My Turtles Aren’t Your Turtles

**SPOILER ALERT: This article contains mild spoilers from the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. Please stop here if you haven’t read it!**

A take on reading the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green, in which the author’s reading is compared with my personal reading.

If you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of John Green’s latest book, you’re truly missing out, and if you don’t follow the vlogbrothers (the collaborative Youtube channel between him and his brother, Hank), you may have missed his reading of the first chapter, uploaded around six weeks ago. The video has over 250,000 views and the comments section is filled with fans of John’s booked anticipating its arrival.

There’s something that seems very authentic about the author reading a piece of work to you. It feels raw, uncut and real, though we can say that this is definitely an edited chapter. In all honesty, I’d forgotten about this video by the time I picked up my pre-ordered copy.As I started reading, I began to remember these lines from a book hadn’t read yet, and it was an odd feeling. Not bad, just odd. But then I came across a name that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time: Mychael.

As I started reading, I began to remember these lines from a book hadn’t read yet, and it was an odd feeling. Not bad, just odd. But then I came across a name that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time: Mychael. This is a fairly unusual spelling of the name, but it doesn’t necessarily make the pronunciation any different, but I noticed. Because in my brain, when John was reading it, it was Michael, that was how it was spelt. Now, Mychael seemed like a different person to the Michael I had already met. I felt a divergence from what John had read to me and what I was reading. I think if I tried hard enough, they’d become one person but instead, I decided that John’s Michael and my Mychael were different. And that’s when it got interesting.

This surreal experience that sounds strange even when I’m typing it out got me thinking about the idea of “authenticity”. You’ve likely heard the word before in relation to so-called realness and sometimes even originality. Most things have a first or an original, which then becomes a catalyst for further things. The idea of authenticity is often very skewed in the music industry, for example, Amy Winehouse’s cover of ‘Valerie’ is exactly that, a cover so should be deemed something less original, yet it became more successful, more widely received and public, so just because it wasn’t the first you could say that it’s no less authentic than the original. Then we come to books. See, books are often “originals” just because they’re widely viewed as a “first” medium. Books provide spinoff films, TV shows, albums, merchandise that sometimes reach further but the book is still hailed as the original, the first and most authentic iteration of the text. Sounds pretty legit, right?

Maybe not. Something else exists before a book. The story itself overpowers its medium. The words you read were alive long before you read them, they existed in the brain of the writer, ideas that were honed and edited into a book. To John Green, the most authentic version of Turtles All The Way Down might well have been the one inside his head and that is what I felt I was experiencing watching that video of the first chapter. It felt more whole, more real and somehow different to reading it myself. I might never read the first chapter because I want to keep that alive.

Maybe it’s complete nonsense, but it felt nice and comforting to know that maybe for a second, I was seeing the story in a different way. Not better than how I would see it, but different. And that was pretty awesome.

What do you think? Do you feel different going to author’s readings and reading their book yourself? Do you think either is more authentic? Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page! Have a lovely day!

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Live Performances and Socks

Live music performance is a thing that most people are familiar with to some degree. Is it too expensive? Is it worth it? Is it a dying art? (Also Green Day).

Last Sunday (5/2/17) Green Day played at First Direct Arena in Leeds as a part of their Revolution Radio tour, and as surprising as this sounds, it was (at age 19) the first gig I have ever attended. Now, I’ve been a fan of Green Day for around ten years and I honestly didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to see them play live, so when I got the tickets a few months ago, it honestly didn’t register that I’d be close enough to Billie Joe Armstrong that I’d be able to see the colour of his socks. But then February 5th rolled around and… it actually happened.

The thing about live music is that it’s almost always somewhat manufactured. By this I mean that immense amount of planning goes into every aspect of the performance, from the lighting right down to the set list and sometimes even what the performers wear. To some, this may take away from the authenticity of the performance but just because something is planned doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, the idea that something is so highly anticipated translates to it being popular and loved. Although people are always keen to draw a line between “popular”, “good” and “quality”, we can agree that the the power of pop culture, especially in music, is worthy of further study and popularity doesn’t take away the quality of anything.

A pop music scholar, Philip Auslander, in his article about female fans of The Beatles at their live shows notes that there is are elements of shared experience and even shared performance. This is an interesting concept as it focuses more on the audience than the act itself. Although neither could exist independently, it’s nice to know that within the huge industry that gives us so much great music, we the audience are valued. This is how it felt at Green Day. Yes, we’d all paid to be there but it was as though we were the performers. In a way, everyone was singing along in an attempt to prove they were a big enough fan to be there, so it was like Green Day were there to see us perform as opposed to the other way around.

Yeah, it was expensive. Things were planned out to the exact moment. It was hot and I got whacked in the face a few times. But I got the chance to see Billie Joe Armstrong’s socks (they were red) and it was like being 14 again and listening to Green Day because it was the only thing to do to show any sort of political standing. Live performances are amazing and I hope they never become as elusive as they once were.

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture of his socks.

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Are Trailers Ruining Films?

More and more it seems apparent that Hollywood are showing us the best parts of a film in a trailer to get us to that all important opening weekend. But is this perpetuating a disappointment in the actual substance of recent superhero films?

Lately, I have found that the spark the cinema-going experience has been somewhat dulled by something I couldn’t quite specifically fathom. At first I thought it was age. Some of you will be familiar with the four quadrant model that dictates the four main audience demographics; men over 25, men under 25, women under 25 and women over 25. The more squares a film hits, the higher the likelihood of its popularity.

www.screencraft.org

screencraft.org

However, the “easiest” two quadrants are males and females under 25, so most blockbusters aim to please this demographic. I may not be over 25 yet, but I did do Film Studies for two years and it left me quite cynical, so my first thought was that I had grown disinterested in Hollywood film and superheroes and action and fun and I was going to die alone and boring, because that’s what happens when you become a grown-up.  And then I suddenly felt like Tom Hanks in that Carly Rae Jepsen video. As I clung to the fragments of my youth, I watched every single superhero film that came out in my lifetime (yes, that includes the 2008 Incredible Hulk).

But then I made a very crucial revelation at this point, out of the recent superhero films (Batman Vs Superman, Deadpool etc) none of them I thought were bad, I actually really enjoyed them. So what made me initially disappointed? What had already happened to make me disinterested in the actual source material? THE TRAILERS!

By this, I mean that the experience of the trailers can sometimes eclipse the film itself. Yet, a good trailer usually reflects a good film, (of course there are always anomalies). What other factors are at play here? Now, the Deadpool trailers were absolutely brilliant, but upon reflecting on the actual film, I found that I couldn’t laugh out loud, as I felt I’d already experienced it. Several times. Whereas, with the Batman Vs Superman trailers, I felt they were on par with the film. But I didn’t dislike Deadpool, not even a little bit. It was absolute gold.

At this point maybe we can deduce that genre has an impact on this. With comedy, you’re likely only to get the desired reaction the first time you see the material. Even with great comedians like Peter Kay, who you can watch over and over and still laugh at, if you see it too many times consecutively, it can get old fast. Then you have to wait what seems like an age to be able to enjoy it again. With Deadpool being largely a comedy film, hearing the jokes several times before seeing the film took away some of the value and novelty of it. But with Batman Vs Superman, the attempt at comedy was minute and it focussed on action, offering a very different relationship between trailer and film.

In addition to this, many argued that putting Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs Superman Trailer took away what could have been an epic twist. However, other said that using her as a selling point was a smart move for DC, as they’ve been getting a lot of flack lately for not being as far on with their cinematic universe as Marvel is. Using Wonder Woman as a tool to increase revenue for the opening weekend undoubtedly helped them, but there wasn’t much else that could be described as novelty present in the canon of the film itself.

When this is compared to the Suicide Squad trailers for DC’s upcoming summer blockbuster, there is significant shift. Obviously excluding Will Smith (Deadshot), Jared Leto (Joker) is credited most often on posters and such, however, he is hardly present in the trailers. On the other hand, Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) is extremely prevalent throughout, while being second to last in the list of main cast members. This makes it feel like DC are using Jared Leto’s name and star power to sell the film but are restricting the imagery of the Joker as a kind of secrecy tactic to increase buzz, because that’s really who everyone wants to see. Whereas, the image of Harley Quinn/ Margot Robbie is more notable as Robbie has been in the public eye in the recent past with American Hustle and other successful films, and Harley Quinn is often forgotten from popular media.

Overall, yes a good film is often mirroring a good trailer, but the tactical use of star power and imagery can manipulate the audience response. Also, different genres of film seem to gauge different trailer/film paradigms which can shift with time. Ultimately, the trailers generate a lot of buzz (or lack thereof) and it’s up to you to decide how involved you are in the advertising of media.

Do you think trailers add or take away from the novelty of film-going?

Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!