But lord, do they ever think they are clever. They'll come up with books and plays and entire artistic movements based on the earth-shattering observation that, say, actors are actually, you know, acting. As if it never occured to Shakespeare that the guy playing the king in Hamlet wasn't, in reality, his and the nation's sovereign. No, if only the bard had been a tad more clever, he would have had his characters reflecting on their own inescapable characterness, and then of course he would have written himself as a character into all the plays, too, right before throwing out the last few pages of each one, naturally, because endings are just so artificial.
But postmodern thinkers have no talent and no real intelligence, just a smug belief in their own cleverness, a cleverness which is nothing more than pointing out that which has always been obvious to everybody else and which has simply never been remarked upon before precisely because it was so obvious. They remind me more than anything of a ten year old who thinks he's a genius because he's figured out Santa Claus isn't real, then devotes his entire life to spreading the word. Maybe I'm nuts, but I much prefer the kid who plays along with the illusion, because it's fun for his folks and it's a good tradition. You know, the kid who isn't a giant tool.
These postmodernists are so consumed with stating the obvious about the artificiality of art that the actual truth of art, its beauty and its divinity, goes straight over their heads. But enough of my rambling, go here and read "Obstinate Orthodoxy" and have Chesterton explain it all. Very crudely excerpting:
So long as we are thinking of the thing as copied mechanically and for money, as a piece of monotonous and mercenary ornament,we naturally feel that the flower is in a special sense an artificial flower and that the moonlight is all moonshine.[...]But the moon is the moon and the rose is the rose; and we do not expect the real things to alter. [...] The moon will continue to affect the tides, whether we paint it blue or green or pink with purple spots. And the man who imagines that artistic revolutions must always affect morals is like a man who should say, "I am so bored with seeing pink roses painted on chocolate-boxes that I refuse to believe that roses grow well in a clay soil." [...] Falling in love remains radiant and mysterious, however threadbare be the thousandth repetition of a rhyme as a valentine or a cracker-motto. To see this fact is to live in a world of facts.To be always thinking of the banality of bad wallpapers and valentines is to live in a world of fictions.
Please excuse me as I anticlimax, because all of this is just a very long preamble for me to say that I really liked this review of Watchmen by Debbie Schlussel. She's getting attacked by "graphic novel" fans for highlighting their special brand of "pretentious stupidity," but I'm loving it. Because she's attacking exactly what I can't stand, this bizarre belief in one's own remarkable cleverness for noticing the obvious. As she puts it, "Guess what? We know there are bad people and that people are everyday people with problems. If you don't know that, and you think a movie like this is necessary to make the point, you're even more warped and stupid than I originally diagnosed." I love this part, too, when she attacks the perverted love for sexual violence against women, which its drooling fans justify in the name of edgy realism and sophisticated art:
You're a bunch of dummies with no moral compass, but liking this stupid comic book which pretends violence and the depraved is "edgy" or "sophisticated," makes you feel smart. [...] Quit your pretentious drivel about this being important because it's a "graphic novel." Memo to the creators of Richie Rich and Archie: You missed your calling. If only you'd called your product a "graphic novel" and added scenes of Archie raping Betty and Veronica and Jughead sawing off Reggie's Arms, you'd be in businesss. Dummies.
What she says goes not just for Watchmen, by the way, but for most of the movie industry ever since the seventies. We're so daring and edgy and sophisticated, we're incapable of making decent movies anymore. Argh. And so I end this post like I've ended so many others, thinking God Bless TCM.
p.s. yes, I did like the "graphic novel" The Dark Knight Returns. It's not hypocrisy, it's sophistication, deal with it.
UPDATE: Related, and very true :
[Our cultural critics'] highest words of praise are adjectives like
“shocking,” “disturbing,” “searing,” and “radical.” They swoon over films like
Towelhead, The Woodsman and The Reader that seek to wrong foot our moral senses
by presenting us with sympathetic child molesters and Nazis.
But the truth
is, any fool can pull off crap like that. It’s easy.
The single hardest thing
to do in the arts is not to shock or disturb or sear or radicalize—but to