Friday, February 20, 2009

Been a Long Time Gone

From Jesus Miguel Hernandez

I believe that all men and women who have the ability to act against a great evil, have a responsibility to act against that evil. If a person had foreknowledge of The Holocaust, it would have been that person’s duty as a human being to act in some way against it. That being said, I feel I must say something about one of the most insipid, the most disgusting, the most infuriating, but paradoxically one of the most common sentences in all works of English writing.

I don’t know why, in this world of hyper-criticism, why nobody has never before pointed this out, but I cannot find a single Google entry denouncing one of the most cliché of all clichés: I don’t know, but I intend to find out.

If you have ever seen a poorly written action, suspense, superhero, or mystery movie, you have heard this sentence. After the movie’s inciting incident, one of the supporting characters, probably the goofy sidekick, will ask the protagonist what kind of fiend could have killed the protagonist's wife, kidnapped his daughter, blew-up his house, and raped his dog. Examining the scene of carnage before him, the hero will reply with detached stoicism, “I don’t know, but I intend to find out.”

The lines "I don’t know, but I intend to find out" are almost always a major plot point in a bad movie. The sentence is meant to telegraph that hero has been affected by whatever wrong has befallen him, and show that he is determined to find his antagonist. In its most irritating occurrences, it also infers that the hero intends impose revenge on the wrongdoer.

Egregiously though,there is almost never an attempt to mitigate this whore of a cliché. There’s never an attempt at a clever variation on what can only be described as a hackneyed clunker. No play on its hackneyed words or structure; it always occurs at best as an awkward attempt to move the plot and at worst an even more awkward piece of exposition.

My intent here is not to decry the lack of talent of those who have ever penned, "I don’t know, but I intend to find out," though as a group they are talentless hacks. I want only to let it fall into the same category of ridicule as that literarily iniquitous clunker: It was a dark and stormy night.

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