Feb. 1 marked the anniversary of the death of comedian Buster Keaton.
Film critic Roger Ebert tweeted that he was, “The greatest of the Silent Clowns. Not Charlie. Buster.”
Actor and director Orson Welles said that Keaton’s “The General” was “the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made and perhaps the greatest film ever made.”
Aside from film students, few experience Keaton’s work.
Feb. 1 also marked the birthday of Clark Gable, whose “Gone with the Wind” exit line is perhaps more memorable to the average person than his entire filmography.
Admit it: You probably think black and white, silent or otherwise “classic” films are simply not as interesting as lush, booming, colorful modern movies.
Despite the recent critical success of “The Artist,” classic films fell out of favor with the viewership long ago. Artists such as Keaton and Gable are regarded as hams or relics. Many dismiss the works without any discussion of plot, performance or artistry. We assume these works are boring.
It’s impossible to go into any art or entertainment form without some preconceived notions. Even someone who knows little about football would find it hard to watch the Super Bowl without presuppositions — pregame coverage, social media buzz and commercials provide inescapable commentary even for the disinterested.
And then there are those who dismiss the game based solely on a dislike for sports, commercialism or Beyoncé.
Everyone tends to have an opinion about everything. It’s a natural consequence of being able to make choices.
We’re wired to use our experiences to predict and determine future decisions, which makes approaching anything with a pure “open mind” an impractical goal.
Despite being an opinion columnist, I am asking you to not make your opinions the backbone of a discussion on occasion. I know you have opinions. I know you can’t escape your background or specific tastes. It’s part of what makes each person an individual.
However, your growth as an individual is also dependent on moving away from all the niches you’ve made your own.
Eleven years ago, I begrudgingly went with my mom to a movie. Three hours later, I was a confirmed Lord of the Rings fan, and my fascination with Middle Earth eventually led me to study film and literature here at ASU.
Five years ago, I begrudgingly sat down to watch my first full Super Bowl. Hours later, I was on the edge of my seat rooting for the Giants, eventually experiencing the elation of an underdog’s triumph.
The Giants didn’t have as much impact on me as the “Fellowship of the Ring” — I didn’t watch the Super Bowl this year, and I still don’t fully understand intense sports devotion — but I don’t regret taking the time to understand the game and enjoy the experience.
Not everyone will find Buster Keaton funny or Clark Gable charismatic. Not everyone will like football or Beyoncé or Middle Earth.
Nevertheless, we share the difficulty of approaching anything without a predisposition. We also share the instinct to roll our eyes at the term “open-minded,” because its definition has morphed into a narrow term that excludes our inescapable opinions and tastes.
A real “open mind” demands enough awareness of your inescapable opinions to know how they impact your perceptions, using that awareness to consciously approach something with only the intention of understanding, experiencing or discussing it.
You don’t need to ignore or reject your opinions in order to approach something new.
On the contrary, you need enough self-awareness to recognize your preferences as part of your point of view. Strangely enough, that’s how your point of view can change.
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