Scene4 Magazine: Life Among The Heffalumps
Scene4 Magazine-inSight

October 2009

The Pitfalls Of Pigeon-Holing

Like everyone, I get so much e-mail, that I accidently delete some messages.  On some days, the cyber deluge is so deep, that many of the notes that I do read–even from my friends and colleagues–don't make that much of an impression.  (Sorry, all my dear ones).  But, two-sentences from a missive I received last month from a friend really stuck in my craw. 

"I went to see "Inglourious Bastards" last night; you wouldn't like it–too bloody and very long," my pal wrote, "but I thought it was Tarantino's best movie to date."

His words were innocuous enough–the type of thing we tell our friends about how we spend our days and our cultural taste. Such jottings, while of some interest, usually fade into electronic wallpaper.  Normally, I only get really bugged at the big things–death, injustice, being rejected in love (and, if truth be told, sour milk). But, my buddy's note didn't go gently into the good night of my cyber-scrolling brain.  Like a dog with fleas, it scratched incessantly. It ticked me off.  I finally get why I got mad.

I wasn't pissed off over how my friend felt about "Inglourious Bastards."  I've missed seeing it at the movies; but plan to put the film on my Netflix que ASAP when it's released on DVD.  I'm a Tarantino fan.  In 1994, I loved "Pulp Fiction" and loathed "Forrest Gump."  In my next life, I hope to be in the middle of the dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim's.

What got me steamed was my pal's telling me that I wouldn't like "Inglourious Bastards" because it was too long and too bloody.

Now I'm quite fond of my friend, and, everyone knows, I generally, have the attention span of an amoeba in heat.  I came of age watching the splendid 30-minute 1970's TV sit-com "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" along with "Bringing Up Baby" and "His Girl Friday" and other fast-paced screwball comedies from Hollywood's golden age.  Usually, I prefer dramas, sans blood, that wrap up within two (or two and a half hours) at most.  With all due respect for O'Neill, I probably won't stand in line for tickets for the next "A Long Day's Journey Into Night" marathon.

But, as my eighth grade teacher would have said, "generally," "usually" and "probably" are the "key" words here.  Much of the time my preferences in the arts (from movies to poetry) tend toward the fast-paced, quick-witted, lyrical and/or non-violent.  Yet, there are always the exceptions that blow these predilections to the winds.  "The Odyssey," "The Godfather," "Angels in America," "Macbeth," and "War and Peace" are among my favs.  Though all of these have moments of wit and lyricism, none are brief or without any verbal or physical violence.

This isn't to show off how highbrow I am.  "Bugs Bunny," "Sex and the City," and "The View" are also among my loves.  But to quote the inimitable William Carlos Williams "this is just to say," that I disliked my friend second-guessing what I like.  I don' t like to be pigeon-holed.

It's a safe bet that I'm not alone in this. To be pigeon-holed is to be categorized–to have our views taken for granted.  My friend Penny hit the proverbial nail on the head when I asked her why my buddy's e-mail had me so ticked.  "By assuming what you'd like, instead of saying you might not like the movie, or telling you what he thought about it," Penny said, "he closed down possibilities for you."

"We like to think that we form our own opinions," she added, "your friend by assuming what you'd enjoy....took that away."

I'd wager that we all (even if we're the next Mahatma Ghandi) pigeon-hole one another at some time.   I'm as guilty of pigeon-holing as anyone else.  Recently, I won opera tickets to see "The Barber of Seville" from the local public radio station.  When I told Jean, my stepmom, about it, (without thinking), I said, "you'd hate going to the opera!"  (She's never talked about opera to me or listened to any music other than Sinatra or Elton John in my presence.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.)  "No, I wouldn't!" she said, " the music {of the Barber of Seville} is so beautiful.  And I'd love to see the people in the box seats."      

There are times when second-guessing (a form of pigeon-holing) what people will like is necessary.  If your Aunt Martha, a vegan, asks you for a restaurant recommendation, you're right to steer her away (so to speak) from that fabulous new steak house.  I'd tell a reader who absolutely reads nothing but bodice rippers to avoid "Gravity's Rainbow."

But, in general, these are the exceptions to the rule.  As people who make art and critics of art, let's open up–rather than shut out possibilities.  Let's try to avoid pigeon-holing.  You and I both wouldn't like it. 


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©2009 Kathi Wolfe
©2009 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Kathi Wolfe is a writer, poet and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
Her reviews and commentary have also appeared in an array of publications.

For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

October 2009

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