Sunday, January 31, 2010

Everyone seems to be discussing “The Yellow Wallpaper” this week. I do not blame them. It certainly did stand out from the rest of the work that we read and discussed. As I was contemplating what I would fill space with this weekend I decided to get on youtube and, just out of curiosity, see what would pop up when I searched “Yellow Wallpaper”. I received some random videos that, as far as I could tell, had nothing to do with either yellow or wallpaper but I also managed to find a nearly endless list of “movie trailers” that had been created by a variety of ages of students who had either made a video for extra credit or for a mandatory language arts project. Curious, I started watching my way through the list and around video seven I decided that enough was enough.

The filming skills were atrocious. The acting was simply depressing. But the part that really irked me was that, at the core, they were all exactly the same. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an excitingly creative and even a bit creepy but these videos simply did not do it justice. Charlotte Perkins Gillman did not write a simple and concrete story. The drift of her main character into insanity can be interpreted in many different ways, including the slightly more abstract ideas that the woman is actually in an insane asylum or that the “creeper” is simply a shadow or reflection of the woman upon the wall and windows of the room. None of these ideas were even approached by the videos. They had all translated the text so literally that it became tiresome after only a few videos. Each video depicted the woman in a room with yellow paper and surrounded by hooded creatures in black crawly dejectedly around the room or around the grounds of the estate. In the end of each video another girl literally leapt out from behind a fake yellow wall (it ranged from bed-sheets to tissue paper) and tied the woman up, leaving her on the floor. Each video was so similar to the last that it became possible to predict nearly everything, all the way down to what song would be used at the climax.

Yet what I discovered from this video watching went much deeper than the simple lack of film making skills or the predictable music choice. These videos revealed a true shortcoming of this generation. The ability to think outside of the lines and play with ideas that are not literally stamped in to the text is a greatly diminishing skill. In our class we were able to discuss multiple interpretations of the short story and present legitimate evidence for each interpretation. Children in school systems everywhere, no matter what grade or class level, should be encouraged to search for and present multiple ideas about the text so that this world does not become one where everything is restricted to its literal interpretation. Encouraged creativity will keep our world from becoming one of repetitive videos and un-open minds. The lesson of “The Yellow Wallpaper” was to me not one regarding sexism or insanity but one of creativity. Creativity that is so present in writing, but is being swiftly discarded by this generation. If we lose our creativity we lose ourselves, so hold tight to “The Yellow Wallpaper” and never, never let go.

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