Where does meaning come from in fiction?

Discuss the philosophy found in the various incarnations of Ghost in the Shell

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Elmo_Redux
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Where does meaning come from in fiction?

Post by Elmo_Redux »

We are fans of ghost in the shell, probably what some would call obsessive fanboys/girls. We have in this place dissected most every aspect and implication of the film's content to an extent that was probably never intended by it's creators. We have drawn more meaning from the story than was probably intended and in some people's cases have carried on telling the story through RPGs, fanart and fanfic, taking total control of the narrative. And at other times we have taken a directly polar-opposite approach, drawing meaning from the film by going to the creators' intentions in all our interpretations even going into their political views, cultural context, religion, previous works, and other biographical attributes.

My question to you is this, when we watch Ghost in the Shell, or indeed any other piece of fiction, from where does meaning come from - Those who created it, the film itself, or from us as the audience?

...and what does this imply for the validity of anything we have to say about the film?
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Epiphany
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Post by Epiphany »

I would imagine everyone adds their own life experiences to what the read/view. I figure its the same way when the stories are written. The author/director/creator adds in their life experiences, sometimes without any concious thought. I the GITS movies and Series you have to add in the fact that more than one persons experiences are added. Writers, Directors, Editors, Artists, Vocal Actors and many more influence the final outcome. Then we add our personal take to it.

Your emotional state at the time of consumpsion also plays a big part in what we come away with. I think in my case ( Can't speak for others ) Thats one reason I've watched them all several times. Each time I seem to focus on another aspect.
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Saito
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Post by Saito »

The simple answer is both.

The creator of any tale rolls their knowledge, feelings, emotions and views into a story, then each person who reads, watches or hears it takes in this information and forms their own meaning from there. Because we are all human, to some extent our meanings share similarities, but they also differ from one another and probably from the original author.
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Freitag
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Post by Freitag »

I'm with Saito there.

I took a class in college where we studied the works of American playwrights and one of the huge things that came out of it was about the symbolism used by the writer.

At the time I thought that was utter bunk. I still think most of it is, but a thought that I had later on relating to it is that a symbol is only meaningful if both the author and the reader agree that it is symbolic of something.

My professor would say that even on an unconscious level the device represents something to the reader so that although you don't notice that it is there, you would have a different experience if it were not there.

I showed my Neighbor Totoro to my nephews and my brother read up on it before he let me show it to them. It turns out that to a personal of Japanese culture, the panic that occurs when the people are looking for the missing sister would not be as bad as us westerners feel - because of the visual imagery of the shrines along the road. So while watching it and my youngest nephew was really worried about the younger sister (particularly when they found the shoe) my brother paused the movie and explained the point of the shrines. The shrines indicate that all is well and that the travelers are protected or in laymens terms, they foreshadow a happy ending to the search

So there may be meaning in GitS that we don't' even see because of our cultural background. What a Japanese might see and shrug off as a minor detail, would take deep thought by the most avid of gaijin otaku.
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Post by Colmy_DD »

ummm this is an interesting topic. I will ask this question elmo, what were your expectations of an answer as the meanings that we get from a media text are heavliy influenced by our expectaions. We might gain these from friends or family, reviewers even from other texts which are intertextual of the text or in the same genre.

Though we objectify what we see, generally we cast judgement over something in the first minute or so in so the question you have to ask is this... did you watch the text with an open or closed mind. My expectaion of an answer is a closed mind but think back to the first time you watched it, the reasons why and your initial reactions because they help determine what we find meaning in when we watch GitS.
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Post by simon's ghost »

Ideally, we should all simply try to understand what the author meant as the author is heavily intent on portraying something specific more often than not. Or else the author is simply trying to raise questions, in which case there is no meaning to be found other than the questioning itself.

In reality, we can't help but interpret according to what we are. It will happen unconsciously, just like what Freitag said about cultural heritage playing a role. It's especially true with entertainment. If we enjoy an artist's work, we're likely to interpret the artists other works in a favorable way which we can relate to.

I still think it's important to try to give an honest interpretation and not bend the author's original intent to the best of our capability.
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Saito
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Post by Saito »

That's not always the case. Some authors deliberately let the reader/viewer fill in the gaps for themselves as a way of making the experience more personal.
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Post by M4nu3l »

Saito on top again.

A twist an an old koan:

IS it a story if there's no one there to derive meaning from it?

But in essence, It's the synergy of all those involved that elevate the idea from one man's glimmer of a whim, to a veritable fortress of greatness to be appreciated by all whom look upon it.
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