October 13, 2007
We're all animation fans here, right? And there are probably few things that irritate us more than people who think that all we watch are the juvenile antics of anvil-toting funny-animals. I've said before that the mainstream press (and marketing departments) are a big part of the problem, as they help perpetuate a limited (and often inaccurate) view of animation's content and process.
As it happens, today I spotted two articles that both refer to their writers' limited views on animation. One of these is predictably disappointing; the other is surprisingly encouraging.
I'll start with the good news. In yesterday's New York Times, Stephon Holden summarized the New York Film Festival's highlights, and he led off with (and praises) Persepolis despite, as he put it, a "longstanding resistance to animation":
Because it is animated, Persepolis is a bold choice for the festival’s closing-night selection. "A cartoon?" you may sniff. "How dare they?" But the movie is so enthralling that it eroded my longstanding resistance to animation, and I realized that the same history translated into a live-action drama could never be depicted with the clarity and narrative drive that bold, simple animation encourages.This is a refreshing and commendable report. Confronted with an animated feature that challenged his preconceptions about the medium, Holden adjusted his worldview in light of this new experience, without once feeling the need to denigrate the rest of animation's offerings. If only more film critics, fans and artists did the same.
Montreal's Al Kratina, on the other hand, gives a typical backhanded compliment in yesterday's Montreal Gazette:
In September, Anchor Bay Entertainment released a slew of anime titles, including Perfect Blue, a film that avoids most anime clichés. It's not futuristic, there are no robots, and at no point is a schoolgirl threatened by some sort of pulsating sex monster. Instead, it's a complex story of a young pop idol who's stalked by a crazed fan, with exaggerated themes of obsession and paranoia that feel like Alfred Hitchcock directing a Road Runner cartoon.More of the same old, same old. Kratina has, like most mainstream critics (and more than a few in the animation press, as well) seen only a sliver of all that anime has to offer, and yet he figures he already knows "most" of its tropes—sorry, "clichés." So far as he's concerned, it's not typical anime if it's "not futuristic, there are no robots, and at no point is a schoolgirl threatened by some sort of pulsating sex monster." And of course there's the inevitable comparison to Disney films or Looney Tunes.
Enough is enough, already. As I wrote eleven months ago, if we want to see better animation writing we need to tell writers and editors when they've screwed up. I encourage you to write to newspapers, magazines, radio shows, TV shows and websites when this kind of lazy criticism occurs; it's the only way we'll ever see real change. Here's what I wrote to the Gazette:
Sad to say, I'm not surprised that Al Kratina makes the backhanded compliment to Perfect Blue that it "avoids most anime clichés. It's not futuristic, there are no robots, and at no point is a schoolgirl threatened by some sort of pulsating sex monster" ("'In' films for 'out' crowds," Oct. 12). There are many anime productions that don't fit into his preconceived categories, but as is often the case with people who don't take the time to understand a genre or medium, he figures a few generalizations will suffice.Have you come across anything egregious in the media lately? Let us know about it.