My Apologies to Susan Sontag

“I believe…that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap.”

How much of what we believe is based on few actual facts or, worse yet, no facts?

Recently I realized that the whole of my opinion on Susan Sontag has been based on the quote above from the the movie Bull Durham. I haven’t even seen the movie, other than a couple of famous scenes, including the famous Crash Davis rant from which this quote was taken.

I often stumble upon Sontag’s name on the various websites I frequent, where she is held in high regard. Some part of me has always dismissed her as a feminist who wasn’t worth taking time to learn more about. Finally, after the umpteenth time of coming across a reference to her or something she wrote or said, the idea of her remained in the forefront of my brain long enough for me to realize that I had never personally researched her or read anything she’d written.

I thought a bit longer about my opinion of her. Sure, I knew her name, but that was all I knew with certainty. I had formed my entire opinion of her based on one line from one character in one movie that I had not even bothered to watch in its entirety. I never realized how thin my actual knowledge of her was, and had been for 15 or 20 years.

What’s even worse is that the impression of Sontag I had in in my mind was all formed subconsciously. Even though I couldn’t have even come close to reciting the quote from Kevin Costner’s character, its disparaging remark about her had left a negative, distasteful impression of this woman with me, causing me to dismiss her immediately as an “unworthy” feminist every time I ran across any mention of her.

And I’m not even sure how I got that she was a feminist out of the character’s statement; there was no mention of feminism at all, only self-indulgence. All these years I had remembered that there was a quote about her in the movie, but not at all what the quote actually said — only that it was negative.

How many other beliefs and opinions in my life have I formed from flimsy information, perhaps on a subconscious level without realizing it?

Perhaps this should be a lesson to myself to take time occasionally to pause and reflect on my values and beliefs, making careful note as to where I’m getting my information and what criteria I’m using to form my opinions.

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