As an English major, we are always told to show, not tell. Seymour Chatman’s “Novels and Films” brings up some of the defining features and differences between literature and film. One of the features he brings up is the idea of the showing verses telling. Seymour suggests that “it requires special effort for the films to assert a property or relation. The dominate mode is presentational, not assertive. The film doesn’t say, ‘This is the state of affairs,’ it simply shows you that state of affairs” (128). The assertion of property is a fancy way of discussing what things are suppose to look like on the screen (Chatman gives a great example in the preceding pages). Because film is primarily “presentational”, and it shows you the state of affairs—whatever is on the screen at the moment, Chatman seems to be suggesting that film shows the viewer, while literature tells the reader.
So what does this mean for us? Does that mean that film is a better than film. Looking back at previous readings such as that of Virginia Woolf who suggests that film is for the lazy, is it in fact literature that is lazy because it has to tell you what is going on? Is Chatman in favor or against film and/or literature? I believe that he takes a middle stance, arguing that film and literature are in fact two different medium, and it is impossible replicate the exact same things between the two. Literature might be able to have a single sentence describing what a girl looks like, but film will inevitably show more. This brings us back to the idea of showing and/or telling. Is Chatman is suggesting that film and literature are equals, does it mean that showing and telling are equals as well? Some can argue yes. Showing and telling are merely two different ways to get an idea across. One, as Chatman suggests is more assertive, the other more passive. Others can argue no, suggesting that showing requires the reader/viewer to do more work, as telling is just laziness. I for one, and not sure what to think.