Art Matters 2

So there’s something that’s been getting on my tits for a really long time (basically ever since people started really loudly pointing out the dearth of people of color and women in mass media) and I think I finally figured out why. It’s that common refrain of “It’s just a stupid action movie/comic book/pulpy novel/badly written TV show, why are you getting so uptight about it?”

I’m not even going to touch on the idea of representation being important. Hundreds of other people have talked about this much better than I ever could. No, what’s bugging the shit out of me is this attitude of “It’s just crappy mass media, it doesn’t matter.”

Well, let me tell you a thing. It does matter. Of course it fucking matters. Because art matters.

Maybe there’s just some kind of weird disconnect where people don’t quite get that mass media is art. But art doesn’t exist in some rarefied isolation that’s confined to museums, or only if it’s deemed worthy by some sort of cabal of people with excellent taste.  That’s not how it works. Most of the art we’re going to interact with throughout our lives will be mass media, in all its often cheesy or shittastic glory, because that’s what’s out there, and easy to get, and frankly fun. Fun stuff is also art, you know? 

Popular art is still art. Art you don’t like or don’t get is still art. Deliberately pandering art is still art. Mass market paperbacks are art. Comics are art. Movies are art. And while that means, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey is art, so is (god help us all) Sharknado. It was still created by us, and consumed by us, and says a hell of a lot about who we are as human beings whether we like it or not.

So yeah, when someone says that I shouldn’t care about Movie X because it’s just the crapulent summer special effects tentpole, what I hear is: “God, shut up, it’s not like art matters.”

No wonder I get so pissed off. Because art does fucking matter.

2 thoughts on “Art Matters

  1. Reply Tasha Turner May 21,2014 15:54

    I suspect it’s also getting to you that you are constantly being told to “shut up”. I realized this past year that at 47 I’ve been being polite and quiet (some might disagree) for my entire life and I’ve gotten tired of it so yeah I might sound a bit angry and bitter when topics of feminism, racism, and especially issues around rape and child abuse come up. I keep being told to “shut up” or “nows not the time” or “do we really need to discuss this” and for years I’d shut down and stop talking when told to. But it’s made me angry and yeah bitter. I don’t care if we are talking big topics or little things – they add up – it all adds up to make a society where we aren’t welcome or allowed to be/seen/part of.

    So no “it’s not a stupid show” – “it’s pretty much everything around us – every stupid or not so stupid show” – so yeah art matters and you matter and we matter and all the “others” matter and should be represented.

    Hmm… Am I taking over your comments too much?

  2. Reply JohnD May 22,2014 13:26

    It is more than just the ineffable importance of art qua art; there is also the none-too-subtle point that art is mirror that is supposed to reflect life. (Yes, even art with sparkly vampires.) If society’s mirror only reflects stale pale males, then that effectively says that anyone who isn’t a stale pale male doesn’t exist. And that offends me as a scientist (even though I am also a stale pale male).

    We darn well do have women and people of color and of other genders, many of whom are brighter than the typical action hero and a not inconsiderable number of whom could beat Superman to death with his ego and still be fresh enough to give Batman an atomic wedgie. So why don’t more of those people show up in the movies (and comic books and books and TV {though TV has gotten better over the past few decades})? Why must people who aren’t stale pale males be coded as mutants or aliens or sidekicks? Why can’t the world we see in the mirror look more like the world as it is? Why do you folks have to suffer through seeing the infinite variations of me? (I’m not that ugly, but honestly there are many more interesting people to look at.)

    And that’s why it matters. Because art that doesn’t reflect society honestly isn’t art; it is just stale pale males swapping self-congratulatory egoboos.

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