Not Taking Sides is Like the Beetlejuice Waiting Room Scene. . .

It is important that we recognize the benefits and limitations of methodology.  Likely, you know your major discipline’s approaches well.  There are ways of being recognized or not.  For instance, in Jeopardy contests, one has to phrase the answer in the form of a question.  In discussion postings, many instructors require the post subject to be in sentence form.  In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Jeff Spicoli, the surfer doesn’t recognize his little brother: “Curtis, you know I don’t hear you unless you knock. . . ” (Heckerling).  In science, hypotheses have to be provable.  In academic writing, thesis claims must be both provable and arguable.

I’m reminded of the notion of Purgatory, an invention of Dante in his La Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy).  This gets played up famously in Beetlejuice and its waiting room scene:

What’s interesting is that this echoes Dante, who puts people who failed to distinguish themselves into Hell.  For Dante’s Italians, not choosing was worse than choosing an opposite side to one’s preferred side.  Strangely enough, we are often more knowledgeable of our opponents–more tolerant of them, even–than of those who never choose.  He even puts the neutral angels into Hell.  In that era (1300 Florence), he even put living people into Hell, claiming that these people were so bad that demons inhabited their bodies and they were already in hell.

So these ideas can receive dogmatic answers.  They get recognized or not, but over time they accrete meaning, slow down, and become concrete.  (No Dogma references necessary. . . )

What I find interesting is that we’re often struggling with the miniscule rules of MLA style in the same way.

As with science, though, we can essentialize this a bit: We are always already entering ongoing conversations.  We do have to be for or against something.  Likely ways of being against something are going to lead to tone issues and assumptions about audience agreement.

As the Beetlejuice move states, “Take a number!” and “It’s showtime!” (Burton).