Form Versus Content Essay, Research Paper
June 6, 2000
FORM VERSUS CONTENT
As two friends were sitting in their local tavern, having a few friendly drinks together, the conversation drifted to the subject of dating. John, after hearing several tragic stories from Phil, decided to arrange a blind date with his cousin, Susan, who had similar luck in the social arena. Just as John began describing her, Susan unexpectedly walked into the bar without noticing the two friends sitting near the back of the room. John tried to get her attention, but was interrupted by the chortling sound of Phil choking on his beer in disgust.
Yeah, I know what you re thinking, John offered, but what can I do to get you to go out with her, just once? If you go on one date with her, you ll see that she really is a beautiful person on the inside.
Well, Phil quipped, you can start by turning her inside-out.
Does a person s outward appearance, or form, have greater significance than his or her personality? Is a work of art s aesthetics more important than its subject? Although content is important, adequate form is so essential that content, in many cases, may not exist without it. Faults in an object s form, and sometimes in a person s form, lead to a person s loss of credibility, distraction from the subject, and unrealized attention to the content.
When bad form is applied to a good content, errors and flaws give certain negative impressions of a person or product. In regards to a product, such as a book or a building, substandard appearance creates doubt in the product s reliability and in the producer s skill or intelligence. In an essay littered with typographical and grammatical errors, some faith in the writer s competence may be lost. If a shed was constructed and left with nails exposed and crooked, the skill of the carpenter may be questioned. Perceived shortcomings in a person s style or hygiene can cause people to form negative stereotypes of the person.
These flaws in outward appearance not only give the onlooker a negative impression of the person or product, but they detract from the intended message or purpose. In a poorly written essay, the minor errors might cause the reader to lose sight of the essay s purpose because they are so distracted by the essay s deviance from the usual methods. Readers may find themselves mentally editing the infractions and concentrating less on the message of the writing. If the flaws of a letter are substantial, the contents of the missive may be completely misunderstood, or not understood at all. Consider a comparison between Leonardo Da Vinci s Madonna Litta, painstakingly crafted with oils and brushes, and Chris Ofili s The Holy Virgin, which consists of smeared elephant dung on canvas. Both paintings have the same subject and content, but the appearances are vastly different. Would Da Vinci s paintings be as revered if he had adopted Ofili s technique and aesthetic tastes?
Just as an unappealing form distracts and degrades content, an accepted, appealing form will draw attention to a work s message or a person s personality. If a product is attractive, it will draw attention and people will be more apt to discover what is contained within it. The adage, Never judge a book by it s cover , although good advice, is very often ignored and forgotten. Compelling artwork adorning a book s cover will increase it s dissemination and allow people to read it s contents and fulfill the book s purpose. Just as Joe s friend, Phil, would have been more inclined to discover Susan s personality had she had different physical features, the public is more inclined to discover a person or product s inner being or message when packaged appealingly. As an example, most celebrities and musicians have an accepted physical quality that increases their popularity and allows them to express their personalities to a greater number of people. If Britney Spears or Ricky Martin were hundreds of pounds overweight, would anyone have ever heard the content of their songs or be familiar with their demeanors and personas?
Knowing of the significant impact that form has on the way people and products are perceived, how bad form can distract people from good content, and how good form attracts people to content, it can be said that form frequently determines if the content is ever seen or detected. To answer the question, Does content exist without form? is to answer the ancient riddle, If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?