The other day I finally put into words the marrow — not just the skin or the meat — of what most of my objections to stuff like the Marvel movies are, or any other pop-culture trend that offers so much and yet gives so little. It's not that these things aren't entertaining (although my own mileage varies drastically with them in that respect). It's that they are lousy models to follow for other creators.
That, in turn, doesn't so much constitute an argument against the existence of those things as it constitutes an argument in favor of not relying on them alone as a way to have a creative education. It's part of why I think anyone whose work is part of an identifiable genre should do everything they can to learn about what's going on outside of it, lest they remain stuck in it.
I once had a good friend who wanted to be a screenwriter, and he summed up his ambitions in terms I could best describe as Early Spielbergian: to make other people feel like ten-year-old kids who'd just burst out through the theater doors and couldn't wait to tell their friends what they'd just seen. I didn't have a good response for him at the time, but I think now I do. It's fine that he wants to start with such an impulse, but the impulse can't also end there as well. It has to take you to other places too.
I always have to qualify statements like this in a cautionary way — no, I'm not saying we should burn the comics and institute Allan Bloom-esque snobbisms as the New Good. In fact, forget about any "we" in this equation. Any of the arguments I make here are, in the end, things each one of us has to ask ourselves and apply to ourselves, not to someone else. The point isn't to come up with an agenda for how to police the works of others, which is doomed to fail anyway, but rather to determine how to make our own works a little less vulnerable to these problems.
Okay, okay: my own work. Me being my own worst critic and all that, I'm all the more conscious of how all the things I took in, or did not take in, have constrained what I do. This bothers me more than it might other people; it's like suddenly realizing you haven't in fact been getting enough legumes in your diet. It bothers me that I haven't read Proust — not because I'm trying to be snobbish, but because I'm wondering what he might have to teach me that I never would have known I could benefit from.