How many of you have ever experienced something and then given the “It was good, but” rating? I might better ask who has not…! “But” supplies an objection. It turns the “good” into a negative. Yes, the possibility of goodness remains, however deep the stain that comes after that tiny conjunction, but the whole has still been tainted. “But” implies that something about the subject could have been, should have been better.
The doctor’s intentions were good, but he prescribed the wrong medication.
The holiday spending record is good, but the government figures on which the National Retail Federation bases its holiday sum do not take into account rising prices.
The cake was good, but without leavening it was hard as a rock.
Nowhere is the impact of “Good, But” more widespread than in the media, particularly in this age of instant accessibility. We no longer have to wait until we can get to the store to buy a movie, or read a book, or listen to music. We don’t have to keep peeking in our (mostly empty) mailboxes to see if our goodies have finally arrived.
I have been thinking about the “Good, But” situation a great deal lately. First it was in relation to movies. Isn’t it great to be surrounded by high quality digital sound, sucking in all that juicy high definition color, holding onto the edge of your seat as you enjoy a vicarious rush? And then, right in the middle of Pure Awesome Sauce, there’s a Scene or a Phrase that just knocks you right out of the experience and leaves you reeling — disappointed, unpleasantly surprised, and possibly even angry.
Author Michael D. Young expresses a similar discontent in his post Move Over George Lucas.
The story, the characters, and the dialogue stand on their own without having to use gimmicks to get the audience’s attention.
Far too many artists don’t understand that “Less is more,” and desperately pile on the excess. More foul language, more graphically bloody mayhem, more explicitly base sex. Gimmicks. What, don’t your stories, characters, and dialogue stand on their own?
I recently downloaded a couple of samples from ebooks, and boy, am I glad they were samplers and I didn’t have to pay for the smut. The fact that so much obscenity is littering my beloved fantasy genre is a subject for another day. Maybe. One of those ebook samples was chosen because I liked the cover and the blurb sounded interesting. The other was chosen because I have very much enjoyed reading the author’s blog and the now-and-then contact I’ve had with him online. The fact that I loved the cover and the blurb made it an easy choice. The more I read, the more sullied I felt. He has a wonderful way of describing (some) things, a fantastic turn of phrase, and I think his narrative voice is good. I can’t be sure if I was turning the pages because of that or out of morbid curiosity. I think he’s a good writer, but…
If someone pours you a glass of water and then tops it off with a little unfiltered sewage, is it still a good glass of water?
If a person can’t buy movie tickets because they’re underage, why can they buy books whose contents are potentially worse? Should books also have content ratings? Am I a prude? And if so, isn’t it interesting that the word “prude” is from O. Fr. preude “good, virtuous, modest,” or perhaps an ellipsis of preudefemme “a discreet, modest woman”?