Insult our culture, you insult us….

Insult our culture, you insult us….

: Last week, a review of a children’s movie in The Times was filled with bizarre poltical and anatomical references.

This week, we have A.O. Scott looking for profound meaning in SpongeBob SquarePants (but, thankfully, not finding any):

The loud, silly innocence of Mr. Hillenburg’s imaginary world, where double entendres seem to bubble up and dissipate faster than you can catch them, is a welcome antidote to the self-seriousness and brutality that rule so much of the popular culture.

I am fed up with these overarching generalizations about popular culture. The other night on Aaron Brown’s show, the lady from the Heritage Foundation and Aaron himself went on about the coarseness of our — our culture … that is to say, us. Now we have this critic, who ought to know better, making another ovarching generalization about self-seriousness and brutality.

Well, there are brutal movies and there are children’s movies.

Folks: It’s not one culture. That is the lesson of the internet. That is the obvious lesson of the nichefication of media and entertainment: We get choice, we use it. See Jarvis’ First Law of Media. So you can’t generalize about all of our culture. And when you do, you generalize about all of us. And that’s intellectually lazy and dishonest.

  • Patricia

    Dargis’ reviews were always barking mad anti-imperialist/Amerikka! rants. Formerly of the LAT, where she alienated enough readers like me that we canceled, she was therefore picked up by the NYT (to complement Frank Rich?).

  • Lee

    First, Jeff, the other night I saw the debate to which you refer. Good work, I thought. Your point (that night) about “the people’s culture” was one worthy of more thought (on my part, at least).
    I think these comments today begin to move in a different direction– perhaps not suprising when a TV news guest appearance necessitates brevity.
    “the lady from the Heritage Foundation and Aaron himself went on about the coarseness of our — our culture … that is to say, us. [. . .] Folks: It’s not one culture. That is the lesson of the internet. [. . . ] So you can’t generalize about all of our culture. And when you do, you generalize about all of us. And that’s intellectually lazy and dishonest. ”
    I wish you would expand on these: 1) “the people’s culure,” by which I thought you meant something like “entertainment and ideas created and ‘consumed’/'enjoyed’ by people,” a sort of “free market” that makes up the culture; and 2) the notion of there not being “one culture.” Ar these different? The same?
    I don’t know if what you’re suggesting is that pretty much whatever is contributed to the market (and gains some acceptance) is on some basis “okay” OR that there are various “markets” for dialogue, entertainment products etc. and that critiquing the effects of e.g. adult entertainment on children is an argumentative sleight of hand OR. . .
    thanks

  • http://donatacom.com/blog.shtml Terry Heaton

    I admire your postmodern view of things, but without generalities, a culture cannot be a culture. The postmodern view that there are no grand narratives also applies to postmodernism. Therefore a culture wherein there is no definition isn’t a culture at all — it’s just a bunch of disparate opinions.
    I recognize and concur with your wish not to be pigeonholed. However, you ARE a part of popular culture, whether you accept placement therein or not. It’s not up to you; it’s up to the observer.
    Now, we can argue about the truth of observations, but we cannot suggest that they have no place whatsoever. That would be intellectual laziness gone to seed.

  • MWB

    Jeff,
    Are you willing to extend the same intellectual rigor and honesty you demand from the Heritage folks to your characterizations of your opponents in this debate? Or is it OK to smear every citizen who differs as a “religious nutjob” “prig” or “prude” as you have done repeatedly?
    You chastise Michael Powell, and now the Heritage Foundation for inconsistency, so how ’bout it? Cut the demagoguery and let’s have an honest debate.

  • http://www.stevesilver.net Steve

    Good thing Frank Rich didn’t write about “Spongebob”; he’d have certainly found some anti-Bush subtext. Probably involving porn as well.

  • http://ivanlenin.blogspot.com Ivan Lenin

    I share your feeling of being fed up with generalizations about culture. I am also fed up with people going out of their way to look at their society and culture as if they were a dispassionate observers, as opposed to active partisipants. I don’t see any valuable results produced by this detached pseudo-objectivity.
    To an extent, I will alsways be an outsider to American culture, but that doesn’t prevent me from being a part of it. And, as long as I understand people and am understood by them, it is one culture.
    Unless, of course, we want to argue about what ‘culture’ means, and what we understand by ‘understanding’, and what ‘is’ is.

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    Maybe A.O. Scott thought “Team America” was a children’s movie because it had puppets.