Friday, March 26, 2010

Me, being judgey

This is a tangent to Nick's post here, where he rhetorically asks: when people accuse him of being pretentious (based on his funny and scathing review of Hot Tub Time Machine, which anyone who's seen a trailer knows is crappy), what is he pretending to be?

I have been long fascinated by vitriol with which this word, 'pretentious', is thrown around -- seemingly at anyone who tends to either engage with works of entertainment and/or art on some critical level, or, conversely, produce such works that require engagement. I mean, there are people whose default state in regard to entertainment/media/art is passive consumption, and any critical (that is, reciprocal) engagement is too much work and requires extra effort rather than being one's natural state.

And I wonder if the school is to blame -- that is, if people internalized the requirement to analyze or evaluate any work of art as school work, and get indignant when one dares to perform acts of school in public (and voluntarily). Or when such acts are demanded by any given work -- it seems that most movies/books frequently deemed 'pretentious' are the sorts that require the viewer/reader to pay attention and perhaps provide some of the context (if not content). I heard readers complain about books that require them to look up words/events/references because it 'jolts you out of the story'. Which I don't understand -- I look up a lot of things when I read. You come across something unfamiliar, you put down the book, you look stuff up and go back to reading. Not like it's a major undertaking.

So I now wonder if the school with its constant demand for analyzing themes and frames of reference inadvertently instills the idea that entertainment one does voluntarily should be free of critical engagement and, most importantly, effort, and people who have that critical ability constantly engaged are just pretending -- pretending to like schoolwork, pretending to be smart. Is this the source of anger and demands to stop this nerd business?

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