Higher Standardization Dept.

What with one thing and another, I can never be sure if I have made myself surpassingly clear on a given point or not, so here goes. Part of why I pound as much as I do on the pop-culture pap machine (here, here, here, here, and here, just to cite a few recent examples) is because its effect on creators is all the more baneful and baleful than its effects on plain old audiences.

My opinion — prejudiced, pretentious, and self-important as it is — is that creators ought to hold themselves to a higher standard in terms of what they feed their imaginations. This doesn't mean that they should never watch or read crap; it means that if they do, they need to not pretend that the sincerity of their affection for it makes it any less crap.

It isn't for me to say which things are crap. Everyone has to figure that part out on their own, and then — this is the key thing — build their own taxonomy of what they want to see in the world. In other words, they need to know what their own standards actually are, and how to rise to them.

More than that, though, anyone who has the nerve to create something for an audience of greater than one owes it to themselves to understand the implications of what they're doing. It's fine to say that you only want to entertain people, but you also need to understand that nothing is ever "merely" entertainment, that all entertainments are also art whether or not we want them to be, and that bad art is as harmful as bad journalism or inept science.

Most of the folks I meet with professed ambitions to become a creator of some kind — a comic artist, an author, a game programmer, a musician — are conscious that they have an ambition to fulfill, but don't have as much of a sense that they also have a responsibility to rise to. They know they have some burning goal to reach, and that's fine. But they rarely seem concerned with whether or not they're about to get into a rat race with ignobility in the process.

None of this is me making a case for self-censorship, or moralizing others about their choices. People are driven to do what interests them alone, and there's no talking them out of what their gut is saying. But it may be possible to awaken other gut instincts they didn't know they had — the feeling, for instance, that catering to an audience's worst impulses does more harm than good — and then marry the one to the other.

Tags: art  creativity  creators  media ecology 

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2015/01/14 10:00.

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