Over-analyzing movies and novels

March 18, 2010 in On Writing, Study by pacejmiller

I’m enjoying my writing course at the moment, but one thing that irks me is the tendency for class discussions and teaching to be bogged down by over-analysis of a film, script, short story or novel.

I don’t have a problem with chatting about what we thought of the particular work, or even what we thought of specific elements or parts of the work (say a scene or paragraph or chapter).  But to go on for hours about some very obscure symbolism or theme or meaning which may or may not have been the intention of the writer/director/artist seems to be a little presumptuous and perhaps a bit of a waste of time.

While there are definitely exceptions, most of the time I doubt the creators of these works had put that much excruciating thought and detail into every little thing, especially things that the ordinary audience would not have picked up until at least the second or third viewing.

I appreciate that sometimes, certain things in a work are deliberately left ambiguous or vague so they can be open to interpretation by the audience.  So what is the point of trying so hard to pinpoint exactly what that thing is and forcing a specific and definitive meaning onto it?

I wonder if sometimes the creators of the work actually come out and say, “Stop wasting your time analyzing my work.  I never meant for it to be so deep and meaningful!”