Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator (ludickid) wrote,
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator
ludickid

Take Your Art And Shove It

This week’s AVQ&A over at the AV Club is a pretty interesting one. Usually I try and get over there early enough to drop in my nickel’s worth, but I had a freelance project I was sweating over last night and by the time I finally got there this morning there were about 600 comments spread over four pages and the chance of getting in on a dynamic conversation were about nil. Still, it’s a good topic, so I thought I’d open it up over here and see what y’all had to say about it.

The question is, what art/culture have you resisted for whatever reason? And since I’ve got a bit more space here than I’d have in a comments box, I’ll expand on my own answer a bit more than I would have at the AVC site.

In some instances, I’ve resisted art for altogether stupid reasons, the stupidest being that it’s overpraised to the degree that I think it can’t possibly be as good as the hype. Luckily, I started watching The Wire from the very beginning; otherwise, the sky-high praise it evoked from critics everywhere might have risked turning me off. Of course, I was one of those critics, and I stand by my opinion that it’s the best show American television has ever produced; but I can’t help but recall an early ad campaign for The Sopranos in which they quoted some critic as saying it was the greatest cultural achievement of the last quarter-century. That turned me off so badly that I didn’t even bother to watch the show until last year. As it happens, I ended up liking The Sopranos and I’m sorry I denied myself the pleasure of watching it all along, but choosing that quote as the centerpiece of an ad campaign still pisses me off. Seriously – no movie, TV show, record album, painting, play, performance, novel, short story, or anything else since 1975 can equal The Sopranos? I don’t even think it’s the best show HBO has produced since 2000. Or even the second-best.

I also generally feel pretty comfortable avoiding certain mega-huge blockbuster entertainments. While I understand the need for people, especially professional pop-cult scribblers like myself, to be au courant, I also know my own tastes, and I figure it this way: there’s a million great records, movies, TV shows, comics, novels, etc. in the world, so many that I’ll never possibly get to experience all of them. With the limited time allowed to me, why waste my time on a movie I know I’m not going to like when I could be spending it on a movie I’m probably going to enjoy? (Unless someone pays me, of course. I’ll watch any heap of shit for money.) So, while I’ve never seen Forrest Gump or Two and a Half Men, while I’ve never heard a Jessica Simpson album or read a Sophie Kinsella novel, I know I’m not really missing anything, so I don’t feel like this is something that needs to be corrected.

That said, here’s three things I’ve resisted, and feel mildly guilty for having done so:



HARRY POTTER. First off, as I’ve mentioned before in this space, I don’t quite understand the passion so many adults seem to have for juvenile/young adult fiction. (And yes, I read comic books, and am well aware of the hypocrisy of my position, so no need to point that out, thanks.) I read young adult fiction when I was a kid, and I didn’t even like it very much then; I can’t imagine why I would want to return to it now. Even the best of it is, well, written for children. The things I value most in fiction – a sophisticated prose style, a depth of moral understanding, a surprising approach to narrative or character, a degree of irony and ambiguity – are the things I’m least likely to find in a young adult book, because those are qualities that are not especially prized, or even particularly understood, by 12-year-olds. Even when they’re better than they need to be, these books are almost never especially good; and even when they contain genre elements that I normally enjoy (for example, the ambitious world-building and the elaborate mythology of the Harry Potter books), it’s in service to a narrative and prose style that’s functional at best and simple-minded at worst. Simply because of their cultural ubiquity, I read the first two Harry Potter books, and found in them no reason to return for a third sitting. I’ve never read any of the other big YA genre books – not Twilight, not Lemony Snicket, not His Dark Materials, not Cirque du Freak, none of them – and I honestly don’t quite grasp why so many grown-ups seem to go gaga for them.

SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY. This one is especially odd when you consider what a mark I am for other types of genre fiction, especially the abovementioned comic books and noir/pulp/crime drama. And it’s not as if I don’t have any appreciation for sci-fi or fantasy; I number some of my favorite movies and books as sitting comfortably in one or the other of those genres, and it’s not as if I avoid that sort of thing altogether as a matter of course. I even like writing fantasy, though I’ve never had much of a touch with sci-fi. It’s just that, again, my tastes tend to run towards elements that are undervalued in those genres: I’m a big fan of clever use of language, inverted or unusual narrative, and stylistic experimentation. I’m not a big fan of plot, or of story as such, or even of idea, and sci-fi is the most idea-driven of genre fiction. Which isn’t a criticism of it, per se, just an explanation of why I’m not that interested in it: a lot of what draws fans to a particular sci-fi story or author is a clever idea or concept, and that generally doesn’t interest me that much. Fantasy also tends to contain romantic/elitist elements that turn me off. The upshot of all this is that I couldn’t name more than a half-dozen contemporary sci-fi/fantasy authors, which I definitely think of as a big hole in my cultural literacy. People tell me that there are lots of sci-fi writers who value the qualities I do and whose work I would enjoy, and I don’t doubt them. It’s just that so far, I can’t be arsed to investigate.

ELECTRONIC MUSIC. To be fair to myself, this is one that I’m actively working on, and my knowledge of electronica, dance, and beep-boop music of all sorts is dramatically greater than it was, say, five years ago. And it’s at least partly a function of my job as a freelancer: I certainly know a lot more about world music, indie pop, and certain types of metal than I used to because writing about them is part of my job, whereas no one has ever paid me to write about electronic music. But, that said, a lot of the blame lies with me. For a very long time, in fact during some of its most fertile periods, I ignored what was going on with electronic music largely because I associated it with rave/club/disco culture, which I strongly disliked largely for social reasons. And while some of those reasons are still intact, I’ve come to realize I was ignoring a pretty rich variety of sounds – and continued to do so long after I knew better. (That’s why I can write a mini-essay about the million micro-genres of metal or punk or hip-hop, while I still continue to refer to this stuff with the entirely useless blanket term “electronica”.) Like I said, I’m trying to do better, but I haven’t pursued learning more about this kind of music with nearly the determination it deserves given its prominence in modern popular music.

Now, you get to add your own, or yell at me for mine!
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    This will be my last entry of 2016.  Next year will begin, barring some unexpected act of fate, with the ascension to the presidency of Donald…

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