Theme—Day 34; with a little critical thinking thrown in for free

In one section in the “Theme” chapter of Donald Maass’s book, Writing the Breakout Novel, he mentions that even TV sitcoms have themes:

Half-hour family sitcoms on TV often have a familiar moral, but usually it is forgotten by the time the final credits roll. Why? The sitcom message is often simplistic and weakly dramatized.

This may be true, but I contend that this does not make the them ineffective.

Over at the Faith in Fiction Discussion Board several of us have been discussing an article about critical thinking posted at Agape Press. As I wrote comments about propaganda, I couldn’t help thinking about theme as well.

So now I am wondering, perhaps theme is most effective when it isn’t taken aside and analyzed. (Dare I cite examples of sitcoms that pushed an agenda we can now look back upon and see accepted in our culture?)

This lack of critical reflection comes about when theme is tied with an interesting story or characters that are so endearing or engaging that readers (or viewers) care deeply.

Then even when the theme is simplistic and weakly dramatized, it still retains its influence.

Best of all, it seems to me, is the theme that is so well-crafted, with such a light touch that the characters, story, and the ideas they represent are memorable, and therefore the theme continues influencing even after the next read and the next. To the point that contradictory themes might be called into question.

Is that too much to hope for? Too much to aim at?

Published in: on May 10, 2006 at 1:34 pm  Comments (8)  
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