Sunday 22 June 1997
The problem of "plot holes" has become so acute that Slate has commissioned a screenwriter to write a column entirely devoted to the narrative logic of films, or their lack thereof. "Aesthetic judgments will continue to be rendered by our regular film critic," they reassure us. The division of labour is an intriguing one. Is narrative analysis merely a sort of public sub-editing? Or is it that contemporary film critics are thought to have altogether lost the plot?
The final straw seems to have been The Fifth Element, whose reported incoherence almost turned into a selling point. Its directorial foibles prompted Suck, Slate's fellow e-zine, to diagnose "Luc Besson's Disease", the symptoms of which included "persistent, yet mostly meaningless, intertextual commentary and a strong penchant for random pastiche".
We're all stricken, Suck claims, by an obsession with "connectedness" for its own sake. But perhaps it's closer to the truth to say that people have drifted away from narrative. They channel-hop on television, and from site to site on the Web. The idea of "connectedness" may be little more than a token substitute for the old idea that narrative makes experiences make sense.
If readers are so easily distracted, though, it seems like a gross strategic error to present your argument in the form of a hypertext, with opportunities to click off into a different site every few lines. The link from the word "semiotics" to a page called "Semiotics for Beginners" is one thing. But another one, leading to "What's Expected Of Seinfeld: The Aesthetic Reception Of A Situation Comedy" is something else. It fails to answer the big questions about the show: why the supporting cast demanded $1m per episode for the next series, why the actress who plays Elaine doesn't get her wages docked for gratuitous hand-gestures, and why it isn't called Kramer or Costanza. One is tempted to follow the trail of links to less theoretical Seinfeld sites.
Back at the text, there's an obvious booby-trap in the form of a photo of naked women. Sure enough, it leads to an art site inspired by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. "Meaningless, intertextual commentary" links to another art project called "Placing". This features a catalogue of consumer items, and claims to be about how people "make meaning and significance of the multiple interdependencies between themselves, others, and name-brand products".
Web-writing doesn't usually lose itself in such follies, but it does often fall victim to the temptation of linking texts instead of discussing them. It's a lot quicker to put in a link to somebody else's site than to precis their views, and it saves space on one's own pages. But that can be a false economy, if it induces the readers to make digressions of their own. Slate and Suck both have genuine cultural bones to pick. Unfortunately, only one of them realises that the way forward is a straight line.
Technofile now has its own Web site: http://www.poptel.org.uk/technofile/
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 4 James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
- 5 Baby rescued 1km out to sea after parents forgot about her
Bad luck, One Direction: Paul McCartney doubts success of The Beatles will ever be matched again
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
The Crystal Maze: Richard O’Brien confirmed to return as more details revealed about show's rebooted format
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Guillaume Tell's gang-rape scene caused uproar at the Royal Opera House – but the portrayal of extreme sex and violence on stage is nothing new
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture