Why even “low brow” art matters

From “It’s Time” by Dorothy Snarker:

You know, every time I write passionately about pop culture, someone will inevitably tell me to lighten up. It’s fiction, idiot. It’s make believe, dumbass. It’s not real, loser. Get a life! This is always terribly edifying. I’m so glad someone finally let me know.

Aside from wondering why these people are on a pop culture site in the first place since they’re clearly so busy doing important things with their lives like collecting unicorn tears to cure global drought, I always want to ask if they think art – even popular art – happens in a vacuum. Sure, we use it to entertain. But we also use it to illuminate, to educate, to elucidate, to fascinate. At its best it’s not just a mirror to reflect our current reality, but a powerful looking glass which we can travel through to imagine a world exactly how we want it.

And popular art, pop culture, matters exactly because of its popularity. It’s our mass opiate, but with more than just the ability to get us high. It came make us think. It can help change who we are.

So here’s to art, in all its forms, the high brow and the low brow. The popular and obscure. The message filled and even mindless. May we never stop demanding it be better. May we always look to it to show us who we are, and who we’d like to be.

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12 Comments

  1. Les

    Art is art. Its value is determined by the observer and nothing more :p

  2. Good point. :)

  3. I’m glad I stopped caring about these distinctions. It’s allowed me to enjoy what I actually enjoy rather than trying to enjoy what I “should” enjoy. That that the latter course of action is all bad. Stretching one’s experiences can lead to enjoyment of a greater number of things. One just has to keep in mind that it’s not necessary to shun any of the things.

  4. I can’t claim to *completely* not care about these distinctions, but I certainly feel like I’ve shed a lot of preconceptions and snobbery over the past few years. I’ve also come to see the power of pop culture — as Dorothy Snarker points out, it’s powerful BECAUSE it’s popular. The masses consume it and thus, whether they intend to or not, whether they even realize it or not, they digest it. So if you can reach that audience with your work, then you can have a significant effect.

    (Which isn’t to say that you CAN’T have a significant effect if you can’t reach the masses. Obviously you can. The path will just be different.)

  5. I’ve quoted my father’s rule about writing (“There is only one rule for writing: write well”) in other contexts, but it applies here, too. He would take good writing wherever he found it. Highbrow novels, classics, detective stories, movie scripts, newspaper columns — good writing was good writing. His attitude was that there wasn’t enough of it around to dismiss any because of the form it came in. To him, a discussion of whether Fitzgerald or Hammett was a better writer wasn’t anything to do with apples and oranges. They were both writers. Of course you could compare them.

    It was a good attitude to grow up with.

  6. Joelle Wilson

    I’m not sure what art is but I know what I like. I know it’s been stated in various ways before, by many different people, but it’s how I feel. I never really classify things into categories except what I like and do not like.

    Really like this “clearly so busy doing important things with their lives like collecting unicorn tears to cure global drought” lol.

  7. Nice. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. Anthony-
    Indeed it is. Hope to espouse that view to my kids. (I wouldn’t say my parents were snobs, but there was definitely a *distinction* made between Art and the rest.)

    Joelle-
    “I’m not sure what art is but I know what I like.” – That’s another way — a great way — of saying what Les said. Wish I’d learned to embrace that sooner, haha.

    And yeah, haha, Dorothy Snarker is HILARIOUS.

  9. Jon

    Wow. Dorothy Snarker, you gotta love that name!

  10. Lol it’s a pseudonym, but it’s a great one.

  11. Lovely quote. Art is whatever the reader/viewer deems it to be. And everybody has the right to determine what art is for them.

  12. “they’re clearly so busy doing important things with their lives like collecting unicorn tears to cure global drought” hehehehe that was awesome.

    Loved this piece Kristan. Very insightful and well put.

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