As Clement Greenberg pointed out in “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (1939)…high culture flourished under the aristocracy. Mass culture came in with mass literacy, while Midcult is a product of the postwar college boom, a way of catering to the cultural aspirations of the exploding middle class. Now, since the ’70s, we’ve gone a step further, into an era of mass elite and postgraduate education. This is the root of the so-called creative class, the Bobos, the liberal elite as it exists today. The upper middle brow is the cultural expression of this demographic. Its purpose is to make consciousness safe for the upper middle class. The salient characteristic of that class, as a moral entity, is a kind of Victorian engorgement with its own virtue. Its need is for an art that will disturb its self-delight.
When I was coming up, making an independent film and trying to reach an audience I thought was like, trying to hit a thrown baseball. This is like trying to hit a thrown baseball – but with another thrown baseball. That’s why I’m spending so much time talking to you about the business and the money, because this is the force that is pushing cinema out of mainstream movies. I’ve been in meetings where I can feel it slipping away, where I can feel that the ideas I’m tossing out, they’re too scary or too weird, and I can feel the thing. I can tell: It’s not going to happen, I’m not going to be able to convince them to do this the way I think it should be done. I want to jump up on the table and scream, “Do you know how lucky we are to be doing this? Do you understand that the only way to repay that karmic debt is to make something good, is to make something ambitious, something beautiful, something memorable?” But I didn’t do that. I just sat there, and I smiled.
I mean, seriously! Anybody who says they dislike The Beatles is a pretentious jerk. Like me. But I actually like them, I like The Beatles. I like all music, really, except The Smiths. Anyway! This is not an article about Morrissey, as much as he’d like it to be, as much as I’m allowing him to permeate the air with his foul and fey musk. His weird, lethargic perfumes.
With directors in place, Joffe hired Rain Man co-writer Barry Morrow to give an adaptation a go. Morrow’s experience crafting Barry Levinson’s Oscar winner made him well suited for the game-movie gig, he told Variety in March 1992, given that he already had on his résumé ‘a quintessential brother story with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.’ After playing the game for ‘a day,’ Morrow ‘decided to follow the structure of a myth.’ In an ominous foreshadowing of things to come, he admitted that, in addition to the threadbare narrative of the games, he had been stymied somewhat by the fact that ‘most Super Mario journeys end in failure.’
Then in a similar, separate experiment, they primed the subjects by having them watch video clips. They either watched The Simpsons or a film by surrealistic neonoir writer/director David Lynch, in which humans with rabbit heads wander an urban apartment muttering non sequiturs. They then passed judgement on people arrested in a hockey riot. Again, the people in the existential mindset imposed harsh sanctions, but the people who’d watched The Simpsons were lenient. If they’d taken Tylenol first, though, the David Lynch-induced anxiety was apparently blunted. They recommended the same sanctions as the Simpsons-primed group.
As readers, proles are honest, never trying to fake effects or simulate interest in higher things. It’s among the middle class that tastes in reading get really interesting, because it’s only here that pretense, fraud, and misrepresentation enter. The uppers don’t care what you think about their reading, and neither do the proles. The poor anxious middle class is the one that wants you to believe it reads “the best literature,” and condemnatory expressions like trash or rubbish are often on its lips. It is the natural audience for the unreadable second-rate pretentious…
It helps to put this in perspective by likening me to the mayor of Des Moines, Iowa. It’s true of both the mayor of Des Moines and of me that, out of the world’s population of some six billion people, there are a few hundred thousand who consider us important, and who recognise us by name. In the case of the mayor of Des Moines, that is simply the population of the Des Moines metropolitan area. In my case, it is the approximate number of people who are avid readers of my books. In addition, there might be as many as a million or two who would find my name vaguely familiar if they saw it; the same is probably true of the mayor of Des Moines.
Nothing gives me the feeling of having been born several decades too late quite like the modern “literary” best seller. Give me a time-tested masterpiece or what critics patronizingly call a fun read—Sister Carrie or just plain Carrie. Give me anything, in fact, as long as it doesn’t have a recent prize jury’s seal of approval on the front and a clutch of precious raves on the back. In the bookstore I’ll sometimes sample what all the fuss is about, but one glance at the affected prose—”furious dabs of tulips stuttering,” say, or “in the dark before the day yet was”—and I’m hightailing it to the friendly black spines of the Penguin Classics.
As it turned out, we had a pretty okay time. We ate poached salmon and roast beef. (Eazy E) sat next to a woman from Dallas, who I would bet had never mixed socially with a person of color before in her long and well-heeled life. I expected her to start talking about ‘the problem of the Negro.’ I think she was actually afraid to look at the short African-American next to her, so she didn’t notice that (Eazy E’s) eyes looked like a couple of all-black marbles. Nobody’s been that stoned in the White House since Gerald Ford’s kid Jack smoked dope on the White House roof. And Eazy had better weed that Jack Ford ever did.
Why, within the current renaissance of research in continental philosophy, is there a coincidence between the structure of ontological systems and the structure of the most highly evolved technologies of post-Fordist capitalism? I am speaking, on the one hand, of computer networks in general and object-oriented computer languages (such as Java or C++) in particular and, on the other hand, of certain realist philosophers…and their associated school known as speculative realism. Why do these philosophers, when holding up a mirror to nature, see the mode of production reflected back at them? Why, in short, is there a coincidence between today’s ontologies and the software of big business?