Perfection as Imperfection

05Feb16

As soon as I read Alex’s article, I knew I should respond. I went through the suspicious thoughts like, “This is Alex’s way of trying to prove that “Attack of the Clones” is actually really enjoyable,” or some such nonsense.

But the more I considered this theory that perfection isn’t as enjoyable as something imperfect, I realized it had a ring of truth for me. The funny thing was that the best example I can come up with to support this theory is not another movie. It’s the NBA, and particularly the career of LeBron James.

I’ve written about LeBron before, mostly about how a player with such incredible and obvious skills can actually be boring to watch. My earlier thesis had to do with LeBron’s lack of a suitable rival capable of giving him a fight. Even Superman has Lex Luthor. LeBron seems to simply be Superman, and always has been thought to be this way. Without a rival, it’s not interesting to watch a man who seems to have been designed by God to play basketball better than anyone else play basketball better than anyone else. As I said, I chalked this up to his lack of a rival, but then that would just be Superman vs. Superman.

Now I’m thinking the “problem” is that LeBron to me (like “Fury Road” to Alex) is too perfect, and the problem with perfection is that you can’t relate to it.

When someone writes about LeBron James, he is required to compare him to Michael Jordan, and this will be no exception. Because while Jordan did elevate to some kind of Superman-like level in the second half of his career, he struggled to reach his full potential in the first half. Try as he might, he could not get the Bulls beyond the Detroit Pistons. Then once he did, he stepped away from the NBA to play baseball for a year. Then he came back and struggled (which I remember thinking was impossible), worked his way back and then dropped 55 against the Knicks. He played through the flu, dealt with a very public murder of his father, and wore stupid shorts. Somehow, Jordan — with all his abilities and drive — felt human. So to see a human achieve incredible levels of success helps the fan invest in that success.

Let me put it this way: if I designed a 10-foot-tall robot to play basketball, and that robot dunked every time for 100 points a game for 9 seasons in a row, it would not be interesting. You would just be watching something inevitable occur. This is how it feels to watch LeBron James play (“Like watching a 10-foot-tall robot dunk for 4 quarters?” “Yes, inner voice!”)

And actually, Inner Voice, watching LeBron can feel like that sometimes. He actually does a lot that makes you stand up and scream because it’s technically amazing. Moment to moment, it’s exciting. It’s when you start thinking about his career or his Legend that things start to get less interesting. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but since I’ve come to expect amazing things from LeBron, that makes those achievements feel less amazing.

Now ON THE OTHER HAND, I think it’s a little crazy not to like “Fury Road,” just as it’s a little crazy that I should fight for someone to “have to” love a movie. And perhaps the feeling of “this is too perfect” may have more to do with the fact that there are a zillion movies to see in a year (which are undisputedly of higher quality per capita than movies were 30 years ago), and that this is all a complaint of riches. On the other other hand, I felt the same feelings of “It was just OK” about “The Dark Knight,” so who knows?

Maybe repeat viewings will allow us to find more evidence of humanity in “Fury Road” which will make it more relatable.

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