To Know Better

“A remake’s a nice idea, but I don’t think it’ll work. What makes Commando so enduring and endearing is, I think, that at no stage did any of us think we were doing anything comedic. We were gung-ho, out there killing each other in fields of battle. No one tried to be funny – we were all taking it deadly serious. Even when Arnold is dangling people over cliffs, the dialogue was treated like Shakespeare. I don’t any of us knew any better”.

That is Vernon Wells who played Bennet, the bad guy opposite to Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Commando. He gives a unique observation here: they did not know any better. What would be cherished as an over the top action movie was taken as a serious piece of film. To try and revisit Commando would remove the film from its original thought process. There would be the cult action movie reputation of Commando in the heads of those working on the project. A new sense of distance (with irony and a bit of humor) would come into the fold. That is what Wells seems to be worried about: knowing better does not always help.

There are times when a music is diluted of such earnestness that it contained. Think of how this happens when we bash bands that cover classic rock at bars. It is easy to dismiss such as diluted because the musicianship and inventiveness might be lacking. And yet who knows how much work these musicians put in and how serious they take their craft of playing Aerosmith tunes.

Like Arnold reciting lines as if they were Shakespeare, an Aerosmith cover band could play with sensitivity and precision as if it were Mozart. A cathartic and artistic experience could be taking place that we are unaware of. Again, all because we thought we knew better.

I find myself looking down at some music from time to time, not taking it as seriously (like Commando). But what needs to be remembered is that there are countless Vernon Wells out there (including ourselves) who take these musics as a craft, a high art. To change the phrase, these musicians do not know any different as we do not know different.

Knowing better can weaken our empathy with other people in music. Perhaps empathy can be strove for when we realize that nobody knows any better than the next person. To be curious of all the different knowings might be a better route.

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