Oct 7, 2017

The Silent Knight and The Literalist Reader

When you read, you want to be careful. You don’t want to extrapolate too far. That’s sensible.  But, like anything, this carefulness can be taken too far, and sadly, it often is.

The Literalist Reader
Travis Hedge Coke


When you read, you want to be careful. You don’t want to extrapolate too far. That’s sensible.  But, like anything, this carefulness can be taken too far, and sadly, it often is.

Being functionally unable, and unwilling, to extrapolate story information from partial data, to read between the lines, to realize when characters are lying or joking, that body language and behavior communicate as much as words, these are frighteningly common in audiences. Upsettingly common.



If you take a look at the Wikipedia page for Silent Knight, a DC character created in the mid-50s for National/DC Comics, you’ll find that it closes the Powers and abilities entry with the following:
“Brian's refusal to speak and let anyone know who he is under the helmet does create some problems. One of those is that he is in love with the Lady Celia. She sees only his public image as an oaf and loves only the Silent Knight. She is of course completely unaware that Brian is the Silent Knight and that is a difficult thing for Brian to deal with.”

Why this is listed under Powers and abilities (and why “abilities” is not capitalized) is a little confusing, but what baffles me, is how anyone could read — really read — the original Silent Knight stories and believe Lady Celia does not know Brian is the Silent Knight. She constantly covers for the Silent Knight in ways that imply she knows. She teases Brian about it while laying in his arms, and all but winking at him. She totally knows. The only evidence to the contrary, may be one genuinely awkward thought bubble in one story, but even that isn’t conclusive.

In one story, Celia points out that she and Brian are similar enough in build, that she could wear his clothes. He is, in this story, outed as the Silent Knight, because he’s unmasked while wearing the Silent Knight costume. Celia then dresses in the same outfit to pretend to be the Silent Knight and throw suspicion off of Brian, before smilingly teasing him, again, with, a variation of, “Gee! I wonder who Silent Knight really is?”



Whoever wrote that part of the wiki entry could, for sure, have read every Silent Knight story ever, including those original 1950s tales. But, I would wager, they are relying on words, on dialogue alone, to come to their conclusions, re Lady Celia. Perfunctory reading, but I would argue, not real reading, not functional reading.



When you interpret — and all functional reading is interpretation — you cannot rely on dialogue, especially on taking dialogue as direct, honest, never in jest, never sarcastic, never layered with meanings. People make jokes. People lie. Sometimes, people misunderstand or are wrong, but talk anyway. Being wrong has never stopped someone from talking. Knowing a secret has never stopped someone from keeping that secret.


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