It's been two years since I've had a passion to rant about anything.
BOOK DESECRATION HOUR:
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (TPoDG)
Have you heard of a man named Oscar Wilde?
If you haven't, chances are you don't speak English, so that's okay. If you speak English, then you'll be waxing lyrical about how he's so witty and charming and so witty that if you were to look up the word witty in the dictionary, Oscar Wilde's face would be next to the entry. He was gay, but that might give people reason to think being gay will make you witty like Oscar Wilde (note: unproven). Oh, and he was witty. Did you know he was so witty that if you asked anyone to quote their favourite Oscar Wilde witticism a lot of them won't have an answer to give?
At this point you will realise that people just love Oscar Wilde because he was quirky and everyone else says he was very witty and thus it is cool to like Oscar Wilde.
On the other hand if you were to ask anyone which Oscar Wilde work they LIKED...
...So maybe you've heard of "The Picture of Dorian Gray". If you're a little bit artier (and thus wittier) then you will mention "The Importance of Being Earnest" and tsk at everyone who never read the play those damn troglodytes. SOMEONE might mention "The Canterville Ghost" or "Salome" in which case I may or may not want to meet you because you may either be interesting or ridiculously arty and not very fun to talk to.
The point of those rambly paragraphs is just to tell you all I know about Oscar Wilde is:
- He was gay
- He wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray
- He wrote The Importance of Being Earnest
- He was apparently very witty
- He is also heavily referenced in the Uncyclopedia
When I was a wee DMling my dad bought The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde and I would chance upon it during a random spring cleaning but never get around to reading it. Then finally it dawned upon me I should probably read something of Oscar Wilde so that I'll know WHY is he so damn WITTY, and that I shall read The Picture of Dorian Gray!
Big, big, big, big mistake.
For those who've never heard of the story, a young man named Dorian Gray gets a very beautiful portrait painted by an artist named Basil Hallward. After a thorough philosophy lesson from Basil's friend Lord Henry 'Harry' Wotton, Dorian Gray wishes the portrait would age instead of him, and I'll quote the book:
"I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose? Every moment that passes takes something from me, and gives something to it. Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now! Why did you paint it? It will mock me some day - mock me horribly!"
The rest of the dialogue can be summed up as:
Dorian: This picture! It's too beautiful! You will end up loving the picture more than me! I'll age and be ugly and you'll leave me for prettier things! Basil, I hate you for making me into such a pretty man! *pout*
Basil: That isn't true! You're the bestest friend ever Dorian! I'll slit my wrists if you leave me! *pout*
Dorian: Lies! You love your picture more than me! *pout*
Basil: FINE I cut my picture to shreds! Nothing will replace you! *pout*
Dorian: NOOOOO don't cut the beautiful pictureeeeee!
Basil: Hmmmphhhh you finally appreciate my art! *pout*
Dorian: If you give the picture to anyone but me I'll dieeee!
Basil: Oh Dorian you know the picture was always meant for you!
JESUS CHRIST ON A POGO STICK, STOP YOUR FAFFING AROUND GOD DAMNED VICTORIAN MEN.
The faffing starts right at the beginning when Basil fawns over Dorian right up until he presents the picture. It is thirty pages of victorian gentlemen faffing around and pouting: I can practically SEE the limp wrists in my head. To say it was the biggest reason I couldn't pick up the book for several months after the first three chapters is an understatement - all I remember is the FAFFERY. You know what's the most shocking part? When I found out it was actually only THIRTY PAGES - I swear it ran thrice that length.
Thankfully the plot does pick up - Dorian falls in love, ruins an actress's budding career, justifies it in his own way and then that's when the portrait starts changing to reflect his sins and all that aging stuff. Dorian then dives into hedonism and doing vague stuff that seems to ruin the reputation of anybody who remotely shakes his hand. By vague I also mean Basil asking him:
"Why is your friendship so fatal to young men? There was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You were his great friend. There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave England, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable. What about Adrian Singleton, and his dreadful end? What about Lord Kent's only son, and his career?"
Dorian does explain a little bit, but not much - yaoi fangirls are free to speculate what has he been doing with his new-found immunity to STDs.
Basil is horrified at all this (and probably jealous he didn't get his name dragged through the mud) and stuff and then Basil looks at the portrait he painted and ARGH SO UGLY then Dorian stabs him and then blackmails his chemist friend to blow the body up, proving that maybe Oscar Wilde does know something besides faffery after all.
More years pass and more stuff happens and Dorian's conscience finally snaps and in trying to erase his past he stabs the picture and dies, sorta killing himself and the portrait reverts to its previous prettiness. Other stuff happens in between but you can read wikipedia or the actual book to find out what because I'm not your Cliff's Notes.
TPoDG does teach a few valuable lessons:
- Offhand pouty remarks can sometimes be taken as making a deal with the devil.
- Victorian dandies did a LOT of faffing about.
- No matter how hard you try, you *really* can't escape the past.
The last one is particularly interesting because TPoDG does this literally - how many of you wanna bet if you had a portrait reflecting all the stupid things you've done you're all going to look 50 years older than your actual age (and 100x uglier to boot)? Dorian had to lock it up in an attic to make sure nobody saw all that ugliness so if anyone wants to object and display a *progressively* ugly self-portrait to all and sundry for 30 years please let me know so I can chronicle it on your social media network of choice.
Also, Oscar Wilde is a misogynist. Don't believe me? Take this quote for instance:
"My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals."
"Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed."
"You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties."
"When a woman marries again it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs."
I'm pretty sure there's more but I'm not going to read the whole bloody thing again.
Either way between the lack of any strong female character and the men faffing around, saying Oscar Wilde is a very straight man is like saying I am a paragon of virtue.
So...How is it?
I suppose it would be an entertaining read if you got past the beginning.
The thing about TPoDG is there's a lack of backstory - there's a few pages about Dorian's past and the past of some of the people and some backstory about the room the portrait is kept but it's all hints and it's just enough to say oh this is Dorian Gray and this was his grandfather now let's get on with the homoerotic bits. Some people don't like that, they want to know who were Dorian's parents, who was his grandfather, how did Victorian society view him, how were they looking at Dorian, etc. This isn't that sort of book - this is about a prettyboy who pouted at the wrong time and pays the most damning price for immortality. As long as you don't need to know what happened to Adrian Singleton or the Duke of Perth or whatever in long sordid masturbatory material detail you should be fine.
The faffery still makes me want to throw the book at Oscar Wilde; preferably somewhere that hurts a lot. Sadly, that rules out his ass.
After the book, the next step is to watch the movie.
MOVIE DESECRATION HOUR:
I only found this movie when I was rifling through a colleague's PC and found a folder that had dozens of movies all for the benefit of bored folk during a night shift (assuming there aren't like half a dozen people bleeding through all their orifices, that is), so if I hadn't found it I really wouldn't have known the movie existed because I wasn't a big fan of Prince Caspian. You remember the guy who played Prince Caspian and launched a few dozen fangirl ships? Yeah he's in this movie.
Two Ben Barnes(es?) for the price of one!
So like all good movie adaptations, it starts out fairly true to the book - a young naive man who had a bad grandfather (HA bet you thought it wasn't in the book) meets a Basil Hallward and a Lord Henry shortly afterward, gets a portrait, falls in love, then gets utterly corrupted by Lord Henry about indulging the senses and spiralling into a new low for hedonism.
This is where the book-movie similarities end because the movie starts hammering you with SOFTCORE PR0N.
The only worksafe picture I could get. Really.
There's some jazzy dissonant violins to symbolize Victorian pr0n music, Dorian Gray takes off his shirt, and there's some opium smoke lingering around the gilded room with its golden-ish bedcovers and then there's a threesome with him and an oriental prostitute AND a black prostitute possibly for to make sure the ethnic quota is filled (and ups the kink). Then we're at the theatre and Dorian Gray's breaking up with his fiancee because once you've been in a 3-way interracial, nothing else compares.
Then because the movie made them introduce their names to each other, dead fiancee's brother comes to his house and tries to kill him because she killed herself (differently from the book too) and then gets dragged away by police. Dorian has a bit of a breakdown while managing to daintily hold a cigarette until Lord Henry calms him down and holds back a bromance hug. Wouldn't want Dorian to get the wrong idea now would we?
Then we have softcore pr0n involving mothers and daughters!
Lord Henry & Basil are sad they don't get to see the NSFW-ness. Neither do you.
And some more but this time with blood and drugs! Y'know. For a change.
The only thing this film lacks is rock & roll, pretty much.
Let's have a homoerotic moment for good measure too!
And finally Basil sees ugly portrait and some murder happens but again it's still not quite like the book because there's no blackmail and explosions.Then Dorian goes for a trip while Lord Henry goes and has a daughter.
Then suddenly it's around WW1 and Dorian comes back not a day older when he left while Lord Henry gets a fuller greyer beard with an older fuller daughter named Emily. No prizes for guessing his daughter and Dorian Gray start hooking up, and it is only by remembering she's romancing Prince Caspian do we get to forget the creepiness of the entire relationship - she IS technically dating someone as old as her father, you know.
Also in between his old dead fiancee's brother (remember him?) comes back and tries to kill him but at first thinks he's mistaken until Dorian drops his engraved cigarette box and the guy picks it up. Having obviously memorized the whole London registry and Dorian being the ONLY man in London named Dorian, he starts chasing Dorian through the London Underground in creepy stalker shadow mode and he's about to win until he's run down by a train and Dorian's safe because he was on the other tracks.
Dorian starts loving again and develops a conscience, and so does Lord Henry because now he realizes he's made a horrible monster and so sets out not only to expose Dorian but to make things right. By make things right I mean go up to Dorian's attic alone and find the picture and get into a scuffle and chuck an oil lamp which sets the place on fire makes it look like HELL which is fitting because Dorian's a sinner and his portrait is SO UGLY it stares at you from behind the painting like some predator-vision and Emily wants to rescue him but Dorian locks the door and pushes her away so her dad can take her to safety because Dorian really loved her and he wants to redeem himself, see, and stabs the painting before everything explodes in a high-octane (literally) gas explosion.
Explosions wanted to play a bigger part than it had in Oscar Wilde's novel.
Lord Henry and his daughter are safe but she won't talk to her father and Lord Henry has a nice burn scar; no matter, because the portrait is still safe and sound despite being in contact with gas flames for quite some time though the frame is singed...I don't know, shouldn't the heat or the explosion wreck SOME of the canvas?
Then again this movie stopped making sense once the softcore pr0n started, so it's too late to nitpick and all you can do is console yourself that at least you could look at naked Ben Barnes.
Extrapolation will then have you conclude Dorian Gray's soul went to Narnia where Aslan forgave his sins and reincarnated him into Prince Caspian because the timeline just about fits if you follow the movie.
But that's a story for another day.
So...how is it?
There's changing the contents of the book for time or continuity, and then there's chucking the book entirely for gothic sake.
It's nice to see that they threw out all the faffing about the book had (do YOU want to see Ben Barnes and Ben Chaplin faffing? DO YOU?) but replacing a perfectly sensible plot point just to include softcore pr0n is another; are you telling me Sibyl's actress can't act badly enough so you had to make Dorian just another commitment-phobe? Everybody had to be redeemed because Dorian dying lonely and unrecognizably ugly just wouldn't sit well with the girls?
What is UP with the SOFTCORE PR0N.
Once was okay, thrice was a bit too much. By the time Dorian Gray's swishing his hair to an African beat, I wonder if the UK Lottery people started weeping because someone just wasted lottery money on cheesing up the movie at every angle possible. Even CG external shots of London looked flat and I'm not even an animation student. But hey, if all you want is Ben Barnes then here's your 2-hour Singles Awareness Day party pick.
If Oscar Wilde was alive he'd make a better movie AND keep the homoerotic scenes, but with 90% more faffing.
...It's hard to say which is the lesser of two evils.
|John Ling |
April 20, 2011 08:05 AM PDT
Excellent write-up! It really made me chuckle. =)
February 15, 2011 02:05 AM PST
love the references to Prince Caspian XD keep up the posts *O*b
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