Friday, December 16, 2011

A curious literacy strategy

You can imagine I was surprised to see this familiar image on information kiosks this holiday season, since Disney's A Christmas Carol came out a full two years ago.

Turns out, they're just using the image of Jim Carrey's Ebenezer Scrooge to convince people to read books.

On the one hand, I get it. But on the other, isn't it kind of a contradictory impulse, to tell people to "Explore New Worlds," but then to spoon-feed them the images upon which to base that exploration?

The supposedly wonderful thing about reading is that you get to create the world in your head. You can imagine what every character looks like, and you get to conjure your own appearance for the houses and towns in which they live. Your brain gets a special boost if it's a fantasy world, something for which you may have no previous frame of reference.

And so, presenting someone with a fixed image of what a character, such as Ebenezer Scrooge, looks like, is kind of counterproductive. Not only that, but it's a fixed image from a movie. Aren't movies supposed to be the enemy of books, at least for hardcore bibliophiles?

Never mind the nit-picky detail that the setting of one of the world's most famous and celebrated Christmas stories is hardly a "new world" to explore.

I guess the bibliophiles responsible for this campaign, at least, must acknowledge that they need celebrity to sell the idea of reading. Only by using the likeness of Jim Carrey on a poster about reading will they get our attention enough to bring home the message. Advertising is a visual medium, so you need something to catch our eye. Might as well be something familiar, something that makes us look twice -- as I looked twice, enough that I stopped to take a picture and am now writing about it here.

Well, it's for a good cause in the case of A Christmas Carol. Not only should everyone see Robert Zemeckis' movie, which is truly creative and visually arresting, but they really ought to read Charles Dickens' novel, which brings the Christmas spirit like no other.

Literally. Three spirits, actually.

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