Against guilty pleasures – Adorno on the crimes of pop culture (link)

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Tags:Link, Essay, Pop Culture, Critique, Criticism
Comment:

These are, more or less, my responses as I read the essay. I haven't tried to assemble them into a more cohesive critique.

  • Not a lot of real analysis
  • It hinges on the idea that everyone feels that pop culture is a guilty pleasure. I presume that some people feel the pleasure without the guilt.
  • It strikes me that once people start to analyze things by breaking them down, that it is impossible to go back to perceiving something as whole. Like the drawings that contain multiple pictures simultaneously, once you realize that there is more than one picture, it is impossible to unrealize it.
  • The idea that pop culture trains us into certain paths or expectations is quite true. It remains to be seen that an enlightened or high-minded perception of works as a whole allows one to avoid being trained into paths and expectations. I find it hard to believe that it does not. The interesting question is, which set of training and expectations grants more freedom, and thus is better.
  • It seems to me that truly original work can be damaging too, it destabilizes and can threaten our world view.
  • I would very much like some examples of people who live their lives with ‘imagination and spontaneity’
  • It seems like it is naive or a simplification to claim to know what "experiencing the whole of an artwork" means, let alone achieving it. (Perhaps this is why perceiving small parts of work is more definable, more understandable.) I am hard pressed to understand how this "experiencing the whole" doesn't include context (i.e. history) of the "experiencer". And if this the case, (and I will go so far as saying that it must be case, because entirety of an experience must include the mind experiencing it), then you have exponentially increased the difficulty of defining what "experiencing the whole" means.
  • At what point was it ever the case that the vast majority of people lived a life where they had the time and space for imagination and spontaneity?
  • And what are these works of 'high art'?
  • Another point of failure is that implicit statement that pop culture is inextricably entwined with consumerism and corporate manipulation of the followers of pop culture. Not all elements of pop culture are created with the intent to manipulate.
  • In the end, this essay only rants against the inability of pop culture to deliver real satisfaction or freedom, but in turn, proposes nothing concrete that will deliver real satisfaction or freedom.

Having said all that, I think there is a lot of truth within the idea of "consumerism" driving pop culture and the splintering of experience into 15-minutes-or-less bite sized pieces. I am (not surprisingly, given my last name and upbringing) a strong proponent of freedom. But like prohibition, taking away pop culture because it's bad for some of us all of the time, and all of us some of the time, is bulldozing the slum to put up a library and museum. We have to live somewhere.

Don't suckle at the glass teat, get out there and experience real art! Get back to me when you find out what that is.

-- Thanks Chris H., for sending me the link.
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