get. As I remember it, there was a sure-fire way to succeed in English Lit.:

  1. Read something ‘meaningful’. Let’s say it’s ‘The Life and Loves of a She-Devil’ by Fay Weldon.
  2. Find vaguely related concept in other literature, preferably classic. Fay Weldon’s main character has similarities to Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid, for example.
  3. Extrapolate wildly. The author’s clever use of water in this scene symbolises the cleaning of sin…The tragic ending is an ironic juxtaposition…etc.

It doesn’t mean anything, but examiners love that stuff. What you must never do is criticise the text. I found the feminist theme in She-Devil to be muddled and nonsensical: irony heaped upon ambiguous metaphor leading to nothing much. I had problems with the classics, too: Hamlet’s age changes from late-teens to early-thirties as the play, which takes place over a few months, progresses. Clever metaphor for maturing, blah blah, but this is a stage production, not a novel, and I never understood how this could work in the theatre with a real actor. My teacher wasn’t too bad and I could get away with asking this kind of question in class (although I never did about Hamlet – it’s entirely possible there’s a valid answer there), but it was always clear that in coursework or exams I was to stick to doctrine and gush over the language, draw inferences, make up analogies, etc.

Fair enough, but as a result I lost interest in the subject. I came out with a good grade but no desire to study it further. I guess I was starting to realise that literary criticism is entirely subjective, which wasn’t ever suggested by the A-Level. There really were right and wrong answers, which is just silly. The subject put me off reading anything ‘high-brow’ for years, as if the snobby attitudes were somehow the fault of the texts.

It’s possible that hindsight is cruel. There may well have been teachers with a genuine love of literature who simply wanted to share this with their students. Maybe the examiners would have reacted favourably to questions – maybe I just gamed the system. But it’s hard to see the concept of examining people on the meaning of literature as anything but bizarre. Really, you need only make any vaguely cogent statement in grammatically correct fashion to get full marks – how can two viewpoints be compared objectively? I sometimes wonder whether the subject makes more sense at university-level, but not for long.

This isn’t meant to criticise the SoaP essay, which I admire greatly. I don’t think I’d ever have come up with that analogy.

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code is released this weekend (my birthday, actually, but pointing that out would be transparent). Here’s what I’m meant to say:

Of course, the book was complete crap. It’s badly written and has a ridiculous story. Dan Brown is a hack who just rips off other people’s ideas. The film will be the worst kind of mainstream commercialist nonsense, directed by the king of all sentimental toss, Ron Howard. I shall be staying away, and I will laugh at anybody who doesn’t.

Except, I don’t think any of that.

I rather enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. I did, and still do, think it’s a great adventure story. People can and do slag off the writing style, while failing to mention that the level of tension created was really quite impressive (tension’s probably manipulative, or something). The way in which the plot unfolded made me feel intelligent. I cared about the characters. I didn’t see where the story was going. I liked the breakneck pace. Is it all based on truth? Who cares! Is it startlingly original? Who cares! It was, quite simply, great fun to read.

I like Ron Howard, too. He has a way of drawing me into his films, and I invariably become completely engrossed. I liked Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Ransom, The Missing, EdTV, Parenthood, Willow and Splash. I was amazed to discover how much people like to criticise him.

The religious backlash to the film is nothing compared to the snide comments I’ve seen all over the net for the past six months, and it’s all a bit unnecessary. Maybe I don’t think on the same plane as everybody else, but chances are I’ll be in the cinema this weekend. Hopefully I’ll be having a good time.

Dance Weekend

I’m off to a hotel in Symonds Yat this afternoon, for a dancing weekend. The hotel has a ballroom, and there’ll be two evening dances and a learning session. Tonight’s dance is ‘smart casual’, which I like, while tomorrow’s is ‘smart: jacket and tie, with dinner jacket optional’, which is silly. It’s not just that I find ties ridiculous, it’s that everybody removes their ties & jackets after 20mins so it becomes ‘smart casual’ anyway – I don’t get it. If I must wear a tie it’s damn well going to be something interesting, so I picked one up at the local Oxfam this morning. They often have Disney/Warner Bros. characters, but today I had to contend myself with cute little piggies. I wonder whether I’d have the nerve to wear this one…Possibly not, although this would be fine.

I went on a similar weekend last autumn, and it was challenging. One of those occasions that’s enjoyable in hindsight, but at the time my standard social anxiety got the better of me. I’m pretty worried about this weekend. I can never think of anything to say, and it normally doesn’t take long to convince myself that nobody in the group likes me. I don’t want to annoy my dance partner by being withdrawn, either. I do enjoy the dancing, though. Ah well, hopefully it’ll be ok.

We’re again meeting up with another dance group. They’ve had an extra year of practice, and last time some of them – probably only a small number, to be fair – were surprisingly snobby about it. There are a couple of stories about this, but I’m not 100% sure of the facts so won’t say anything. At one point we were quickly taught the mayfair quickstep1, then told to partner somebody from the other group. They’d done it before and had it smooth, but I struggled with one of the turns. At the end my partner stopped, looked at me and said “well, that was different” before wandering off, looking unimpressed. Nice lady.

Back on Sunday – hope you have a great weekend!

  1. the accompanying videos make me laugh []