I, for one, don’t believe that we can set aside bias in any situation, let alone when viewing art. Jonathan Richardson wrote, “Neither must our own Passions, or Interest be allow’d to give the least Byass to our Judgments when we are upon Rational Enquiry…” (17-18). But here’s the thing: art isn’t made to be rational. There is no mathematic equation for how to judge art. Art is a personal experience, both for the artist and viewer, but it does not have to be that same experience. In fact, it most likely isn’t. Everything in our life is based on past experience, and since we don’t all share the same set of experiences, art is subjective, speaking to us in different ways. That’s not a bad thing, either—if we all saw the world in exactly the same way, life would be dreadfully boring.
This is reflected in our everyday tastes in things like movies. I, for example, adore “Love Actually,” but am really annoyed (and I know it’s un-American to say so) by “The Breakfast Club.” And it’s all cased on past experience and opinion. The reason that I think I enjoy “Love Actually” is because my ballet teacher (who basically became my grandmother) was straight-off-the-boat British, and so I came to appreciate dry British humor. On top of that, I grew up watching Monty Python, which only increased my love for British comedy. They style of the film, too, intrigued me as slowly each seemingly unrelated love story came together to form one larger story in which all the characters were interconnected. There’s no big plot twist, just a lot of little, pleasant surprises.
On the flip side, I can’t understand why “The Breakfast Club” is such an iconic movie. I understand that it explores the problems teenagers face in school and at home, and was the first film to really do that, but I was left severely unsatisfied by the end of it. The “weird chick” has to change and conform to what is stereotypically pretty to catch the eye of the jock, Molly Ringwald’s character gets together with the punk seemingly to spite her parents (I mean, really, they pretty much hate each other for the majority of the film, and I can’t see that turning around into genuine attraction that quickly), and the academically driven boy ends up alone, writing the paper for everyone else (and once again, I’m not convinced he was totally happy and gung-ho about that). I mean, the movie sets itself up like it’s going to teach some great moral, but what was the moral of that? Am I really supposed to believe they’ll all be buddies afterward? But I digress. Maybe the reason that “The Breakfast Club” bothers me is because it’s annoyingly accurate, but not even in a good way. It explains what it’s like to be a teenager, but only delves into the angsty bits (and there is indeed more to being a teenager than angst). It focuses on the material and stereotypical. I don’t want to spend two hours watching something I witnessed six hours a day, five days a week, ten months a year, for four years of high school.
Richardson would probably tell me that the reason I can’t enjoy “The Breakfast Club” is because I can’t separate myself from it; however, I’d rather not be that clinical about my enjoyment or lack thereof of movies, or of any kind of art. I’d rather feel something, even if it is annoyance or disgust, than to be so utterly detached from the arts. Because ultimately, that’s what the arts are about—making people feel something, anything.