Eggheadization

At Z Man’s I speculated on the trajectory of moviemaking.  The deciding factor is always money, of course, and there’s so much money in Transformers vs. Thor XVII: Iron Man’s Revenge that Hollywood may well be egghead-proof.  But I suspect that, like all other popular art forms, movies will eventually be destroyed by the ivory tower.

The example I used at Z Man’s was poetry, which along with plastic arts like painting and sculpture is the worst case scenario.  There’s zero barrier to entry with poetry — the rules for writing sonnets are right there, and not even the American educational system has so far managed to destroy literacy completely.  If you want to go mano-a-mano with Shakespeare, your word processing program even comes with a dictionary and a thesaurus.  There are 350+ million people in America today; Elizabethan England had maybe 3 million.  Just as a matter of simple probability, there should be some world-class sonnet-writers around right now…

… but, of course, there aren’t, because sometime in the later 19th century our universities started awarding degrees in English Literature.  You’ve got to justify all those years in grad school somehow, and so by the 1950s you had J. Evans Pritchard, PhD, laying down mathematical formulae for judging a poem’s excellence.  And now only Diversity Pokemon write poetry.  Seriously, can you even name a 20th century poet, let alone quote him?

Prose is very little better — see the neverending “Sad / Rabid Puppies” kerfuffle for details.  If you don’t want to wade through that — and I do not blame you — science fiction is going through now what LitFic went through back in the 80s.  John Derbyshire speculated somewhere that The Bonfire of the Vanities was the last “middlebrow” novel ever written, and who can argue with that?  Again, have you ever heard of any of these poseurs?  It’s all MFA wank, all the way down the line — even the one (maybe?) white guy “explores race — blackness and whiteness, the politics of passing, interracial marriage — in a way that is no less serious for all its playfulness and sharp wit.”

I suspect that movies will go the way of novels — just as writers like Stephenie [sic] Meyer and John Grisham make all the money while being savaged by the critics (who only praise fellow MFAs), so Batman vs. Aquaman XIX will make all the cash in the world, but you’ll be written off as an incorrigible prole if you ever go see it.  Meanwhile, a whole bunch of eggheads will keep awarding themselves PhDs in “film studies” etc.

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8 thoughts on “Eggheadization

  1. Anonymous White Male

    “Just as a matter of simple probability, there should be some world-class sonnet-writers around right now…”

    Yeah, but they’re all monkeys with typewriters.

    1. Severian

      Exactly. No incentive. Used to be that middle class, and even working class, people knew and liked at least some poetry. Even back in my youth you could expect most people to get at least the most popular Shakespeare allusions. But nowadays we have to pretend that e.g. Jay-Z is some kind of genius, so what’s the angle in writing sonnets? “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” is nice and all, but it won’t pay the bills like “my bitch my ho my ho my bitch.”

      1. Anonymous White Male

        I’ve discussed this with other sites that when rap was released, it had no redeeming artistic quality whatsoever. However, it was almost immediately acclaimed as being authentic, vibrant, audacious, angry, vital, rhythmic, verbally inventive, expressive, cultural, honest, anything that could make it sound “intellectual” by “critics” that promoted it as the next “real” thing. If you had tried to promote that c”rap” 20 years earlier, it would have been labelled vulgar, childish, guttural, imbecilic, simplistic, monotonous, bestial, with a contempt for the paucity of artistic credibility and primitive conception of poetry. How far we have fallen.

        1. Severian

          This is why, at the risk of hauling out our old friend “DR3,” liberalism really is the worst thing to ever happen to Black culture. Any artist who happens to be Black will automatically be labelled a “Black artist” no matter what he does, so why try? He could write Shakespearean sonnets to rival The Bard himself, but all the critics would do is find “searing metaphors for race in America.” If you’re going to get lumped in with Jay-Z anyway, just go for the easy buck.

          (btw see my comment to Nate, below, I really have no idea who Jay-Z is, other than he’s a rapper that was hot the last time I heard anything about rap. He might be a fine upstanding gentleman for all I know).

          1. Anonymous White Male

            “He could write Shakespearean sonnets to rival The Bard himself”

            Hmmm, probably not.

  2. Nate Winchester

    I’m confused. Isn’t this already the way with Oscars and “Oscar-bait” films? Reads less like a prediction and more like a current observation unless I’m misunderstanding.

    1. Severian

      Probably. But I’m thinking it won’t be too long before you can’t call yourself a “movie buff” (or whatever) and still watch anything entertaining. Like with novels — lots of people read lots of books, but the kind of person who describes herself as “a big reader” only reads MFA wank (and Harry Potter, of course, but if they like it, it’s by definition either Art or Science).

      Or maybe I’m just off. I haven’t seen a movie in a theater in at least a decade, and I don’t think I’d have to pull off more than one sock to count the total number of movies I’ve seen in that time. I’m just not a big pop culture consumer, so everything I say about it probably sounds like it was written by aliens.

  3. Toddy Cat

    “Seriously, can you even name a 20th century poet, let alone quote him?”

    Randall Jarrell, Death of the Ball Turret Gunner;

    “From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
    And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.”

    But that’s about it. Also, Jarrell hated liberals, and wrote an entire novel criticizing them…

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