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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Narcissistic Navel-Gazing

I found this piece through Alyssa Rosenberg, who's working for the Washington Post now, and I loved how it basically calls out the Rosenbergian school of cultural criticism.  The writer, Glenn Kenny, is either too gentle or too untalented to come out and say what he means directly, but he does make some great points:
These days, in the discourse of popular culture, nothing is JUST entertainment, but EVERYTHING must be fun.
This is why these critics can't accept shows like True Detective or Sons of Anarchy without performing an audit of its "social responsibility" factor, and it's also why they reject the one-dimensional polemics they seemingly desire in favor of things in the pop culture mainstream, which --to their endless frustration-- refuses to conform to their narrow expectations.

Kenny hits it out of the park with this:

This leaves us free to debate just how adolescent we’d like our culture to be, e.g., ought we read "adult" books as a teenager would (what did I learn from Updike, what was he trying to tell me?), or should we just give up and read YA as adults because that has its value too, and what ought we be embarrassed by?
Before now, I never thought of it as an issue of maturity.  Rosenberg's work has always struck me as the work of a teacher's pet seeking out an atta-boy, but I never really thought of it as "immature." 

But damn it, watching at Sons of Anarchy and thinking you're going to get some kind of diatribe against gun violence is rather immature.  It displays a childish ignorance of how art is created and how it interacts with the commercial marketplace.

I also like Kenny's conclusion:
Nowadays, nobody wants to destroy Hollywood. That would be ugly. Not to mention impossible. But, it’s "important" to make Hollywood "less sexist." So we can feel more comfortable in our chains or pods or whatever you prefer to call them .... because we have a better, nicer, more "representative" mirror to dwell on/in.
Translation:  Making Hollywood "less sexist" is not important.  Instead of grappling with real problems, it amounts to little more than narcissistic navel-gazing.