We can thank William Blake for today's title. I came across this gem in the reading for my Theory course. It seemed to intersect nicely with my complaint about the movie "We Don't Live Here Anymore." In another essay, Bernard Paris, in response to Wayne Booth's comment that Robbe-Grillet's The Voyeur "does, indeed, lead us to experience intensely the sensations and emotions of a homicidal maniac. But is this really what we go to literature for?" answers "Yes." Paris's comment relates to a few of my complaints about the movie, and directly addresses Sleepy E's comment that characters do not need to be sympathetic in order to elicit our interest.
I agree both with Sleepy E and Bernard Paris. I do not need to like a character in order to be interested in his or her view of the world. In fact, sometimes I sympathize with a character more if he/she is NOT like me. I want to read a book that enlarges rather than diminishes my view of the world. I want my movies to do this too. "We Don't Live Here Anymore" did not enlarge my view of the world. Rather, it diminished it. To me the movie said "people are shitty. They do shitty things to each other. They pontificate on adultery and the nature of the conjugal contract." As Sleepy E points out, the Jason Patric character is not sympathetic. In fact, he is disgusting. But, he is morally and mentally complex. He's not simply "evil" or a placeholder for the "villian" function in the movie. Rather, he is evil, but in a complex way that is not easily grasped. He also, as we see in the end, seems to have some desirable quality that is also not easily named. He may be an asshole, but he's a decisive asshole, which seems preferable to the waffling banality of the other male characters.
My point is: the particular, the unique, the individual, the idiosyncratic makes great literature. The general is, as Blake so succintly notes, for idiots.