There are times when you just give up on a piece of fiction. You walk out of a movie theater before the show is over. You drop a television show from your DVR lists. You take a comic book series off of your monthly pull list. You hurl a book across the room in frustration.
Thought we both pride ourselves on our ability to finish what we start, sometimes…you just have to give up.
In short, you quit. You tap out. You’re just done with it.
That prompts this month’s question:
“Has a Movie, Book, Television Show or Piece of Media Ever Made you Tap Out?”
Here’s what our hosts had to say…
I wrote about this a few months ago, briefly in the comments section of a past Mailbag question, but I’ve got to revisit it here.
“Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle was a real slog for me when I tried to read it about ten years ago. And it really shouldn’t have been.
It should have been a science fiction novel right up my alley. I’ve always had a real soft spot for the post-apocalypse.
Something about it touches that Jane Goodall button in my brain that wonders what people might become in the wild, after you scrape away the rules, laws and civilization.
What are we really like?
These stories are always simultaneously an autopsy and diagnosis for the fall of civilization. We sift through the broken bits of what we were, while trying to decide what sort of people we’re going to become.
These are the thoughts that make me such a big fan of stories like “the Planet of the Apes,” “the Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, “the Walking Dead,” Pat Frank’s “Alas, Babylon,” and the Fallout series of games by Bethesda.
But before I can care about the world these stories take place, I have to not completely loathe the people that populate them.
And that’s where Niven and Pournelle’s book about the aftermath of a comet striking Earth fell apart for me.
I hated, hated, hated, hated the characters in this story. They were all self-satisfied in a way that people in a story about the end of the world should never be, unless the purpose of the story is to either condemn or redeem them.
The story never did the former, and I didn’t hang in long enough to learn if it did the latter, because it didn’t feel like the authors understood how unlikeable their leads were.
But best I can tell, the authors aren’t pushing any discernible ideology in this book, other than a big “I-told-you-so” to all the Doubting Thomases that believed that the comet would safely pass us by.
Even this could have been a bit more tolerable had the action been good, but it took nearly 330 pages of a 700 page book for the comet to actually crash into Earth.
Nearly half of of the book was devoted to a lengthy debate around whether they comet would actually hit us or not. I’m sure this would be compelling and hypnotic stuff if I were watching it play out in real life and lives of all humanity were at stake. That sort of tension is completely dissolved when the back of the paperback I was reading was outright telling me that the comet would hit.
So fucking hit us, already!
This is a disaster story, not fucking “Moonlighting.” You can’t spend half the book on “will they/won’t they?” speculation.
During all of this, a bizarre feeling entered my mind. I was rooting for the comet.
I was hoping that it would kill everybody, wipe the slate clean, and I’d get a new crop of main characters.
By the time the comet did strike, my interest was just gone. The book had eaten all the way through the good will and the allowances I’ll give a disappointing story in a genre I like.
I tapped out during what should have been the most exciting part of the book: people fleeing tsunamis and earthquakes.
And when you fail at making that exciting, you know you’ve done something terribly wrong.
I mentioned in our last podcast, ‘Swing Away, M. Night,’ that I never have walked out of a movie theater in sheer disgust, but had I paid for a ticket to see ‘The Happening,’ you bet that I would have.
Alas, I am guilty of having quit more books than I’ve finished, but I chalk that up to my attention span having mostly disintegrated from too much Nintendo (those parents’ groups from the 80s: THEY WERE RIGHT ALL ALONG!).
And, something about the current age of home video/streaming that creates a glut of availability (and the choice paralysis that goes along with it), that also absolves one of guilty for casually aborting a movie or TV show. Louis C.K. is right, everything is amazing and we’re big babies about it.
But, playing along with the spirit of this Radio vs the Mailbag question, if I had to locate one instance with the most trauma attached, it has to be hitting the ejector seat on ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.’ At once you’re probably thinking to yourself: Adam Sandler? I get it. Juvenile jokes at the expense of homosexuals? Hahaha! It’s going to be so funny, right?
Well, hear me out. The last time that I’d ever watched an Adam Sandler movie before this was probably Punch Drunk Love, P.T. Andersen’s 2002 dark romantic drama that is the farthest afield from a prototypical Sandler fart-joke-fest. It also has some moments of brilliance with Philip Seymour Hoffman. But, seeing the trailers for Mr. Deeds and Anger Management waved me off of any desire to pay for any of his malarkey.
Flash forward eight or so years, I find myself sitting on a pile of freebie DVDs from Universal I inherited from a job. Having worked our way through almost every other selection, my spouse and I decided to give it a try.
First scene, firefighter Adam Sandler is playing basketball outside the station and he’s approached by two gorgeous hussies who, in a mishap of truly unfortunate comic timing, meet one another and find out Sandler is dating both of them at once. D’oy! What a pickle. Adam Sandler truly gets to live out his fantasies that he can be such an irresistable sexpot, and a brave firefighter to boot.
Next scene, there’s a four alarm fire, Sandler and Kevin James arrive on the scene of a burning building. They heroically dash inside to help rescue anyone trapped by the fire and come upon, oh shoot me now, a big fat guy who can’t get out of bed. What’ll they do next? They proceed to have an argument how they’re going to save him. Sandler jokes that they should chop him up with his axe and take him down in pieces.
They both take two arms the laugh-out-loud-fattie is on top of and begin to run, doing a ridiculous slapstick, running-in-place to slowly lift him off the bed.
EJECT DVD! I can’t take this seriously. I can’t find it funny. It’s just fucking insulting.
Less than 10 minutes. Couldn’t make it past the first reel. Not even to the hook of the movie where Sandler and James agreed to get gay married so one of them can get health insurance. So fucking clever, Hollywood comedy writers! Totally missed where they would’ve obviously played up the ‘Yuck, gays are so icky. We have to see them kiss. Oh, that’s gross-out hilarious!.’ Not even close.
Never again will I even see a Sandler movie that I got for free. And, I’ll see you in hell before I give money to the King of Queens. I learned my lesson. I suppose I got off easy, and considering I took that DVD to the used book store and sold it for something that 20 cents, I should be grateful to got off so easy.
P.S. A narrowly close second on my list was Lou Reed’s last album, a collaboration with Metallica of all people, entitled Lulu. An awful, awful legacy and I couldn’t make it past track one. And I even like Metal Machine Music.
What do you think? Ever walked out or given up? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!