March 4, 2008

Chuck Klosterman on Road Movies

In the current issue of The Believer, dude extraordinaire Chuck Klosterman essayifies on that tried and true genre, the road movie. Recently, we'd decided our previous opinion of Klosterman's writing (mostly self-important, not a lot of there there) was misguided* but with this article, Cinecultist has gone back to sort of hating him.

As usual, Klosterman seems to have missed the forest for the trees, deftly writing around the main issue in a wholly unsatisfying and overtly-intellectualized way. He argues that road movies always lead the characters back to the beginning, are about reinvention, or discovering geography. Sometimes they have no structure, sometimes they have a strict three act structure. Maybe the point is nothing happens, maybe the point is something big happens. Klosterman throws all of these ideas out there for contemplation, and doesn't really pass final judgment on any of them.

But road movies, to our mind, aren't ever solely about asphalt or cars or nature versus society. They're about the externalization of that internal quest to know ourselves. Here's where we go a little Joseph Campbell: As the hero travels, exiting his home base/comfort zone, encountering archetypes and solving minor roadblocks, he comes to learn who he is. He may be traveling down the road in a car, but he's really trekking into his psyche. That's why 2001 is an interesting inclusion into the road movie genreā€”the road into space is a metaphor for Dave's real journey into that 18th century white alien room, ie. his mind.

Another annoyance from this essay is that Klosterman cites a lot of great examples of road movies like Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, Old Joy and Two-Lane Blacktop (Most. Boring. Movie. Ever.) but neglects Cinecultist's fav, and the subject of a high school English AP paper we wrote about road stories in literature: The Muppet Movie. Kermit, a banjo, and a bunch of fuzzy buddies in a Studebaker going to Hollywood? How could Chuck have missed that one? Perhaps just like Fozzie, Klosterman learned to drive by correspondence school.

The Muppet Movie
*CC recently donated to This American Life for the CD Kings of Nonfiction, a dialog between host Ira Glass and writers Susan Orlean, Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman at Town Hall. In this context, Chuck's writing or if you prefer, riffing about KISS for 600 words, seemed to have purpose. Obviously, we were wrong.

Posted by karen at March 4, 2008 4:52 PM
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