Friday, May 03, 2013

Really, It's OK to ignore Game of Thrones and Mad Men

Having written succinctly about Jane Austen earlier this year, Noah Berlatsky (who's contracted to write a book on Wonder Woman) opines on why it's all right to ignore Game of Thrones and Mad Men.

... But while I don't agree with the Frankfurt School or Allan Bloom, I do wonder if their utter marginalization has been entirely to the good. It's been a long while since a cultural arbiter of any standing has been willing to just flat-out dismiss pop culture, or to insist that massive popularity is inevitably linked to massive banality. Instead we seem to have reached the point—perhaps especially with the snootier television dramas—where popularity seems to confer critical bona fides, while critical bona fides feed into popularity, which in turn confers critical bona fides, in an ever-ascending spiral of adulation and hype.

It's natural that people talk about popular things, of course; that's what it means to be popular. But the death of academic pop-culture snobbery and the scrabble for Internet readers seems to have created a particularly vociferous and endless chorus of group think. Orwell was wrong: It's not Big Brother controlling your thoughts. It's millions of pundits chanting Dan Draper's name, sacrificing slivers of everyone's brain to the hungry god of their own much-touted perspicacity. Cultural studies and the academies' enthusiastic embrace of pop was supposed to release us all from the grinding heel of elitist snobbery, but in the end it just seems like it means that we have to kowtow even more abjectly to the flavor of the moment than we ever did to the canon.

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