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75

How To Be Cultured (I): Bad Movies

3
terms
3
notes

Christman, P. (2022). How To Be Cultured (I): Bad Movies. In Christman, P. How to Be Normal. Belt Publishing, pp. 75-101

75

I watch bad movies, a pastime and a passion I have long shared with my father. When I was a child, we would sit on one of a series of couches scavenged from yard sales or curbsides, eating microwave popcorn while watching, say, Teenagers from Outer Space (1959) or Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1962). My father would set the VCR to tape these movies in the middle of the night from the sorts of TV channels that programmed them, with palpable desperation, between reruns of The Incredible Hulk and camcorder-filmed ads for local mattress store chains. Amusement, like couches, had to be taken where found.

cute

—p.75 by Phil Christman 1 year, 2 months ago

I watch bad movies, a pastime and a passion I have long shared with my father. When I was a child, we would sit on one of a series of couches scavenged from yard sales or curbsides, eating microwave popcorn while watching, say, Teenagers from Outer Space (1959) or Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1962). My father would set the VCR to tape these movies in the middle of the night from the sorts of TV channels that programmed them, with palpable desperation, between reruns of The Incredible Hulk and camcorder-filmed ads for local mattress store chains. Amusement, like couches, had to be taken where found.

cute

—p.75 by Phil Christman 1 year, 2 months ago

(of a seal or closure) complete and airtight

82

its hermetic vision of human psychology and conversation, its endearingly transparent wish-fulfillment aspects

on the twilight films

—p.82 by Phil Christman
notable
1 year, 2 months ago

its hermetic vision of human psychology and conversation, its endearingly transparent wish-fulfillment aspects

on the twilight films

—p.82 by Phil Christman
notable
1 year, 2 months ago

a grammatical mistake in speech or writing

82

Some bad movies, for example, reveal through sheer lack of self-awareness the incoherencies and solecisms of the culture that produces them

—p.82 by Phil Christman
notable
1 year, 2 months ago

Some bad movies, for example, reveal through sheer lack of self-awareness the incoherencies and solecisms of the culture that produces them

—p.82 by Phil Christman
notable
1 year, 2 months ago
85

I do not believe that we manifest our own reality. The older I get, the less control I feel anyone has over anything, including the quality of one’s work. Outright fatalism tempts me, though I don’t succumb. In the realm of the arts, the realization that we can have deeply memorable experiences with bad works—and dull experiences with well-made ones—can lead us to a free-floating aesthetic relativism, analogous in some ways to apolitical liberalism of the West Wing variety. Everyone has preferences, but the important thing to remember is that we’re all just people. De gustibus non est disputandum. The more sophisticated version of this argument is the common belief that “good taste” reduces to the desire to accrue cultural capital—a claim that removes taste from the black box that relativism puts it in but does so by reducing it to a wispy epiphenomenon at best.

But given the ubiquity of aesthetic experiences—sublime, ridiculous, weird, disgusting—and the fact that they are shared often enough to stand, in some sense, external to the self, this relativistic stance becomes hard to sustain. Nobody sticks to relativism, in aesthetics as in politics, for very long. We reach for the normative languages of “good” and “bad” art, of “genius” and “talent,” as we reach for the language of “good” and “evil,” because the experiences we label with such language are ubiquitous and often shared. (No sooner had some theorists declared the term genius off-limits than a generation realized that we needed a word for whatever Kate Bush is.) And we distrust these same normative languages because we (rightly) fear participating in an unjust hegemony, or because we (wrongly) conflate subjective with private, indeterminate with unreal.

ugh i love his writing!

—p.85 by Phil Christman 1 year, 2 months ago

I do not believe that we manifest our own reality. The older I get, the less control I feel anyone has over anything, including the quality of one’s work. Outright fatalism tempts me, though I don’t succumb. In the realm of the arts, the realization that we can have deeply memorable experiences with bad works—and dull experiences with well-made ones—can lead us to a free-floating aesthetic relativism, analogous in some ways to apolitical liberalism of the West Wing variety. Everyone has preferences, but the important thing to remember is that we’re all just people. De gustibus non est disputandum. The more sophisticated version of this argument is the common belief that “good taste” reduces to the desire to accrue cultural capital—a claim that removes taste from the black box that relativism puts it in but does so by reducing it to a wispy epiphenomenon at best.

But given the ubiquity of aesthetic experiences—sublime, ridiculous, weird, disgusting—and the fact that they are shared often enough to stand, in some sense, external to the self, this relativistic stance becomes hard to sustain. Nobody sticks to relativism, in aesthetics as in politics, for very long. We reach for the normative languages of “good” and “bad” art, of “genius” and “talent,” as we reach for the language of “good” and “evil,” because the experiences we label with such language are ubiquitous and often shared. (No sooner had some theorists declared the term genius off-limits than a generation realized that we needed a word for whatever Kate Bush is.) And we distrust these same normative languages because we (rightly) fear participating in an unjust hegemony, or because we (wrongly) conflate subjective with private, indeterminate with unreal.

ugh i love his writing!

—p.85 by Phil Christman 1 year, 2 months ago
86

The blending of “high” and “low,” and the temptation of aesthetic relativism that comes with it, has been with us at least since the beginning of the twentieth century—when Henri Rousseau was acclaimed a genius for his ostentatiously naive paintings and the Surrealists found unexpected inspiration in the careless, breathless style of the Fantômas novels. Cave art and African masks, made by people then presumed to be “primitive” in some inescapable sense, made Pablo Picasso and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska who they were. It never went away in literary studies, where first, the author’s intention, and then, just the author, were declared off-limits to criticism. The films and paintings of Andy Warhol, the music of Sun Ra and John Cage and Brian Eno and then of the more committedly amateur post-punk artists, and the creative plagiarism of hip-hop DJs and writers like Kathy Acker all raised the question: Is it still art if you don’t know or control what you’re doing? Knowledge of tradition didn’t necessarily matter; training didn’t necessarily matter; meaning didn’t necessarily matter; vision didn’t necessarily matter. This process of aesthetic reassessment resembled the way Christian theology every so often rediscovers the frankly antinomian possibilities of a salvation initiated and completed by God. If our hard work doesn’t matter, why bother?

—p.86 by Phil Christman 1 year, 2 months ago

The blending of “high” and “low,” and the temptation of aesthetic relativism that comes with it, has been with us at least since the beginning of the twentieth century—when Henri Rousseau was acclaimed a genius for his ostentatiously naive paintings and the Surrealists found unexpected inspiration in the careless, breathless style of the Fantômas novels. Cave art and African masks, made by people then presumed to be “primitive” in some inescapable sense, made Pablo Picasso and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska who they were. It never went away in literary studies, where first, the author’s intention, and then, just the author, were declared off-limits to criticism. The films and paintings of Andy Warhol, the music of Sun Ra and John Cage and Brian Eno and then of the more committedly amateur post-punk artists, and the creative plagiarism of hip-hop DJs and writers like Kathy Acker all raised the question: Is it still art if you don’t know or control what you’re doing? Knowledge of tradition didn’t necessarily matter; training didn’t necessarily matter; meaning didn’t necessarily matter; vision didn’t necessarily matter. This process of aesthetic reassessment resembled the way Christian theology every so often rediscovers the frankly antinomian possibilities of a salvation initiated and completed by God. If our hard work doesn’t matter, why bother?

—p.86 by Phil Christman 1 year, 2 months ago

(noun) one who rejects a socially established morality

99

Christian theology has made peace with its own antinomian tendencies—its simultaneous proclamations that we must discipline ourselves and that grace will breach and flood our flawed little disciplines

—p.99 by Phil Christman
confirm
1 year, 2 months ago

Christian theology has made peace with its own antinomian tendencies—its simultaneous proclamations that we must discipline ourselves and that grace will breach and flood our flawed little disciplines

—p.99 by Phil Christman
confirm
1 year, 2 months ago