blockbuster, shakespeare, and oxford english [musings on the cerebral atrophy of america]
it all started at blockbuster. [yes, the dying movie rental establishment] hubby and i usually redbox-it for our movie rental needs but we have struck-out the last few times that we went hunting for coriolanus. so, we took a trip to what i can only assume is the last blockbuster still standing in the greater phoenix area.
we perused the merchandise in search of coriolanus and sense and sensibility. [no luck on the latter] and took our modern shakespearean gem to the counter.
we were greeted by a pleasant lady who proceeded to take our selection and scan it into the seemingly obsolete computer in front of her. but, she paused. she flipped the dvd over. she paused again. then, she looked up at us...and this happened:
"i just want you to know that i took this movie home last week to see what all the fuss was about."
"yeah. and i gotta say...i just couldn't get through it. i mean, i couldn't understand a darn word. it was like they were speaking in another language or something."
"well, that's too bad."
"i just couldn't follow it. no idea what they were saying. it must have been in a really old language."
i paused to absorb. then, i pondered what to say next. clearly, this lady was trying to be nice and warn us so we wouldn't waste our time on a ridiculous movie with indiscernible dialogue. i hoped that she would just move on and scan our movie, but she just stood there. movie in hand. staring me down. awaiting my response.
"sure. i mean...the play was written by shakespeare. i suppose the intricate language is to be expected..."
"oh. shakespeare. right. okay. well...i guess there was that. but, the people were also tough to understand. with those accents. it just took too much work to get it, ya know? i turned it off."
"well...hopefully we will make it through."
with that, she finally scanned the movie and sent us on our way.
ben and i got into the car and just stared at each other for a second. we were both thinking the same thing. what has happened? where is the appreciation for the classics? for the ancient? and yes, for the shakespearean? when did people start just "giving up" on doing something because it was too complex and they had to [gasp] think? are we truly becoming so mindless that we can only digest the most basic of "entertainment"? do we really prefer to NOT engage our brains? can we really not understand or are we too lazy to put in the effort? when did we become so ADD? when did we become a gag-reel, YouTube, sitcom nation? why does everything have to be in catchy jingles or sound-bytes? when did we become so Twitter-pated? everything stated in a few hundred characters or less. hashtag this and hashtag that. what happened to thee, thy, thou and the oxford english? speaking of oxford...yes, i did purposefully include the oxford comma in my post title. do NOT let the charming little oxford comma die, people! i beg of you.
i mourn the loss of the old english. so reverent. so regal. so formal. so robust. our langauge has been relegated to a series of abbreviations. quick and dirty so we can throw something out there to the masses and move on. little thought. little care. just a lot of LOLs and BTWs and OMGs and TTYLs. sad, i say.
and who am i to talk [type]? my blogging is quite informal. i don't even capitalize! fragments and run-on sentences. you bet. i am ashamed. what would king james think? [hey! there's an abbreviation for ya! WWKJT. maybe i should have bracelets made and cash in on the abbreviation, acrostic, acronym phenomenon.]
my own blogging style notwithstanding, i am still saddened by this deadening of our senses. this mental slipping. this atrocious atrophy. and that is exactly what it is - atrophy. i think we are wasting away. we aren't exercising our brains enough. we are feeding on tidbits that are spooned to us via social media. we like snippets of info. we prefer images to words. we don't want to sit down and read a book - we want to watch the movie version. we don't want to read the wall street journal. we get our vital information from a friend's Facebook status update. we have thousands of friends and connections and followers but few meaningful relationships. we "retweet" and "like" but do we ever actually communicate and comprehend? we are LinkedIn but completely checked out. we have chosen the convenience of a Kindle over the charm of a paperback. where have all the bookstores gone? emails are the new letters. text messages are the new phone calls. we get our reality from reality TV. iTunes tuesday is the new vinyl. the microwave has replaced the roasting pan. i don't like it.
well, i refuse to go down without a fight. bring back the old books and dusty libraries! and perhaps i will pepper my daily dialogues with a few more oxford english words. strategically slip in a heretofore, bequeath, betwixt, doth, nary, hither and thither, naught, prithee, wence, or wrought. let us cherish the old. let us stimulate and challenge our brains. let us deliberately engage with others. let us live lives of depth and vigor. let us be people of passion. let us be interesting and interested instead of dull. let us be enraptured by the complexities and beauty of the created world. let us be infused with wisdom and knowledge.
when i make curtsy, bid me farewell.
[shakespeare's as you like it]