Friday, January 02, 2009

The Very Definition of a Modern Major Philistine

Here is a comment I made on a post regarding Jonah Goldberg (of Liberal Fascism fame notoriety) at Susan of Texas's The Hunting of the Snark.

Goldberg is quoted as saying:
[Television s]eries such as Dexter, House, and countless others have elevated egomania, self-absorption, and narcissism to admirable character traits.
I responded:
What. a. dip.

What is it Roy Edroso calls it? Kulturkampf? Right wing philistines somehow believing that the main purpose of art is the promotion of "values."

Worse, they have such a juvenile appreciation of literature and drama that they believe the main character in any fiction must always be the "hero," and it stands to reason (in their eyes) that the writer "admires" all the hero's characteristics. It's like they never heard of the concept of the "anti-hero," where, if there's any conscious promoting going on, it's the writer's profound belief in things CONTRARY to the main character's (professed) values.

The thing about House is that he is in a constant struggle against softer, more "dangerous" emotions and beliefs. His strongest characterological drive is toward Truth at all costs, and the way this otherwise "admirable" quality plays out against his arrogant dismissal of other aspects of Being Human is what drives most of the drama. It's fucking brilliant. And dimwits like Jonah can't begin to grasp it because they think the narrative is CELEBRATING House's approach to life.

No, it's not even merely's some other word, some other worse adjective that I can't even think of, maybe because what Jonah is is SO awful we don't actually have coherent words to describe it.

So maybe we'll have to resort to ART.
Susan replied by offering a quotation from J.D. Salinger:
Maybe Philistine is a good word for his type. I looked it up and wikipedia has a J.D. Salinger quote: "A person deprived, for life, of any understanding or taste for the main current of poetry that flows through things, all things."

And it also says, [The Phoenicians'] boutique culture could not withstand the Assyrian and later Babylonian expansions into Canaan, however – after which they disappeared as a cohesive cultural group."

The insulated world they hope to live in is truly a little hothouse culture. They won't be able to survive without the backing of a wealthy elite, because they certainly can't survive on their merits. Who wants propaganda, which is predictable by definition, when they could have originality and surprise, which only true art can achieve?

Who wants propaganda, which is predictable by definition, when they could have originality and surprise, which only true art can achieve?
I answered,
Who indeed? Actually, it's clear that there is an audience for predictable fiction (at least), and it seems to consist of fearful people who HATE to be surprised.

Conservatives, by definition.

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