Jump to content
Darth Richard II

Rothfuss XIV: The Slow Regard of Luna Lovegood

Recommended Posts

19 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Admittedly, Rothfuss has been going down the message rabbit hole to some degree. He's had a go at Tolkien for the literary pipe-smoking, and used that to argue that authors have a duty not to spread evil ideas:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smRcLsXvW2w

(Minutes 50-55).

Thank you, somebody knows what I am talking about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/19/2018 at 4:56 PM, Proudfeet said:

He's slapping himself in the face isn't he? I don't think the effects of smoking were apparent back then, and well, we have Kvothe who off the top of my head, is a cheat, bully and a fraud.

Yep. Rothfuss would say we're not supposed to endorse Kvothe's actions... but the text overtly portrays the character as heroic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Yep. Rothfuss would say we're not supposed to endorse Kvothe's actions... but the text overtly portrays the character as heroic.

He also clearly didn't mean that statement as an indictment of Tolkien. He was making a point about the effect a text can have on the mass consciousness.

Edited by Let's Get Kraken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

Honestly, you don't have to look hard to find Rothfuss being a creep, in the um, un feminist like sense.

Well he is a hobo looking writer detailing lurid sex scenes with a 17 year old boy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/20/2018 at 3:07 PM, Darth Richard II said:

Honestly, you don't have to look hard to find Rothfuss being a creep, in the um, un feminist like sense.

Haha I think I've heard him lay claim to having been "in charge" of the campus feminists when he was in college.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/20/2018 at 2:19 PM, Let's Get Kraken said:

He also clearly didn't mean that statement as an indictment of Tolkien. He was making a point about the effect a text can have on the mass consciousness.

I think his thinking is much more muddled than that, since for one thing he exclusively focused on negatives, not positives. He claims the lack of female characters in the Hobbit, specifically, did harm to him for 30 years. If so, then why in the world is he reading such a damaging work to his children? Well, the answer is he's exaggerating things tremendously, because he's a lot more about telling stories than he is about trying to inform. 

 

He actually attempts to offer a figure for how many people have died specifically due to Tolkien having made smoking a thing in his books, and says that happened because Tolkien wasn't aware of the effect he might have. Besides the fact that there's something ridiculously simplistic in the argument -- I defy you to find anyone who will ever say, "Yeah, if it weren't for THE HOBBIT, I wouldn't be smoking"; in reality the effect of Gandalf blowing cool smoke rings would be almost infinitesimal -- there's a sense that one has to self-edit. For Tolkien, pipe-smoking conjured visions of the warmth and security of sitting around a table, pint in hand, with a bunch of friends and companions. It was an essential part of his vision of a good and comfortable life, and though it is outmoded to us, to him it made perfect sense.

Does Rothfuss feel the same way about his describing Kvothe getting drunk and rattling off bunches of meads and beers and wines and so on? I doubt it. Will some young reader decide drinking is cool _because_ Rothfuss has it in his book? No, it'll just be an infinitesimal data point among all the others that they will be bombarded with in their lives. Kvothe being an inn-keep who refuses to serve alcohol would be absurd and untrue, and so in reality Rothfuss shouldn't have focused so much on the effect he has on readers by what he writes and more on the fact that getting at the truth of a story isn't the same thing as presenting a morally upright story.

End of the day, all a writer can really hope to do is to write something that leaves the world a wee bit better for his having written it. Trying to tally up how many people died and how people lived because of a writer's work is kind of an absurd way to go about things. Write, let the rest sort itself out.

 Insert other media

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, lysmonger said:

Natural Born Killers  

This movie has caused quite a number of mass shootings. There may be something to what Pat Rothfuss was saying

No one has ever been able to prove that people who went on a killing spree did it because of a specific film or game or song or what have you, rather than a confluence of factors generally linked to mental or emotional problems, general life situation, etc. The one lawsuit I know of trying to pin the blame on NBK for someone murdering people was rejected by the courts.

In general people who go on killing sprees have a lot of issues. Attempting to attribute some trivial external force as being the reason they did what they did is simplistic.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, lysmonger said:

Natural Born Killers  

This movie has caused quite a number of mass shootings. There may be something to what Pat Rothfuss was saying

How can you say that the movie caused the killings?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, Ran said:

I think his thinking is much more muddled than that, since for one thing he exclusively focused on negatives, not positives. He claims the lack of female characters in the Hobbit, specifically, did harm to him for 30 years. If so, then why in the world is he reading such a damaging work to his children? Well, the answer is he's exaggerating things tremendously, because he's a lot more about telling stories than he is about trying to inform. 

I haven't watched the whole interview, but does he at any point actually say that Tolkien shouldn't have made Gandalf a smoker? Or just that every artist needs to take ownership of the thoughts they put out into the world? There's a difference between taking responsibility for something and apologizing for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Let's Get Kraken said:

I haven't watched the whole interview, but does he at any point actually say that Tolkien shouldn't have made Gandalf a smoker?

I don't know what else to take from his erroneous claim that Tolkien is responsible for the deaths of at least a couple of tens of thousand of people. 

Quote

Or just that every artist needs to take ownership of the thoughts they put out into the world? There's a difference between taking responsibility for something and apologizing for it.

Watch the few minutes before the 50 minute mark. He talks about writers doing things that are helpful and not helpful. If a writer fails to do something "helpful" to the world, what else is he supposed to do in Rothfuss's view than be apologetic or at least understand themselves to have failed ethically?

It's impugning far more impact to any individual work of art (especially modern, commercial art, which is a vast and growing sea) than is at all reasonable. If it were true that Rothfuss had the power to turn readers into drunks, then yes, he would be responsible. But he doesn't have that power. Tolkien doesn't have the power to create smokers. Garth Ennis does not have the power of making people become gun-wielding vigilantes.

Edited by Ran

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rothfuss has conveniently forgotten that in the sixties the Flower Children were pretty much certain that the Hobbit's leaf was actually the noble weed. Not that they needed further encouragement to smoke the stuff.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, Ran said:

Watch the few minutes before the 50 minute mark. He talks about writers doing things that are helpful and not helpful. If a writer fails to do something "helpful" to the world, what else is he supposed to do in Rothfuss's view than be apologetic or at least understand themselves to have failed ethically?

It's impugning far more impact to any individual work of art (especially modern, commercial art, which is a vast and growing sea) than is at all reasonable. If it were true that Rothfuss had the power to turn readers into drunks, then yes, he would be responsible. But he doesn't have that power. Tolkien doesn't have the power to create smokers. Garth Ennis does not have the power of making people become gun-wielding vigilantes.

Yes but this part of his criticism was over Netflix's Punisher series, not The Hobbit. His issue was with romanticized gun violence. He used Tolkien as an example to show that even what we think of as an extremely benign artist can potentially cause unintended harm via cultural osmosis through the mass proliferation of his art.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, Let's Get Kraken said:

Yes but this part of his criticism was over Netflix's Punisher series, not The Hobbit. His issue was with romanticized gun violence. 

No one has turned into a vigilante because of Netflix's Punisher show. And at the same time, the show looked at things like PTSD; indeed, it earned praise for it. But one is kind of tied to the other -- they explored a facet of a character who happens to be a violent vigilante. Have they made the world better or worse for their having chosen the Punisher as their lens through which to focus on some things like PTSD and the difficulty of veterans transitioning to a peaceful life? 

I'd say they are probably making it a tiny bit better, not because the show was particularly good or not, but given that a production like that employs a hundred+ people, it obviously made someone's life a little bit better. Its social impact, good or bad, is utterly negligible. Again, Rothfuss gives way too much weight to the impact of individual works of art. For the most part, the main thing I can say anecdotally is that I know of a lot of _artists_ who can cite works that inspired them to be artists. Art begets art, mainly. It very rarely has broader social ramifications when looked at discreetly rather than generally (outside of those anecdotal artists).

Quote

He used Tolkien as an example to show that even what we think of as an extremely benign artist can potentially cause unintended harm via cultural osmosis through the mass proliferation of his art.

But he has no evidence that Tolkien caused any harm at all. It's much easier to quantify the good he has caused. Tolkien has caused marriages to be made, children to be born, friendships to be formed, created a genre that has led to millions of words written by thousands of writers, has been the foundation of an entire film industry in one country, etc.  

It's not at all simple.

Here's the level of rigor of what Rothfuss was saying: his The Princess and the Frog story, where he claims some 50 children were hospitalized with salmonella because they kissed frogs after seeing the film, and he says Disney is responsible for this. In fact, this claim is false, a tabloid hoax that got turned into an Internet myth which Rothfuss believed. 

I think the general point that artists should be cognizant of what they right is perfectly reasonable. Assigning exaggerated weight to their responsibility in creating art doesn't help the argument.

Edited by Ran

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're right that an individual piece of art or storytelling is unlikely to produce unhealthy or dangerous behaviour in an individual. However, I think it is valid to say that the breadth of media and storytelling that we consume could coalesce into a message or understanding of the world that could influence the individual. Such as, The Punisher by itself probably isn't causing harm, but a media landscape, particularly in America, that is made up of advertisements, books, movies, TV, games, etc. reinforces an aesthetic fetishisation of guns and a message that the utilisation of firearms empowers people and re-masculinises men, and that this message could contribute to someone with issues with anger or misogyny or other problems to employing them in a deadly fashion. And whilst The Punisher is not advocating such action and is probably not directly influencing anyone to such an extent, it is, like many other individual examples of art and storytelling, conveying a message to its audience through a combination of text, subtext and context.

I am not certain how one should approach this as a problem. I love some violent video games and movies, etc., and I think they can often use violence and violent imagery to provide an anti-violent message, and sometimes I simply enjoy the cathartic thrill of well done violent spectacle, despite often finding the message that it conveys troubling. However, I don't think we should ridicule or condemn an author for reflecting upon the message or effect their work might produce, how it fits into a general ideological milieu or framework, or whether it is what they want to convey.

Gandalf smoking did not kill people, but it likely contributed to and reinforced, for some people, an already extant understanding of smoking a pipe as a comforting habit that produced an appearance of sagacity and warmth, which possibly killed people. I would never criticise Tolkien's character for including smoking, nor accuse him personally of causing deaths. It would be ridiculous to do so. But I would certainly encourage author's reflect upon and be responsible in what they are writing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×