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reading tiger

Se7en vs. Pirate Pete

Today I finally solved the riddle of why the movie Se7en appeals to so many people, but not to me. It took the children's book Pirate Pete to do it for me. But when I realized that Pirate Pete and Se7en share the same basic structure, all was illuminated.

Pirate Pete follows a strict repetitive structure, one found in many children's books. It enhances the predictive repetition by incorporating a catchphrase: "where there was gold, they were a-goin'!" The basic plot is as follows (spoilers): Pirate Pete is seeking treasure. He sails first to one fanciful fantasy island, then another, then another. In each case he fails to find treasure but has another interesting encounter instead. Finally, after visiting Candy Island, Clover Island, Sleepy Island, Dragon Island and Mermaid Island, he reaches Treasure Island, finds treasure (in a box!) is caught by the queen whose treasure map he stole and left with only his boat and parrot.

Se7en is the same. In this case, the repetitive structure is provided by the Seven Deadly Sins. You know that there will be a murder for each sin. You know how many sins to expect. You know what their names are beforehand, too. The story-pleasure, therefore, comes not from surprise but from the closure each murder provides. "Ah, so that's what Sleepy Island looks like." "Ah, so that's Greed."

You know to expect a "twist" in the final moments, too -- Pirate Pete will not end up with the treasure, and Kevin Spacey will not just murder seven people and then give himself up (or escape). The tension will be raised, and resolved, one last time.

With a box and its contents.

The end.


For me there's no tension in the movie at all. It ended up feeling very paint-by-numbers. I don't mind that it's a sonnet but I am disappointed that it wasn't better, basically. If I'm predicting your rhymes *and* where they fall in the sentences, I'm going to get bored. I was bored.

I am aware that I am quite in the minority of this one, and I frequently try to puzzle out why.

I also hate (re)reading Pirate Pete, while my kids adore it. Their pleasure was a clue.
The last sentence is perfect. :)