Media: are they apples and oranges, or are they feathers of the same bird?

A curmudgeon told me some days ago that, if I remember correctly, my blog was idiotic (I wonder if that was the right term, but I am pretty sure the word had vitriol in its veins) because I often involved and alluded to literature. Personally, I do not think my posts are idiotic even if I do ever so often seem to act so online. It is because of a belief that paragons of both media perform quite similarly. This may be a crude categorization, but I believe that among many things, good examples of media (be the medium literature or anime, or even theatre) simultaneously possess three cardinal qualities viz 1) a power to entertain, 2) a power to instigate thinking, and 3) a power to change lives or creeds.

With maturity as well as with learning more about the ways of the world, I have finally realized that literature is not the apex of media: it was merely just another form. I have mentioned in a previous post (pardon for the repeated plug, but I deemed it was necessary to this discussion) that it was only when I was distressed and disquieted did I learn the value of other media around me. (Let us admit, literature is one of the most time-consuming media there exist today.) It was only when I had finally fallen through the nadir of my own existence that I awakened to the different beauties of the different media around me. When time flitted through my fingers as smoothly as sand, I did not have the leisure of pondering what the subtexts were with regard to Raskolnikov (of Crime and Punishment). Thought culled from reading those classics of which I was once very fond of was no longer entertaining; on the contrary, it was tiring. The mental calisthenics which I once got from the classics became an agonizing tetany.
apples and oranges

I guess, in the end, looking at fruit relaxes. :p

I was disillusioned. The feeling was akin to a fondness that one day just instantaneously disappeared from one, and it was very alienating. My fondness for anime escalated from that day forth, simply because it was the only medium that could entertain me yet still allowed time for me to do whatsoever was required for me to do. I did not have an answer as to why I no longer fancied dissecting literary classics, or why I favored watching anime more since that time of disengagement.

I was stumped until I came upon an old copy of a Nancy Drew two-novel book. I once abhorred people who still read Nancy Drew even when they were already past the age of adolescence, but now I read and enjoyed it as well as realized another thing: in the end, it does not really matter. Whatever fulfills the three cardinal qualities of good media will often suffice for the normal person.

A lot of people, when ranking media, put literature at the very top. I have no formal answer to this, but I am assuming that the reason for this is because literature is one of the most abstract media, if not the most abstract medium itself. I believe it is the only medium that defamiliarizes man, that draws man away from himself, so that he can look upon himself disjointedly. The etymology of the term ‘abstract’ came from the Latin abstrahere, which meant a drawing away. This medium allows man to disconnect himself with his humanity, and the tool that allows this medium to do that is its alphabet, which are its words.

No other medium does this with such asepsis. It is because no other media rely solely on words. Drama relies on both words but more importantly on the subtle action of its characters, and even then, its characters act like a centrifuge, drawing the viewer closer to knowing himself or herself. Anime relies on caricatures, which are simplified complexes of human beings, and this, also, draws us to ourselves. Only literature, because it solely relies on words, draws us away from ourselves that we can look at ourselves more clinically. Words are toys of the mind, made to cater to a need. They are unlike emotions, which are inherent to every single human being. I guess this is the reason why it is placed on such a high pedestal as compared to other media.

I watched For Whom the Bell Tolls some hours ago, and it only used up three hours of my time. Before viewing the movie, I read the novel by Hemingway. The movie, however, essentially told the same story without skimping much of the details. I realized that very same thing happened to me regarding my growing disillusion on classical literature vis-a-vis my growing love for anime. Time is a treasure to everyone, and I was really surreptitiously asking myself: why spend more time for something one can achieve in less? I guess, in the end, convenience remains to be the answer.

18 Responses to “Media: are they apples and oranges, or are they feathers of the same bird?”

  1. Aka Says:

    Hi mike,

    I believe that Media consists of many components, and aspects; some media contains a combination of components and aspects, and others another combination. Let me take Anime as an example; Anime has been around for quite a while now, i believe that it is greatly an underrated form of media, or have been greatly mis-understood at various points of time. If i asked someone on the streets, “Why would he pick up this series?”; many of the answers that i feel i would get is “Moe”, “Voice Actress”, so on and so forth. Personally i prefer a well/good illustrated and well written story, not necessarily deep; but it has to meet a certain standard. One title i liked, and placed as #1 on my anime list is [ Haibane Renmei ]. It’s not necessarily deep, but not many people can understand, appreciate the emotions and understand the lessons that can be learnt from the actual show. Taking another example, the producer KyoAni; Kyoto Animation is a well established company, with its releases being ranked high before it is even screened on Television. Kyoto Animation has a good base for anime, mixing emotions, lessons and story together to form what may be called an excellent production.
    While i can understand your feelings when you were disillusioned; One thing to note is that, many people turn to anime to ‘escape reality’, ‘relive themselves in an alternate world’, so on and so forth. I think that Literature covers a very wide range of aspects, till today i enjoy watching anime as much as reading literature. It is true that no other media relies solely on words alone; I digress;

    I agree on the point that convenience remains to be the answer of ‘why spend more time for something one can achieve in less’, with the exception that its in each and everyone’s nature and Choices to do so. Humans have remained the same over years, finding methods and ways to simplify, ease and ensure that the time taken is reduced for each and any task. One main factor here still remains, even if people do not notice, or deny it – Lazyness. if we are hardworking and we focus on the task at hand, no matter what the task is, the task can be finished on time.

    My conclusion that i believe to stay true for all the years that have passed and will pass, is that Everything is made of choices, each choice would determine your objective for the next step to take. The method taken to achieve that objective would be determined by the person’s character, as well as the choice and situation at the very moment in time.

    I hope that whatever i written here makes sense, and excuse mistakes and stuff; i am dead sleepy at the moment when i typed this.

    Out-

  2. wireeater Says:

    This is a topic which oddly enough was actually one that has also lingered in my mind recently. It manifested in the way I read news on yahoo. I am currently noticing that i have a prefence toward videos than reading. This stemmed because i need not put as much time and also which i think you should have also pointed out is that it also takes less effort. It doesn’t requre you to think really as much in reading than in watching something. Wether its by the fact of physical actions of having to flip pages or to actually having to interpret the many ways words have meanings. There is a great strenght in media and unfortunately through the convinience of videos these days we are moving to a ‘lazier’ century. This is good for those who however can grasp its true potential but for the majority it simply gives us an excuse not to think, if not at least think a little less.

  3. Michael Says:

    @Akai

    I am going to have to use bullets so as to make my dissection of your post easier.

    1.) Media consists of many components and aspects.

    I have stated and I totally agree with this point. Most forms of media involve admixing ‘elementals,’ as I would like to call them. I cannot as of yet define what these ‘elementals’ are, but I assume that common man understands what these are.

    2.) Anime as example

    I have stated anime as a ‘simplified complex.’ This statement may seem like a paradox, but the characters of anime are caricatures of real-life people. They are merely simplified representations, but in their construction these characters as well as the world that they exist and reside in are complex creatures. They are made of emotions and feelings, and each of them is noticeably different from another. Even clones, as the different Rei’s attest, differ from one another. Yet what they are made out of are simplifications of what we are made of because we have made them, which would mean that they lack something that we possess.

    3) Anime to escape reality

    I have used anime to escape reality just as I have used classical literature once to do so. In the end, it boils down to what you have mentioned, which is laziness.

    4) Choices as the elemental for everything

    I definitely agree. I could have chosen to forego the remains of my studies by being profligate towards classical literature, but in the interests of my sanity as well as future well-being I have chosen another medium instead, which in my case is anime.

    5) On focus and hardwork

    I would disagree, however, with focus and hardwork the only factors that would let a task be completed by a determined man. Chance, and the presence of others in this world also make up a big portion of the probability of the task being completed.

    Ambrose Bierce often wrote about these determined men destroyed by circumstances that they could not have controlled. I believe that should you govern your life like this, you would merely be speeding toward disaster sooner or later.

    Until soon. 🙂

  4. Aka Says:

    @ Mike: on the last point.

    5) i never meant to imply that, but in any case; i only wanted to stress 4) as the basis of my way of living =p

    Night-

  5. Michael Says:

    @wireeater

    It seems that as I was writing my reply to Akai’s post that you have also finished writing your comment. I believe that, as inexplicable to me as it is, it is because of the abstraction implemented heavily by literature that forces one to think. I would agree that convenience is making society more lazy, and I also believe that it would take one who truly appreciates the spectra of media that exist right now to be able to grasp media’s true potential.

  6. Michael Says:

    @Akai

    In that case, I would agree with you. Choices make the man.

  7. Ryan A Says:

    ’simplified complex’ … lol, it makes it sound so cheap…

    There are some good sentences here, a few to ponder what they mean, and most what they imply. I was thinking along these lines last night while writing on another blog, but simplified. It was like so…

    I can gain something equally as valuable, with less asphyxiation of time (seemingly).

    Just now, I realized the ‘seemingly’ portion of that thought, because watching a 24+ episode anime takes roughly 10 hours. I’ve never read any book for 10 hours straight, so I’m not sure how long it actually takes to read a 300+ pages, but I’d guess it isn’t much longer. Truthfully though, it feels like more effort, more “brainwork” and I’d probably read full novels regularly (finish one, start another) if my time wasn’t vexed by education. I can’t make any use of this analysis, so I’ll leave it at that.

    Now in terms of equality for media, that is basically the mission statement of my side project, but add in relativity, and non-numerical statistic generation, and then it’s closer to what I’m trying to do. I believe in equality of media, but it’s easy for me to say because I’m no guru of any specific one.

    Awesome post ^^

  8. Michael Says:

    @RyanA

    Allow me to organize my reply into bullets. It would be more fluid.

    (1) ‘simplified complex’ as cheap

    That was not my intention. I described anime to be simplified because they are merely representations or deviations from our human lives. They do not present us in our entirety, but because we have placed something of value to their actions, (scil. meaning) they remain to be complexes.

    (2) I can gain something equally as valuable, with less asphyxiation of time.

    I assume this is fundamentally the same statement as my question of spending more time when one can achieve in less. Yours, however, is a more comprehensive statement. Time feels less constrained because viewing anime is a much easier task. Aside from appealing to the senses, it also appeals to thought, unlike reading which purely relies on imagination and analysis. I guess this is what proves the statement that tiredness is a mental state, not a physical one. We can spend time equally on reading a novel and watching a whole series, but it feels that we spend less on viewing the series because it is less harrowing to the mind.

    (3) Equality of media

    I admit, I have been an elitist once towards literature. (I think I implied this on my post, but if it has not been made obvious, I was.) When real difficulty, however, plagued me, I realized that all media are equal as long as they fulfill what they set out to do. I guess they are not apples and oranges, but fundamentally feathers of the same bird.

    You know what that bird is? I believe it is the bird of humanity. 🙂

  9. Kljigen Says:

    “A lot of people, when ranking media, put literature at the very top. I have no formal answer to this, but I am assuming that the reason for this is because literature is one of the most abstract media, if not the most abstract medium itself.”

    I believe that this is not the case. Why is literature so powerful? Why is it ranked the first out of so many media? In my opinion, this is duh to the fact that literature is the only media that allows you to think the most while going through it. As there are little or no pictures in literature, and all you are taking in are words,alot of imagination takes place and you develop the scenes in your own mind. This allows you to take part in the story more and thus more interaction between the media and the person enjoying it. Anime and drama couldn’t archieve that as everything is shown as what you will see and leave little room for imagination, thus reducing the effectiveness of said media.

    However, why do some people enjoy anime or drama more? One of the reason could be since literature requires you to use your brain more to enjoy it, people could find it tiring after awhile. Anime and drama could let you just sit there like a mindless zombie and requires minimum thinking. In a scenario where someone had a stressful day and just got off for work, he would rather choose a media that requires the less thinking since his brain is already tired. This could be one of the reasons why the younger generations are enjoying anime and dramas more. It doesn’t require them to think very much.

    Well, I think this comment is just OFF topic from your post but it is just what i think when you compare literature with other forms of media.

  10. astrobunny Says:

    Nice post Mike. It is certainly a different way of looking at literature to me, since I have never thought of it this way. You have really highlighted the fact that it is time consuming and is very abstract media. What about the fact that words are capable of conveying more and very different ideas compared to pictures and animation?

    My 2 cents: A picture is worth a thousand words yes, but a thousand words tells no story. Words paint a very vivid picture of the situation at hand, and convey much more complex ideas than a picture is capable of. Even as an anime fan, I find myself hard-pressed to say that people prefer anime over storybooks, one of the reasons being I am also an avid reader, like many others who wait in the bus to get to work. The ideas that words convey are equally, or perhaps even more important (to human beings) than that which is presented on a coloured painting or a photograph. To us, reality is more than just to behold, there is more than meets the eye.

  11. Michael Says:

    @Kljigen

    Literature forces us to think more in comparison to other media because of its abstract nature. With only words as the source of meaning, one is forced to analyze matters based on the words alone. As for your succeeding points, I think I have grazed upon them or have explicitly mentioned them in my replies to other people’s comments.

    I would agree that many people are more fond of anime or drama than literature because the former are not as taxing on the brain as the latter is. I guess you have made concrete why people often favor anime or drama more. In the end of a long day, no one wants to do more thinking. One wants to exercise the mind, but not to tire it. I guess anime or drama sates this desire.

    All in all, those points were pertinent. Thank you. 🙂

    @astrobunny

    1) A picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words (may) tell no story.

    This is an excellent point. I wholeheartedly agree with this.

    (2) Words paint a very vivid picture of the situation at hand, and convey much more complex ideas than a picture is capable of.

    This is if the writer is a master. Otherwise, I would say no. I do, however, am an avid reader whenever there is a need to commute.

    (3) Reality is more than just to behold, there is more than meets the eye.

    Correct. 🙂

  12. meganeshounen Says:

    Hmm… a bit off-topic, but a part of the post reminds me of something. Something that’s present in both Western literature and Japanese anime.

    It’s one of those dreaded things that some people who were diehard fans or purists of the original work. It’s also the source of ire for most anime fans, since it comes in the form that they detest most (at times), “filler episodes”. It also appears in novel-to-movie renditions, where some details left in the original work are left out or even modified in order to adapt the plot for a theatrical scene.

    It’s called… “Adaptation Decay”. I think.

    Well, yeah, fine. Studios can’t always completely depend on the source material that they are using, since if they did, all they will get would be a mere glorified version of the source. Nothing more, nothing less. That would elicit “seen the original, why the hell should I see this one” feeling as well. That’s why they probably take the liberty of “adapting” the source material into something else… with much varied results.

    Those results range from the Harry Potter movies, to the current status of certain Shonen Jump anime (Hint: B.O.N.), but still, it’s there. Seeing a completely faithful (that’s 100% direct from the source) show is quite rare nowadays…

    And Mike….egad. When I said that you needed to post more pics, and you said that no normal picture would fit in the mood, I sincerely didn’t expect you to use THAT picture. o_O

  13. Michael Says:

    @meganeshounen

    Frankly, faithful adaptations fare better than those more creative ones. I have mentioned the film adaptation of For Whom the Bell Tolls in my post, and because it was faithful I could sincerely say that it was good. Those who pour in too much liberty in their adaptations degrade it.

    Remind me, what is B.O.N.?

    The picture is awesome as it is. 😉

  14. meganeshounen Says:

    @Mike:

    So you don’t know what B.O.N. is?

    Those three letters are the first letter of three certain currently-popular Shonen Jump series.

    Not enough of a clue? Death, pirates and ninjas. -_-

  15. Michael Says:

    @megane

    You made me think B.O.N. was a new series or something. I get it now. BAAAWWW :p

  16. TheBigN Says:

    Words are dense, can be boring, and people have to comprehend them since that’s one of the ways to get sense and meaning out of them (random letters make no sense, even though that might be a point). And usually, people think more than what the author intended about certain themes involved in the book, or even miss the author’s point completely.

    Pictures and animation are more dynamic, and people don’t have to think about them if they don’t want to IMO. You can be visually stimulated and that’s all good. If you do want to think, meaning and intentions can also be obtained by thinking about it, and I think seeing things make obtaining that information easier as a starting point than just words.

    At the same time the words are static, but numerous interpretations come from that, which is why looking at written to visual media transitions can be jarring as well. If I watch the Harry Potter movies, how Harry looks and sounds on screen doesn’t match what I think in my head as I read, for example. And I think it’s hard to formulate that opinion of what you think the words you read mean rather than having that starting point, based on what we see.

    Because it’s harder and takes longer than just watching anime, I also notice that I’ve been watching the former rather than reading novels. Society also seems to be that way, as less works of “real substance” seem to be produced, and more things seem to be visual. So I think you could say that media really differs in terms of how you can receive and use it. If the same story is being told through different mediums, what you choose is based on how you work, I guess.

  17. Michael Says:

    @TheBigN

    First and foremost, thank you for spending time reading this article of mine (with due coercion).

    As usual, to make things easier for me I am going to utilize bullets in citing points I feel relevant. 🙂

    1) Words are dense, can be boring, and people have to comprehend them […]

    This is true, and this is why I believe literature is the most abstract among the different media there are, which leads me to your next relevant point,

    2) […] people don’t have to think about them (scil. pictures and animation) if they don’t want to IMO.

    Exactly, leading me to another point that you’ve made that,

    3) […] seeing things make obtaining that information easier as a starting point than just words.

    Pictures paint a thousand words, but it does not apply conversely. As Kljigen pointed out, a thousand words may paint blather. I have a hard time explaining this, but words are merely representations of reality whereas pictures and animation are presentations of it. What does this mean? What we see in animation is a simulation of reality; words do not have this property. They cannot simulate reality, rather, they represent a piece of reality but need the mind to process this. I believe this is what you mean when you have mentioned that one has to comprehend the words first before one can comprehend the content, and this comprehension is an additional step that is arguably taxing.

    (4) […] numerous interpretations come from that […] And I think it’s hard to formulate that opinion of what you think the words you read mean rather than having that starting point, based on what we see.

    This is an additional task for the medium of literature, because meaning can be so varied for different individuals. Having a starting point of meaning and not needing to grasp it anymore is a big help, and a big load lifted off one’s mind. I guess this is both the gift and curse of literature: literature forces one to think, forces one to create his own meaning, which is rewarding if done perseveringly and diligently, but also possess a weight of more analysis and more reflection – more of the Bergsonian pensee pensee and pensee pensante has to be utilized than any other medium.

    5) Because it’s harder and takes longer than just watching anime […]

    I do not think it is longer. RyanA suggests something I did not think of, that frankly the media do not really differ in the time spent, but they differ in the effort, or, as he says, in ‘time’s asphyxiation’ (a good image if I ever thought one).

    6) If the same story is being told through different mediums, what you choose is based on how you work, I guess.

    We agree here. In the end, it remains to be a matter of convenience.

    Until soon! 🙂

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