"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Jun 2, 2011

Trivial

A good way to trivialize your involvement in a movement is to take very, very seriously an unserious, ridiculously premised movie you have not yet seen. And then sit back and wait for your dittoheads to ditto you up some grim seriousness about a film they also have not yet seen.

But, in all seriousness, can someone please explain to me why it is that so many liberals and lefties try to find meaning in a product which is made, marketed and produced in order to distract?

Not that there's anything wrong with distraction. 

But...

Does it really matter if a movie is feminist, Jesus friendly, family values centric, pro-labor, anti-corruption or gay-positive? Isn't the scrying of films for [insert your preferred movement, ideology or faith] content not unlike the reading of patterns and futurity in Tarot cards or tea leaves?

Why do we look for meaning in movies?

Is it an indication of how powerless "the left" really is that it routinely produces culture obsessed midgets of conscience who misinterpret the obviously trivial as if it were central to the operation of the machine in to which the majority of us are plugged, often enough literally, a la that ass clown Zizek, or any number of cultural critics?

20 comments:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Is it an indication of how powerless "the left" really is that it routinely produces culture obsessed midgets of conscience who misinterpret the obviously trivial....

Try turning that around, Jack. I don't believe 'the left' can touch 'the right' on this score. There's an entire industry based on screeching about the subversive message being spread by Tinky Winky, Bert and Ernie, etc.

Would you claim the right in this country is powerless?
~

Jack Crow said...

Thunder,

"The right" translates its screeching into widespread changes. The right has reshaped our culture. That's demonstrable. We're no longer discussing whether or not women have a natural capacity to control their own bodies. We're discussing, as a legitimate national subject, how much of that capacity actually belongs to dudes in ten gallon hats.

Angela Davis is no longer the bellwether of "dangerous radical." Now, it's Rachel Maddow, as vanilla and as tuned in an institutionalist as you can get.

And it's being duplicated in England, Germany and France.

"The left"? Not so much.

Jack Crow said...

Even more briefly, Thunder:

"The right" uses spectacle to win. "The left" tea leaves the spectacle because it's a cast of losing losers. And has been for decades. Shakesville bemoans a lack of feminist films (from macho fucking Hollywood, ferchrissakes) while Rick Perry and his allies force women to watch footage of their not-yet-babies, and the Dakotas tinker with the wording of laws that will criminalize the possession of a uterus.

W. Kasper said...

How come you deleted my comment? Was it something I said?

Jack Crow said...

Wayne,

Didn't delete it. You posted it in the "tornadoes" comment field.

W. Kasper said...

Duh! Sorry.

fish said...

Both the left and the right have their dutiful soldiers that can only see art as propaganda, never as art. If it doesn't fit their approved messages, it cannot be any good.

One wonders what Shakesville would think of Ezra Pound's work were he alive today.

Jack Crow said...

fish,

Agreed. Still, I think there's a difference. "Piss Christ" was motivational. Conservatives turned it into a recruitment and fundraising opportunity.

The lack of significant female characters who can pass the Bechdel test hasn't resulted in a comprehensive revaluation of what it means to be a woman in America.

I know part of the problem rests with the broader culture of inherited maximalist Christianity and Abrahamism, which is reflexively anti-female (so much so that "gay" [feminized man] is about as terrible a schoolyard castdown as you you can get).

But, that's also the point, isn't it?

We lefties are the losers. After four generations of struggle, we lost. I mean, completely. So we contemplate the failure of the capitalized spectacle (and it's an odd Americanism that Hollywood is treated as uncapitalized) to represent us while the social, political, cultural and economic victors use the gains of leftism as a litmus test for betrayal of "America."

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

There's an entire industry based on screeching about the subversive message being spread by Tinky Winky, Bert and Ernie, etc.

This observation is useful mostly for its partisanship (Democrat-faithful) and not for its reality.

The "Right" is nothing like what your'e describing, but the Stereotyped Right As Described By Donkeypundits... it's exactly as you describe.

Which sorta proves Jack's point.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

Film is an amazing artistic medium, and, in the 20th Century, it was a powerful one. Politicians understood that it could radically influence people, but no longer. It still has a strong resonance in some places, but the US is not one of them. To the extent that it still has power, it is more cultural than political.

As for my personal preferences, I don't enjoy films that are overtly didactic, unless they abrasively challenge the audience, which I doubt this film does. Indeed, is there anything more tedious than well-intentioned movies made for a liberal purpose? Conversely, just to give a couple of examples, movies like "Dirty Harry" and "Magnum Force", the latter an unrecognized classic about the importation of the Vietnam War, Phoenix Program death squad mentality into the US by returning veterans, with Harry Callaghan as, gasp!, the voice of liberal reason, provoke me to confront the inescapable reality of violence in American life more than any liberal film has ever done. Much the same is true of the Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns, although those films do also have an underlying Marxist developmental ethos.

These days, I find refuge in foreign films. I highly recommend the deconstruction of samurai society, and the centering of the family and romantic relationships as a place of personal resistance, in the films of Yoji Yamada, "Twilight Samurai", "The Hidden Blade" and "Love and Honor". Of course, the discerning viewer, unlike many critics, will immediately perceive that the themes of these films have contemporary relevance.

Jack Crow said...

Richard,

I don't have many opinions about art. I don't know what it is, frankly. I can't read Pynchon without yawning, and Philip Roth reads like an especially boring and parochial writer* - but Mary Gentle's pulp-mimicking "Grunts" continues to amuse me, nearly two decades after it was first published.

Same, with film. My favorite movie is to this day the inestimable Chocolat, but I could care less about its benign political undertones. I like it because I want to be there, in its artificial moments, alongside the pikers on the river.

I see modern arts - and not knowing what the term means, interpret that word very broadly - as mostly solacing distraction. It's not paintings on a subterranean wall in Lascaux.

I don't know if noise music run through a computerized algorithmic filter is art or not. I don't know the value or valuelessness of art project digital video. Perhaps its production serves as a critique. Perhaps not.

I think most of the products leftists discuss are in the end popular capitalized material, produced for profit, and perhaps with a side effect of giving vent to the needs, urges and desires of artists.

It's an argument with popular culture, which is almost always capitalized and mediated culture. It's engaging proprietary material on its own terms.

And that seems like more than a waste of time, at least to me.

It seems like an ongoing admission of defeat.

* - perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I can't bring myself to whip up any reality suspending care for grasping affluent male academics struggling with their inoffensive and assimilated Jewish identities.

Richard said...

yes, Pynchon is a slog (I've never bean able to get through "Gravity's Rainbow"), with the exception of "Vineland", which is a lot of fun, and I've never been remotely interested in Philip Roth, now B. Traven, Alberto Moravia, Mo Yan, Andrey Platonov, that's different

but, literature, like film as well, even though both are capitalist forms of cultural production, should not be dismissed, for the same reason that other forms of capitalist production shouldn't be, either

and, that's because people find ways to give expression to individualistic and collective values in opposition to the institutions themselves, with varying degrees of success, it's all part of the dialectic of social resistance that will result in the end of capitalism some day, for good or ill

I've always said that I've been more politicized by the films of Fassbinder and Oshima than I have by any political text, and that's because they humanize the social dilemmas of capitalist experience within our everyday lives, which is what Yamada indirectly does in his samurai trilogy as well (not surprisingly, Yamada is a leftist), in other words, they generate an emotional force, an emotional tension, that people like Marx, Bakunin and others cannot do in the analytical literary form

fish said...

I think most of the products leftists discuss are in the end popular capitalized material, produced for profit, and perhaps with a side effect of giving vent to the needs, urges and desires of artists.

This has always been true (Renaissance painters didn't all paint images of Christ because it was the favorite topic of every single one of them). But even given profit motives, art can elevate past its commercial roots and become transcendent. I.e. the created object has a life of its own outside of its initial purpose. That transcendent life connects to different people differently of course, some connections are obvious, some require deeper contexts or study of the subject to really get it. Some resonate, some don't. Rothko is a hack or the most brilliant abstract painter in a generation, depends on who is looking at the painting. I value these discussions because I feel art has the potential to make humans better. Or at least to help us understand what being human means. It is one of the best things we do.
This is why I detest the propagandists that can only see whether a work of art confirms or denies their views of the world. The efficacy of whether the right or the left is more successful in shoving their propaganda agenda onto works of art is less important to me than the fundamental debasing of artistic expression that they are both partaking in.

Jack Crow said...

fish, Richard -

I hope I'm conveying properly my intention to separate art (and I'm willing to give this term as wide a definition as possible) from the hopelessness and defeat that at the very least appear to characterize left-side engagement with popular art and culture.

fish said...

Yeah, I got it. The hobbyhorse was just too tempting.

Richard said...

Jack: it is worth noting that there is an anarchically inclined youth movement that is engaging popular art and culture outside the boundaries of hopelessness and defeat, just look at what has happened in Greece and Spain recently in addition to North Africa and the Middle East, although it is hard to say at this point whether it is left or not

fish: I agree that the projection of didactic expectations onto works of art, film and literature is most aggravating, but there is a place, a very importance place, for works at the intersection of personal experience and social organization, works that reveal the emotional consequences of the conflict between personal and group aspirations and the rigidity of social norms

it is a enduring theme that goes back centuries

for that reason, I consider both the films of Fassbinder and the post-war Japanese cinema quite exceptional, and Yamada's recent films are in this tradition, and, in his own odd way, Peter Greenaway has made his own unique contributions as well

d.mantis said...

Jack,
To begin (rather selfishly), my circle of blogs has been dwindling in recent weeks. I am extremely grateful that you have not yet followed IOZ, Americana, TeeVee, etc.

Anyway, I agree with the revolt against deeper meaning in the corporatist vomit of Hollywood consumerism. However, I did see Bridesmaids and feel that it did highlight something that I think is important: the abject hostility and horribly vitriolic environment single women of a certain age endure. They are nothing without the man. Of course, the movie does little to call this environment into question.

Nevertheless, I will give it credit that the protagonist did not have to be saved from her deconstruction by the cop-with-the-heart-of-gold. She rejected him, then completed her task and only regained him after the fact.

So...atleast theres that.

In addition, it is true that it was not as funny as Hangover. The funny thing is, I liked it better. I still don't know why.

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

* - perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I can't bring myself to whip up any reality suspending care for grasping affluent male academics struggling with their inoffensive and assimilated Jewish identities.

Hah!

The children of men and women who ran to the USA to escape Hitler's pogrom against Jews, they grew up needing a sense of identity. Were they EuroJews transplanted to America? Were they a new class of American Jew? What if they Yuppified? Did that assimilate better?

These, and other questions, are answered by Phillip Roth, with a particular insecure nebbishy male perspective in mind.

Recommended reading for boys studying for their bar mitzvah, as preparation for adulthood in a tough Jew-hating world.

It's Jackie Mason, as "literature."

JM said...

I liked Bridesmaids, but wish the movie ended with Wiig's character kidnapping Rudolph and killing Jon Hamm's character to take his money and then the two women going off into the sunset in search of meaning and sexual exploration.

That said Mantis, I don't think it was about men as it was about a woman trying to find her lot in life. Sure she got a man, but that was only part of it; she was trying to deal with losing her best friend to a traditional role.