Saturday, January 25, 2014

Things I Don't Understand

That title holds a multitude of things, of course.  From advanced mathematics through the music of John Zorn to arc-welding, there are far more things I will never understand than things I do.  For right now, however, I don't get this and related phenomena.  Quite apart from the obvious aesthetic Stalinism; quite apart from the bulk of Goldberg's column that goes on to disprove his thesis (as Edroso notes); quite apart from dumping more garbage on the dessicated corpse of "respectable" conservative thought; I really don't understand how it is possible to approach life this way.  When I watch a movie, or listen to music, or see paintings, or whatever, I never ask myself, "Is this liberal?  Does it advance liberal politics at all?"  I do these things to be edified or entertained, or perhaps both.

Right away, obviously, I would add that of course how I receive and perceive any art form is informed by my politics, among other things.  I do not, nor have I ever, used a political hermeneutic as my primary, or even tertiary, criteria.  Just to take music as an example, I want to be moved and entertained, usually in equal measure.  I enjoy meaningful lyrics, sure; I also love songs about sex and partying, too.  Most of the time, what I enjoy is a combination of music and lyric that resonates on an emotional level.  I just couldn't care less about the politics either of a song or its writer or performer.  To take an example from a rough contemporary, I still enjoy Megadeth's music even though Dave Mustaine has turned in to a bit of a right-wing crank.  I couldn't care less about that, any more than I care, while listening to Kind of Blue or Nefertiti, that Miles Davis physically abused his wife.

Which leads me to the whole "related phenomena" part above.  Last week, in a search for something about which to write, conservatives decided to go after Lena Dunham.  Now, I don't nor have I ever nor would I ever watch Girls.  From what I've read, both critically and otherwise, there seem to be many problems with the show, not least how it is possible aimless 20-somethings somehow manage to live in New York at a time when that has become difficult for all but the wealthy.  In any event, the attacks on Ms. Dunham have little to do with the substance of the show; rather, it seems too many on the right hate-watch the show just to be turned off by Ms. Dunham's propensity to disrobe.  Of course, they don't question whether such nudity makes any narrative or aesthetic sense.  Rather, they personally attack her looks.  One gets the feeling reading stuff like this that these men all feel that filmed nudity exists solely to excite them.  Lena Dunham not having a model's figure just doesn't seem to do it for these poor men or their simultaneously withered souls or penises.

Now, here's what I don't understand.  If they dislike it so much, if the mere glimpse of Lena Dunham's naked body so disgusts them, why do they watch it?  Turn off the goddamn television.  Watch something else, Game of Thrones, maybe, where there are enough good looking naked women to keep them alert, happy, and erect for minutes on end.  Since they don't criticize Girls for political or social reasons, but rather just want to complain that Lena Dunham doesn't do it for them, the whole exercise is worse than pointless.  It's disturbing in a stalkerish kind of way.  The folks who write these pieces, and they appear with enough frequency almost to constitute a genre, sound like that guy who appears on social media, harassing women they barely know, carrying on about a lack of attention, carrying on to the woman's friends about alleged vices and faults (I think we've all seen examples of these kinds of breakdowns; they are simultaneously sad and frightening).

Most of the time, I just wish these folks would find something else to do.  Hate-watching a TV show then taking to the internet to express your hatred at the hours of video you've just watched . . . that isn't what people do.  You won't ever read a post here carrying on about the hours I spent listening to Yanni.  Do you know why that is?  First of all, I wouldn't subject myself to the time needed to write such a post.  I also know that Yanni has many fans out there who enjoy his music.  Just because I dislike it, and can articulate why I dislike it, doesn't make me a better person than Yanni's fans.  In fact, doing that would make me look like an asshole.  Just like folks who write posts excoriating "liberal" Hollywood, or Lena Dunham's body, or whatever it is.  Find a hobby you enjoy and write about that.  Go to a movie to have fun.  Read a book with the simple goal of enjoying a story and enjoying getting wrapped up with the characters and their lives.  The political hermeneutic is just nonsense.  The hate-watching is just creepy.

Virtual Tin Cup

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