Friday, July 9, 2010

The death of imagination

I've been trying to re-read the last Harry Potter book, as I've read all the previous 6 of them at least 5 times each, but I didn't have the heart to pick up Deathly Hallows again after the first time I read it. I know several people think HP is a childish read (and maybe surprised by this sudden shift from the usual Sufi to Harry Potter), but I believe it proves to be pure entertainment. Especially for someone who met Harry & co at 11 years of age, and grew up with the series. And also, it fares far far better than the commercial, mindless trash being churned out for our "young readers" now a days... sad indeed.

For example, Hermione Granger, the intelligent, honest and strong-willed protagonist is slowly being replaced by a dull, mumbling paper-doll by the name of "Bella" via modern fiction popular among the female youth (i.e. brains are no longer in vogue, you get the *Sparkling* guy if you act like a dumb damsel in distress, yeah right...)

I'm also furious about the fact that modern media is slowly hacking away at all remnants of "imagination" in our younger generation. Previously, reading a work of fiction provided a rich source of ideas/descriptions with which each reader could imagine and shape the characters/places. This capability of thinking and 'creating' an image on the hypothetical "screen" inside our heads, was crucial for developing and understanding abstract ideas. It was also highly beneficial for the creative power of the brain. This exercise lead to greater potential for creativity in an individual at an early age.

Today, the youth hardly bothers to pick up a book. Why waste days/nights trying to read a book, "think and try to imagine" the scene/characters, when you can buy a $12 ticket to watch everything already done for you on-screen with stereo sound and digital images and the plot compressed in 2 hours or less?

They say... "we live in a fast-paced modern world, everything available at your fingertips!"
I see, and also one in which we spoon-feed our youth using the "screens" at home, and the "screens" at the cinema? oh yeah... surround-sound and 3-d anyone?

But what about that absolutely essential "screen" inside your brain? the screen so important for creativity? for developing ideas, working out solutions, and absolutely indispensable for our cognitive superiority as a species? Bah!... who cares? here we go, Harry Potter coming out in November.

Thousands of screaming fans will flock to the cinema to watch a 2-hours, mashed-up, edited, awkwardly disjointed storyline sadly lacking the wit and passion of the actual thing. I can guarantee a major chunk of these unfortunate souls have never had the delight of reading and imagining the details of the HP world: of meeting Nearly-Headless Nick, the excitement of each goal scored by Gryffindor against Slytherin as announced by Lee Jordan, giggling away at Peeves, or suppressing silent laughter at the outlandish "passwords" for the common rooms at Hogwarts. These poor sad souls, alas... only able to pay up $12 for a two-hour cinematic adventure in 3-D, far less exciting than the free adventure they could create for themselves on their own.

The same trend can be seen in other 'virtual' tech gadgets. E.g., where people were supposed to play- "physically" play- games such as tennis etc... you've got the "Nintendo Wii". So they're "pro" tennis players but only by expertly swinging that white remote. And while children, when visiting family, used to run about and light up the house by their chatter, now they sit quietly in a corner, their eyes glued to the abomination called Nintendo DS...too busy shooting aliens on a double-screen to look up and really live their childhood.

As for the other virtual reality/video games, I hold very similar negative views. I was shocked to see, a couple of days ago, the imagery of games such as Modern Warfare (and whatever-else-they-are-called, I'm not researching their names...such pitiful filth) and I found them to be pretty racist and disgusting. There was even a 'nice' extended scene where you could further destroy a dreary, burning city already in ruins... a city very thoughtfully called "Karachi". The person who uploaded the excellent "scene" from this video game on youtube, wrote in his comments that he wasn't aware that Karachi was an actual place. Another young gentleman replied something along the lines of 'Karachi was bombed by the US during the Afghanistan war 2001 and nothing much remains of the place'. Such pearls of wisdom! I can only stand up and clap with merriment at this feat achieved by 'modern' visual media!

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