Disparaging Pop Culture Creativity
Critics and reviewers can help us find more art to enjoy, and better appreciate the creative process behind it.
But some critics also discount and disparage forms of creative expression that do not match their personal tastes and values.
One critic I have really appreciated is Sister Wendy Beckett, known mostly as Sister Wendy, a nun from a British monastery, who shared her art history erudition in the PBS program Sister Wendy’s American Collection, and was a pleasure to watch for her passion and wealth of art related stories.
When I want to know if a movie is worth seeing, I often read a review by my favorite film critic Roger Ebert, who is generally literate and sensible.
But in a post of hers, author G. Willow Wilson notes that Ebert’s “vehement disdain for video-games is well-documented.”
Wilson writes there is “a pop culture-bashing trend at work among the high echelons of literary America. From Jonathan Franzen’s infamous remarks about Twitter and eBooks to this recent NYT op-ed belittling adults who read YA fiction (and/or play video games), it’s clear that high-culturalists are feeling some hostility toward new media and entertainment.”
She goes on to write that she is “perplexed by this.”
“On one level it seems like a basic fear of the unknown, since Franzen doesn’t use Twitter or read eBooks, the NYT columnist professes never to have read a YA novel, and Roger Ebert has never played a video game.
“But that seems somewhat hypocritical – after all, aren’t the guardians of high culture and high school English constantly telling us, with heaving bosoms and glassy eyes, that Good Art Pushes Boundaries And Changes People? Thus, wouldn’t shutting oneself off from a new form of entertainment or communication deliberately thwart what art is meant to do?”
This idea of “shutting oneself off” can apply not only to individual critics or anyone offering their opinion on art, but to creative people.
Critical voices, especially highly educated, articulate and well-respected ones, can impact how people may think about where to find meaningful creative work, or influence how much they consider themselves to be an artist or at least creative, or if they are sensible for investing their time and talents in, for example, crafting video games, or making a TV commercial.
Sure, there may be endless examples of trashy and trivial commercials, but there are also commercials with compelling writing and visuals, created by teams of talented designers and effects artists.
Critics may also impact whether institutions will back certain forms of creative expression with funding and exhibitions, or offer classes, or cover them in mainstream media.
“So what is there to be afraid of? The undercurrent of all these complaints seems to be that the new will undermine the old. Because people play video games, they will watch fewer movies and read fewer books…
“Confronted with this kind of fear, I feel compelled to remind people that at one point, novels (which are still, historically speaking, a young art form) were considered a scandalously degenerate form of entertainment.”
From Who’s Afraid Of Pop Culture? By G. Willow Wilson (on her site)
Her website profile notes Wilson is “a dedicated reader of comics and graphic novels” and she writes for Marvel Comics and other publishers.
Her new novel is Alif the Unseen.
Laura Miller on Salon.com subtitles her review (“Alif the Unseen”: Hacker meets Jinn) of Wilson’s book, “An exhilarating new fantasy reminiscent of Gaiman and Stephenson plunges a rebellious Arab teen into a hidden world” – and adds that “Wilson riffs affectionately on such pop culture tropes as the bar scene from ‘Star Wars,’ introducing Alif and his friends to a tavern in Irem, the City of Pillars, a legendary lost metropolis in the Arabian desert that Wilson envisions as the capitol of the jinn. The clientele is appropriately weird, but they’ve got a flat-screen playing Al Jazeera nonstop. And they’ve got Wi-Fi.” Sounds like an intriguing novel.
Video games can never be art By Roger Ebert.
My earlier post: Playing Video Games and Your Creative Mind.
Another post: Toxic Criticism and Developing Creativity – which is mostly about self-criticism.
It refers to the book Toxic Criticism: Break the Cycle with Friends, Family, Coworkers and Yourself by Eric Maisel, PhD.
Top image from post: Sister Wendy Taught Me All I Know About Art by MaxReily.
Lower image of art critic from post: On Criticism and Praise, Part I by Leah Hager Cohen.
Sister Wendy’s American Collection (books & videos)
Eby, D. (2012). Disparaging Pop Culture Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 8, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/creative-mind/2012/07/disparaging-pop-culture-creativity/