Your unpopular interpretations of creative works [Spoilers]

I’ve been reading this board for years now, but the ongoing thread about “Obvious things about a creative work you realize after seeing/hearing it for the millionth time” has finally tipped me over the edge into signing up. There are a number of posts over there where the “obvious” thing that the poster has realised is almost universally disagreed with. It started with Cliffy’s post about Kris not being Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street (if you ignore Tim R. Mortiss’ possible whoosh about Brown Eyed Girl and anal sex) and now Lamia stands apparently alone holding the opinion that the cowardly lion is gay. There are a few others scattered throughout the thread if you care to look.

So, to the point of the post: What interpretations do you hold about a creative work that disagree with the popular opinion?

I’ll kick it off with mine: Spoilers for The Usual Suspects ahead but I won’t bother boxing, because I think the statute of limitations has passed on that film…

Verbal Kint is not Keyser Soze! He is intimately involved in Soze’s operation and probably knows who he is, but he isn’t Soze himself. Kint’s previous record has him as a con-man, his role in the operation was to tell the story to the police so that Soze could get away. In my opinion this means that either the policeman (Kujan) was right and it was a plot by Dean Keaton to fake his own death (making him Soze) or Soze is the character that picks Verbal up at the end - who we know isn’t called Kobayashi. But, what do we really know? The whole story was told by a lying conman, so it could be anybody. I really doubt that it was the only guy that got caught though.

(Oh yeah, there is the sketch from the witness, but that just means that Verbal was on the boat)

So now’s your chance. Stand up, into the light and shout “Yes! I admit that I believe all the evidence points to the Mona Lisa being a thinly veiled deconstruction on the political fallout of alien invasion, and you will not convince me otherwise!”. And, while debate is good, let’s not try too hard to convince each other that they are wrong - the point is that they already know most people disagree with them.

<hijack> FWIW, Frobozz, there’s really no statute of limitations on spoilers; the guiding principle is one of general consideration. Every year a couple threads pop up with titles like “I finally got around to Citizen Kane!” so any discussion of Rosebud’s identity should be spoilered out of simple politeness. Not that you didn’t indeed politely mention that there would be spoilers ahead; this is only to address the idea of a statute of limitations on spoilers. </hijack>

The ending of Battlestar Galactica went to where they chose the path of least resistance and ended up repeating the cycle again rather than trying to start their society from a point of high technology and teach their children the dangers of slavery. Instead they chose to return to primitivism, thus dooming their descendents to repeat the tragedy yet again.

Lissener-Rosebud was Luke’s father, right?

In Night of the Living Dead, I’m convinced the sheriff was aware he was killing some live people in addition to zombies, but that he had the attitude that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. The men under him were too scared to say anything.


Rico was Gerardo’s great-great-grandson

Search your heart. You know it to be true.

I really like that. I’d need to watch it again to decide if I actually agree with you. But it would be fitting for the style of the show to give us a depressing ending wrapped in a façade of a victory.

Star Wars epi 2 romantic plot. Anakin and Padme are stunted emotionally. Warrior monk and underage politician. Their relationship seems immature and awkward because when it comes to dealing with someone they are attracted to- they are immature and awkward.

Yes, Anakin is a child when Palpatine first gets his hooks into him. He falls into the same problem as most prodigies, he doesn’t understand the difference between being smart and powerful and being wise. Isn’t he like 18 when he murders the Jedi?

Yeah, the ending really pissed me off whereas so many people I know loved it.

In Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, Kurtz’s last words are supposedly “The horror! The horror!” This is commonly regarded as proof of Kurtz’s insanity, which serves as an indictment of European colonialism.

But in my heart, I know Marlowe misheard Kurtz, and that Kurtz’s last words were “The whore! The whore!” Thus, Kurtz’s problem is just syphilis, and Heart of Darkness is actually about the dangers of unprotected sex.

No one ever, ever believes me.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart. Weirdly, I was just ranting about this the other day.

Okay, so in the popular interpretation (as I understand it) the narrator killer guy has murdered the old man, dismembered him, and stashed the body parts under the floor boards. The police visit, and they suspect nothing until the killer starts raving about the beating heart under the floor.

This makes me crazy on two points. First, I refuse to believe that you can dismember an adult human indoors, at night, in 1843, and not have some problems with blood. The killer claims he caught every drop in a tub, but I think that is really a stretch. Second, if he’s putting the body parts under the floor boards, I maintain the house is going to smell like a stockyard. The blood alone has a strong smell. And I don’t mean a decomposing smell … just the smell of meat parts and blood like the smell of a butcher shop.

So to make this all acceptable to me, I imagine that the police arrive and know instantly that Twitchy McBonkers is the murderer, but because he is so clearly oblivious, they sit down with him for their own entertainment, to see what crazy story he comes up with. And that’s when he claims to hear the beating heart. I refuse to believe he was ever on the verge of getting away with the crime.

This is all something my English professor called “The Misfit’s Black Hat.” It derives from two letters Flannery O’Connor wrote to critics of her story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

The title came from someone who went up to O’Connor and asked knowingly “Why did the Misfit have a black hat?” O’Connor’s answer was “He stole it from a country man, and in Georgia, they usually wear black hats.” That didn’t satisfy him and he asked again, “what was the significance of the black hat?” O’Connor replied, “To cover his head.”

The second – and more relevant here – was O’Connor’s reply to a college professor who wrote her about the story. The professor wrote that the class had agreed that in the story the Misfit was not real, but rather a fantasy on the part of Bailey (the son) and wanted to know when the story changed from reality to fantasy. O’Connor blasted him: “The interpretation of your 90 students and 2 teachers is fantastic and about as far from my intentions as it could be. . . . If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.”

That’s what people are doing here. Looking for the Misfit’s Black Hat: an interpretation that they can logically support, even though it requires having no feeling for the story at all.

Pfft. Authors. What the hell do they know?

Wasn’t there an argument in this very forum a while back that once an author/filmmaker/musician releases a work, it doesn’t “belong” to him/her anymore, but to the reader/viewer/listener, and that thus his/her intentions don’t matter?

I’m not sure if you are asking this in jest, but it’s a perfectly valid and fair point. I don’t give a fig for an author’s intentions. I’ll never know what was going on in the author’s mind at that moment when the writing occurred, and I’ll never know what wasn’t going on in their mind. I could read every word of every biography and every autobiography, I can read interviews, and diaries, and letters, and still never even begin to have a grasp of the emotions, logic, intricacies, intentions, history, personality, need, and neurosis that makes up that human being at the point of the creation of art. So it makes no sense to me to ask “What did the author intend?” I would wager the author doesn’t even know the full answer to that question and couldn’t tell me if I asked. God knows I never do when I’m being honest with myself about my own work.

At any rate, I think It’s A Wonderful Life is one of the most bleak, depressing, horrid movies I’ve ever seen. And every time I watch it, I’m depressed. No man is poor who has friends? Really? What if the friends are the reason the man is poor? What if the friends are the reason the man has never had a dream that came true? Bedford Falls is not some idyllic small town that America has since lost to the Pottervilles. It’s a twisted little hell of a town, where everybody glosses over the darkness, the depression, the fear, the ugliness, and pretends it’s all going to be all right when it’s really not. All Potterville does is bring that darkness up front–it doesn’t create it. That shit is always there, but sometimes, it can be sublimated. When one man finally snaps, the whole town apparently senses that George Bailey has had all he could take of that shit, and they all pray to God to help him–but do they really want to help him? Or do they just want to trap him in the same hopeless web they find themselves? The next day it’s going to be the same shit all over again, except he’s temporarily forestalled going to jail. Until the next time his insane uncle Billy loses the deposit or some other equally stupid yet horrible thing happens. Then all of his kids will grow up, and maybe, maybe, if they’re very lucky, they’ll escape and see the world their father could only dream about.

The Reader Response school of literary criticism has been around for a while. I’m a fan of it myself, up to a certain point.

A couple video game ones:

Despite being all but explicitly stated in the game, it’s unpopular to believe that the main characters of Star Ocean III are, despite the plot twist, REAL.

That their universe was artificial doesn’t make them any less sapient, sentient, or self-guided, and Luther and the other 4D characters trying to delete the Milky Way are no more correct than any other omnicidal maniacs.

The revelation about the nature of the Milky Way doesn’t invalidate the stories of the games, it’s just an odd metaphysical aspect of the universe.

Not ‘unpopular’, as it has more than its share of supporters, but controversial, as it’s contrary to canon, which also has more than its share of supporters, but Final Fantasy Tactics Advance:

Marche is the true villain. He destroyed the original world by accidentally overwriting it with Ivalice, then he destroyed Ivalice - every bit a real world - to restore the original world. Not only erasing the lives of millions of people who only existed in Ivalice (every Moogle, Viera, Baanga, and Nu Mou, and not a few humes), but making the lives of those who existed in both worlds, almost without exception, worse.

Agreed. I’ve always felt that the point of art is to tell the audience something about themselves, not to tell them something about the artist.