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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

High Fidelity Quote

I was just checking my emails and I got one from a friend who starts out her email messages with this quote from the movie High Fidelity:

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns,or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

For those who are not familiar with the movie (or book), High Fidelity is about a music subculture of a generation of 30-somethings, and a romantic comedy about a man seeking the answers to his problems by dissecting his lovelife. Well, it's that too, but more interesting than its existence, is why music is in this movie. As one reviewer said, "Pop music can be about many things: politics, religion, nothing, or anything. More often than not, and often just beneath the surface, is love, relationships, jealousy, lust, sex, unrequited love, etc. The two don't exist in vacuums but fuel each other. And so, the owner of Championship Vinyl (Cusack) goes on his quest, and provides the narration of the film in a series of scenes where he breaks the "4th wall" and talks directly to the audience."

I am not sure why exactly she uses the quote, but I do hope it doesn’t give the wrong message to other people who might read the quote and start blaming music for their miseries without watching the movie or reading the book. While I relate to Nick Hornby's character's quirky musings, it is just merely that as he explores questions to the most obvious scapegoat - the media - and in this case, music. Maybe people do live with their obssessions but to generalize one person's question to be the majority is uncalled for. As one person puts it, there's no deep meaning to the rhetorical questioning, although it occasionally toys with the importance of pop music to a person's psychological development. In many ways, our music helps define us, or at least in our minds, as it can be anything from our "soundtrack", to our social compass, our shrink, an emotional release, or just a good way to have a good time. It exceeds mere entertainment as people connect on some basic level with the pop music that chooses them. But I think what Nick Hornby is trying to say is that, while some people look at media to blame for man's "miserable-ness" that could often lead to cases such as murder and suicide, or in this case, failed relationships, he merely asks us the questions, not so much to motivate us to explore ourselves, but to provoke thought so we can really decide if the questions even make any sense at all. It is also obvious that there are flaws on the quote – that people don’t worry about kids listening to music about certain issues is inaccurate. A lot of parents actually worry. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t push for music censorship or blame artists for a kid’s suicidal death. As for being miserable because of listening to pop music – let’s say there is no music, does that mean that we’re not going to be miserable anyways?

But as John Cusack's character starts out with his questions, the movie ends to merely answer it. Another critic reiterates that in essence, this is the choice Rob faces - to make his passions a part of his life, or to make his life around his passions. Not that he has to give up one or the other. He realizes he can have both, and that redeems him, awakens him to the true joy of a full life. It's a beautiful thing to behold, because Hornby's prose is so spot-on and perfect - funny in spots, tragic in others.

I only have one thing to say about the quote - we are, as human beings, literally miserable anyway innately and by nature without music. In the end, as music is universal and "our" soundtrack to our lives so they say, it can also be very, very liberating. And yes, I am a music geek. But my passions do not make me the character in the movie, nor does it make me a "loser" nor do I have a "mid-life crisis" or nor does it necessarily dictate my life and my career. Do I smoke just because some band would sing about smoking? Do we blame a band for a kid's suicide if they sang about heartbreak or death? Am I an alcoholic because I saw a commercial on TV selling beers? Ultimately, you can let the media affect you if you allow yourself to be gullible and impressionable, or you can just accept its existence and enjoy an occassional drink or two. We live in a society full of propaganda and mind-conditioning. It doesn't mean that you have to live by it, but you can certainly live with it. We, as humans, have the ability to question, to think, and ultimately to decide. Just like how Cusack's character questions and thinks, and ultimately decides. Then we can all love music as an artform and self-expression rather than life imitating art itself! As Anton Chekov has once said, "Man is what he believes."

In tribute of music geekdom, or any other form of snobbish obsessions, be it film, anime, comics, shoes, clothes, religion, etc., and in the spirit of relationship and personal beginnings, I give you a song from Ben Gibbard's little side project, The Postal Service, hehehe.

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