Entertainment vs. Art

Ok, I’ll cop to it right out front: this post is mostly schadenfreude. In case you don’t want to click, that’s Ace of Normies crowing about how much money Marvel’s newest superhero movie — Thor vs. Batman VI: Captain Kirk’s Revenge, Except Now Everyone is a Gay Trannie, I think it’s called — losing zillions. Because everyone needs a little bit of good news these days, amirite? Die faster, Hollywood… die faster, and take what’s left of publishing with you.

But it also got me to thinking about one of my favorite hobbyhorses, the fact that this should be an artistic golden age.

To return to my favorite example, Pink Floyd’s album-slash-movie The Wall seemed to be a legit attempt at a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk. I know that’s an awful heavy load for any pop album to bear, not least one whose best-known song asks how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat, but whether or not Roger Waters et al were trying to go Full Wagner, that’s what they did.* Note, please, that it also doesn’t matter if they were successful at it. One is tempted to dismiss the whole thing by saying “Pink Floyd is no Richard Wagner!”, but that’s irrelevant. Salieri was no Mozart, but no one is going to say Salieri wasn’t a “real” composer, now are they?

Not to mention the fact that nobody is Richard Wagner, except Wagner. Even if you don’t particularly like his stuff — I don’t — if you know anything about it, you have to admit that he’s the closest thing to a universal artistic genius the human race has yet produced. Wagner wanted to create the Gesamtkunstwerk largely because he knew himself to be maybe the only guy who was truly capable of pulling it off.

Anyway, whether or not Floyd actually did it, they needed both the massive resources of an already established megastar rock act, and the unique cultural moment of the late 1970s, to even think about giving it a go. Think about it: The Beatles, Lennon and McCartney at least, were fully pretentious enough to give it a shot, but Sixties rock didn’t have the money behind it that the 70s arena rock era did. In the 80s, they had the money, and someone like Prince definitely had the pretentiousness, but the audience wasn’t there — Purple Rain was both a movie and an album, but everyone involved seemed to believe that the movie would succeed as a movie, not as an aspect of the album; and the album was certainly expected to succeed as a standalone product.

But the album version of The Wall, though obviously a standalone commercial success, really doesn’t make sense without the movie, and the movie doesn’t make any sense without the album. Indeed I would argue that the movie doesn’t make sense in any context, but that, too, feeds back into my main point — only in the late 70s would your audience be stoned enough, pretentious enough, and have enough of an arena rock-conditioned attention span to sit through both, while at the same time your stoned, ambitious, pretentious band had the financial resources to give it to them.

But nowadays, you can make professional quality albums literally in your garage, with off-the-shelf software. That off-the-shelf software isn’t super cheap, I imagine, but I’m guessing it doesn’t go for hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour like studio time with professional engineers does. Movie equipment is more expensive than that, of course, but I’ve been told by people who know that you can make a real, full-length, studio-quality movie for about $100K, again using off-the-shelf stuff. Your laptop probably has the processor power to handle it, and if it doesn’t, your desktop can be brought up to speed for a few grand, tops.

In other words, if you want to give a Wagnerian total artwork a shot, go for it! $100K isn’t cheap, I’ll grant you, but I bet if we all chipped in, we could make Rotten Chestnuts: The Movie without too much of a financial commitment for any one individual…

And that’s the most expensive art form we could pick. Take a few minutes, and look up what it takes to put a book out on Kindle Unlimited. It’s pretty much nothing. Want to give writing the Great American Novel a go? You can do it for pennies. And before you say “yeah, but nobody will ever read it!,” a) that’s a problem from the demand side, not the production side, and b) it’s laughably false. Ever seen Fifty Shades of Grey? Ye gods, I hope you haven’t, but I’m sure you’re aware of it. That started out as Twilight fan fic on the internet. Oh, and speaking of Twilight, I’m pretty sure that was originally self-published, too, and both of those ladies could easily finance Rotten Chestnuts: The Movie with change from their couch cushions.

See what I mean? This should be a golden age of the arts. Just as shows like “American Idol” proved how many karaoke singers out there have killer looks and stage presence to go along with their great voices, so YouTube and Kindle Unlimited have revealed the depth and breadth of storytelling talent out there (ok, yeah, I’m sure Twilight sucks, enough hipsters have told me so, but making scads and bricks and piles and metric shitloads of money counts for something, storytelling talent-wise). And yet, there’s nothing….

Why is that?


*Though of course a tedious leftoid in his personal politics, Waters does seem like an intelligent, well-read guy, at least by rock star standards, and guitarist David Gilmour kinda does too, despite ditto, though he seems to take himself marginally less seriously than Waters takes himself (not that that’s a particularly tough hurdle to clear). Note that guitarist Dave is CBE — that’s “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.” Which is one rank below “Knight Commander” of same, which comes with an honorary knighthood, which, if guitarist Dave ever gets promoted, will make him the other Sir David Gilmour. The OG Sir Dave, the 4th Baronet Gilmour, is a pretty good amateur historian**, and I assure you that I’m not trying to take anything away from either man’s very real accomplishments when I say I’m really rooting for the CBE to get upped, such that guitarist Dave ends up fielding questions from confused academics about Kipling and the Indian Civil Service, while the 4th Baronet gets panties thrown at him in the archives, because that would be hilarious.

**In the sense that he doesn’t hold an academic post. No disrespect to the man’s work, which, again, is first rate.

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34 thoughts on “Entertainment vs. Art

  1. AvatarVizzini

    *Though of course a tedious leftoid in his personal politics, Waters does seem like an intelligent, well-read guy, at least by rock star standards, and guitarist David Gilmour kinda does too, despite ditto, though he seems to take himself marginally less seriously than Waters takes himself (not that that’s a particularly tough hurdle to clear).

    Gilmour gets a lifetime pass on anything from me just for being the guy who discovered Kate Bush and protected her from the record industry monsters at the beginning of her career.

  2. AvatarVizzini

    “And yet, there’s nothing….

    “Why is that?”

    Well, because money isn’t everything, especially in the production of great art. Regardless of publishing costs, as you know, the difficult part of writing the Great American Novel, or even A Really Terrible American Novel, is actually writing it. Same with a film, or an album or a sculpture.

    It isn’t the production costs that have ever held people back.

    Second, the great art is probably out there, but you never heard of it. It’s languishing in the catalog of someone’s DeviantArt page or MySpace account, and there it will stay.

    As Sturgeon’s Law says, “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

    And as Vizzini’s Law says, “Sturgeon was a crazed optimist.”

    We’re sitting on the biggest pile of artistic crap the world has ever seen. It’s pretty hard to find the diamonds.

  3. AvatarPickle Rick

    Dear God, I hate stoner rock. Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead‘s aircraft should have been shot down in flames by a MiG in the 70s and did the world a favor. The Who’s super pretentious “Tommy” sucks too.

    When Gutenberg got the printing press going and books became cheap, great books as art did not immediately follow. Religious fanaticism in print did explode, along with weird shit like Nostradamus. It took until the 19th century for novels as art to become a thing.

    For the record, Purple Rain rules, movie and album. Purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka!

    1. AvatarRoggertheshrubber

      Jesus. Look past the Dead’s personal politics and note their music was Americana. Songs about trains, women, gambling, cowboys and whiskey.
      Also, Dead shows pulled off their high trust, commune-y schtick because they were the least diverse audiences ever.
      Prince, on the other hand, was a metrosexual twink, with extraordinarily derivative music. The Obama of pop.

  4. Avatartexinole

    To sort of continue Vizzini’s point, how do you know great, mind melting art isn’t being created, in droves?

    Two anecdotes for my point. I love long form media criticism on YouTube. It’s informative, entertaining, and the better ones actually add to my enjoyment of good movies and music, as I better understand what the craft itself. This entire genre that has completely captured me is one I didn’t know even existed a few years ago, and is almost exclusively made by individuals in their living rooms.

    While in a sports bar type place during a particularly slow day the ambient music caught my ear. Several of the TVs had the corresponding music video playing. It was 3 people: two guys flying between various keyboards, guitars, horns, drums and microphones seamlessly, creating arresting music on the fly. The third guy was operating a handheld camera, filming the proceedings in one take from what looked like a street side studio. It was amazing and stayed with me.

    It’s out there. As our society becomes larger, dumber and lazier the lowest common denominator (the bar for most art) drops to ground level, but there’s also beauty created by genius despite the layer of bullshit covering it growing thicker.

    1. AvatarEvil Sandmich

      Back in the nineties the catalog for the original NES system was referred to as “shovel-ware” given the extreme signal-to-noise ratio of the games, and that was with some level of control on the publishing since the games had to be approved by Nintendo.*

      Nowadays it’s like the same thing, but with no approving body. For example, I’m a fan of electronic/trance music (don’t judge me!) and although there are many really, really good tracks it’s not unusual to see only one or two of them being the only shining lights on a 100 track crap-mix album on iTunes.

  5. AvatarMal Reynolds

    We know the current elite hate beauty (why is that a common theme for communists?) and the art they therefore promote, fund and push on us reflects that. However there is great art out there, mostly in areas which the elite overlook or believe to be beneath them. In the music genres I listen to (mainly metal) there are bands dropping albums of incredible quality that would have achieved instant immortal stardom if released 20 odd years ago. Likewise with books within the fantasy genre. Loads of self published authors with great ideas. The issue is that when the barrier to entry is so low, a load of talentless crap also gets released (which is also the stuff that then gets promoted: see the elites and their hatred of beauty mentioned above).

    Film is challenging because the platforms just aren’t quite there. I’ve seen some great shorts (10-30mins) but no idea where to look for longer stuff.

    One relatively new artform that has exploded and is very prominent (though overlooked!) is the video game industry. Recent launches will combine beautiful scenery/art and music with complex storylines. It’s perhaps the one area where the big budget stuff is still very good. Though we know from gamergate that it’s also under attack.

    Also warhammer attracts another type of artist. Some of the conversions and paint schemes today’s commission painters do are incredible.

  6. AvatarWOPR

    Great art requires standards and a competent elite to enforce those standards. We are suffering from the worst of both right now. With regards to standards, it is a race to the bottom of who can be the most transgressive. Meanwhile, the few standards the elites attempt to enforce are alienating to the vast majority.

    Having a standards that the artist can’t violate forces the artist to be creative which can lead to great art. No barriers leads to degeneracy. There’s a reason that Hayes Code Hollywood turned out some of its greatest films.

    An enjoyable comedy “Galaxy Quest” came out in 1999. The film has turned into a cult classic and is rated PG. Comedy is highly subjective and I rarely debate comedy films for that reason. Anyways, I and a decent number of other people find it hilarious. The guys who created the movie were wishing they had thrown in harsh language and sex to make it better. That’s the creative mindset now. Let’s remake kid’s show but throw in foul language and sex.

  7. Avatarurbando

    “And yet, there’s nothing….Why is that?”

    I agree with the commenters that society has become larger, dumber and lazier and that the elite despise beauty.

    I believe that the hatred of the elites is responsible for the dearth of good art in the public sphere. Roger Scruton has a very good video on Why Beauty Matters which touches on this.

    I don’t know if the dumbing down effect is responsible for a lack of good art created by individuals. It has been pointed out that there is still very good stuff out there if one knows where to look. The low cost of the means of production is evident in the quite amazing quality of youtube vids filmed with cell phones. That multitrack recording software out there is really dirt cheap, even free from some open sources.

    So a valuable service to good people everywhere would be a guide to locating the quality art that is actually being produced out there today.

  8. AvatarAllen

    I went to school with a guy who was in line for his father’s title (Marquess of Some Such) and yes the girls did throw their panties at him. I think the vast majority of American women secretly pray for and will sell themselves into submission for the opportunity to curtsey when they are introduced at court.

    The funny thing about Hollywood is that the talent and art is still out there but it’s covered over with the crap. As they say Hollywood is just trailer trash with money so you get that culture for the most part. Since I’ve gone to the streaming stuff, Roku and the like, I’ve found some gems.

  9. AvatarDamian

    I think it is out there but I’m assuming that the main costs are marketing and distribution. As an example a number of years ago I saw ‘The Worlds Fastest Indian’ for the first time on a plane. Hadn’t heard of it but it starred Anthony Hopkins so thought it would kill a few hours. A couple of hours later it became my 2nd favorite Hopkins film (with my fav being ‘When Eight Bells Toll), and third fave being ‘The Tenth Man’. ‘Silence’ I guess is fourth. Anyway a good friend at the time ran an internet marketing company that would do all of the online UK marketing for literally every film in the top 20. He got into this in the mid-90’s and kept his 1st mover advantage. I asked him why I’d never heard of this film, and he simply said the film company used a new marketing company, and completely messed it up. So very few people had heard of it – despite it being a lovely film.

    Regarding there being good stuff out there, it does exist and music can now be done extremely cheaply. Another good friend decided to write a musical during lockdown. He’s married, 2 kids, late 40’s and has a good job – so doesn’t need the money, but enjoys the hobby. He showed me how it works. He’s got music software on his laptop and there is a music website called ‘fivr’ (I think). Musicians advertise their services and you then commission say the base line, singing, drums etc,. A bit of back and forth and he had put together his first song. From memory the singer was Filipino, bassist from Brazil, drummer from France. I think each bit cost him between £30 – £60 depending on how many changes needed to be made. He actually put it on spotify so that our group of friends could hear it. I think he gets the grand sum of 0.005 pence per download. If it becomes a play (he’s into amateur dramatics) then it will likely show at the Chiswick Church hall with everyone being a local volunteer. So it can be done, but marketing, production and distribution is key I guess.

    I know that Ayn Rand isn’t too popular on this side of the fence but she did write about this sort of thing in The Fountainhead, which was the first time I’d really considered the deliberate dumbing down of art, music and architecture. Late stage societies and all that I guess. Why would it be any other way.

  10. AvatarJennifer7084

    Twilight wasn’t self published.

    Believe it or not Stephenie Meyer was paid one of the largest advances paid to a first time author for that manuscript in 2003, published in 2005. It was $750,000.

    She had publishers almost literally coming to blows against each other for her work.

    And whatever your position on the work itself, they weren’t wrong. Look at what it became.

    (I know all this off the top of my head because I was first starting out in my own writing career at the time and I followed it closely.)

    1. AvatarSeverian

      That’s good to know, thanks.

      I haven’t read the books myself, nor intend to. Not because I’m a snob (though people I know and trust say they are terribly written), but because the subject matter doesn’t interest me, and I’ve got books stacked from here to eternity (including, ironically enough, From Here to Eternity) that I need to get through first.

      “Literary agent” or “acquisitions editor” or whatever they call the A&R man in the publishing biz is another job I just don’t get. I mean, I understand what they do, I just have no idea how. Speaking of the A&R man, I heard a similar story about publishers almost coming to blows about the band Counting Crows (so much so that they were known in the biz as the “Accounting Crows” long before their album came out). They ended up pretty much defining the 90s, musically — fuzz up their guitars and shout the lyrics and you’ve got grunge — and I’m not going to lie, I listened to their first album about 75,000 times — so the A&R man was absolutely right.

      But… if I’d been the A&R guy, I would’ve passed. I would’ve said “ok, the tunes are kinda catchy, but the singer can’t sing a note and it’s all kinda mopey and quirky. There’s a few kids I know who will probably love this, but once you start booking arenas any bigger than a Starbucks, they’re finished. What our label really needs is more hair metal, no way that’s going out of style!!”

      Shows you what I know. I guess the lesson here is, never trust my judgment about anything.

      1. AvatarJennifer7084

        I have a joke about Stephenie Meyer. She’s the Jessica Alba of authors. She’s not good at the craft, but she had a good idea and she has charisma in her writing. Just like Jessica Alba has looks and charisma, but isn’t good at the craft of acting.

      2. AvatarWOPR

        Studio C description of the 90’s: “Ah the 90’s. It’s like the 80’s swallowed the 70’s and threw up.”

      3. Avatarprm

        UK24 here. My wife was a literary agent; AMA…

        Basically, they look after their clients and try to get them the best deal, like any agent. Also, a gatekeeper. Loads of people write, most of it is shit, and theoretically, tasteful agents filter the good stuff to send to publishing editors. That used to work not too badly – avowed commies like Gollancz would still publish stuff they may have disagreed with because they were first and foremost *literary* and they wanted to publish *good writing*. That’s gone, so you see the results with self-publishing (everything is published and you have to become your own gatekeeper to find the good stuff) and trad publishing (mostly shit because anti-white and virtue signalling and must toe the narrative line).

        My wife had her own agency and quit when it all became impossibly woke. When you can’t publish a muslim woman because she wasn’t intersectional *enough* and the unofficial line is no more white authors wanted, it’s time to leave the reservation.

  11. AvatarClayton Barnett

    About 6.5 years ago, rather than a new, hot young wife and a shiny red sportscar, my mid-life crisis consisted of me becoming a sci-fi writer.

    It’s amusing to see my social evolution over that time: from a civnat in “The Fourth Law” to an HBD monarchist in my “American Imperium” trilogy. At this rate, I’ll be fancying cats in three years…


      1. Avatarcontrariandutchman

        Cat Fancy in Spaaaace!!! is bound to be a smash hit with the public. Especially when the protagonists are hunting down expies of certain characters from the news.

        No poc protagonists though Calyton, can you live with that?

    1. AvatarJennifer7084

      Thanks for posting a link, I’ll pick up a book!

      I’m not ready to out myself politically yet. Cowardly, I know, but I write screenplays, and middle grade and chick lit books and unfortunately my audience and reps would abandon me if they knew.

      Some day, soon I’m sure, whether I want it or not, but not right now.

      That’s the joke of my handle. Yes my name is Jennifer but it was the most popular name from 1970 to 1984 so good luck nailing down which Jennifer. Although like Sev says, *they* already know who we are so whatever.

      1. AvatarClayton Barnett

        The SJ howler monkeys will come for me at some point. Undoubtedly I’ll be tossed off Amazon. Until then… Note my first two books are free on Smashwords.

        I’m a middle-aged White man and most of my protagonists are mixed race women. Both the left AND right hate me. I spend more time painting bullseyes on myself…

        But these are important stories, so I don’t care. My life is theirs.

          1. AvatarWuhan Luke

            For the quote
            “ I’m a middle-aged White man and most of my protagonists are mixed race women”

  12. AvatarBill Jones

    To pick up a reference from a week or so ago, it looks like Macron has lost/is losing his Praetorian guard.


    While in Scotland, the vaxxed are dropping like flies.


    If you read read the whole piece you’ll see that only 596 died of just covid in ten months.

    ““The answer to your question is 596 deaths involving COVID-19 has been registered where there was no pre-existing medical condition between March 2020 and January 2021”

    A burst of honsty from a Government Agency, who’da thunk it?

  13. AvatarWuhan Luke

    Why no great masterpieces? Three things:
    1) since anybody has access to production and publishing on the cheap nowadays, everyone is producing and publishing. The signal gets lost in the noise.
    2) everything is put through a committee before and during production, then after it is tested before a test audience. Art is great but lowest common denominator sells the best.
    3) before the onset of basement rec-room production came basement rec-room theft and pillaging. It destroyed the arts much like the undocumented shoppers are destroying South Africa right now.
    So what we have now is the equivalent of Chinese commerce instead of art, where the main goal, and any living to be made, is through cheap and constant volume.

    1. AvatarRangifer

      I think #2 is one of the big issues. No one is willing to “just put it out there” because whatever “it” is will be expected to make $ and be a blazing success. In the process of tuning it for the largest audience possible, the work (movie, book, etc) gets enstupidified and comes out as, well, crap. Movie-wise, there have been some really inventive & enjoyable movies with good ideas where the writers/directors were given the ability to show their work (The Matrix, Dark City, City of Lost Children, etc) which nowadays would never make it past the Diversity/LGTBQIAMNOP hurdle. As everything now goes thru the “filter”, the family and I have stopped watching sportsball, TV, buying comic books for the kids, and almost every movie in the past decade (shout out to Grand Budapest Hotel and JoJo Rabbit tho’). We’d much rather throw Blazing Saddles on than watch today’s crap. Gotta say, the “Five Foot Shelf of Books” has been getting a serious workout lately.

  14. AvatarAnonymous White Male

    Frank Zappa once said something to the effect that a lot of the great music in the 60’s was able to get out there because the guys that ran the record companies at the time didn’t have a clue about what kids wanted. They were, like, “Do you think they will like this? I dunno….I don’t get it, but maybe the kids will like this.” And these were fat, stogie smoking middle aged men raised in an earlier generation. But, they knew what they didn’t know, so they were willing to take a chance on things. Ten years later, you had younger record label heads that KNEW what the kids wanted. Just listen to them and they’ll provide you will only gold and platinum sellers. But, it turns out the only thing they knew was a formula to crank out the same shit while promoting it with an unlimited budget. Today, we don’t even have that. We have a set of stereotypes, not to produce art but to move a narrative. Since the record industry is in the doldrums since everyone is streaming, art is not promoted. Politics is promoted. “Hey, have you heard the new pro-vaccine group? They’ve got two trannies, a lobster boy, a black Siamese twin rapper,and a female singer that can’t sing, but has really great tits! Wait…..can I say that?”

    I also think that one of the reason that there isn’t much great cinema, music, or art is because, like everything else, it goes in cycles. You have the initial greats, like a Beethoven or Beatles, but subsequent auteurs, musicians, and artists either imitate them to some degree, or try to do something different to stand out from the crowd. Standing out from the crowd doesn’t make it great, however. And there is a finite amount of that which will touch people’s minds, hearts, and souls. You think, “But, there is an infinite amount of ways to construct art!’ Maybe, but not an infinite amount ways to construct GREAT art. Take rap. Please. I’ve actually met someone that said all rap isn’t bad. I personally haven’t experienced any that wasn’t. Unfortunately, what each generation takes as THIER cinema, or music, or art, is imprinted when they are teenagers and twentyish. Their burgeoning hormonal levels and newly acquired abstract reasoning capacity, and their desire to be different from the previous generation drives their taste. Sad as it is to say, you could feed them rhythmic duck farts enough and it would resonate with them. Which is what rap is, when you get down to it.

    1. AvatarClayton Barnett

      The Zappa reference reminded me of what was said of Velvet Underground: “their first album only sold 1000 copies; but everyone who bought it formed their own band.”

      That’s how you win the culture war.

  15. Avatarcontrariandutchman

    I think several of the esteemed Twenty-four Readers are touching on it, trying to sum it up:

    Its possible even likely Great Art is being produced today. But you’ll have to delve through the farthest regions of Deviantart and the like to find it. And there is no way it will be presented to a large audience as the gatekeepers of every channel with a large audience are rigid ideologues who will only permit the latest poc tranny productions to be published.

  16. AvatarAl from da Nort

    ‘Why no great art_?’ My semi-serious theory: One word, Lithium_!

    Great art requires great artists. Great artists are obsessive about their art*. Obsessive people are pushed into psych treatment these days. Psych treatments these days are increasingly effective. Hard to be obsessive when you’re zoned. Q.E.D.

    It used to be a known thing, a cliche even, that great artists often had borderline mental illness, e.g. Van Gough, Nietzsche, etc. IIRC, Bipolar Schizophrenia used to be called ‘the artist’s curse’ (although these days the concept has been trivialized): Man, were you productive in your up phase. And the Schizo allowed you to see things differently from normies. So if you had real artistic ability, you might be on your way.

    Of course, it would be cruel beyond measure to condemn a whole lot of mediocre talent Bi Schizos to a lifetime of misery in order for there to be another Van Gough emerge.

    * Reversed causality is often used an excuse, particularly these days, as in the Murphy’s Law catalog: “Just because you’re difficult (an asshole, etc.), that doesn’t make you an artist.”


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