Artists, ish

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The Golden Globes were held last night, and as you might expect for a room full of the liberal elite of actors, writers and directors, they didn’t always say nice things about the man who’s going to be President later this year. Meryl Streep, in particular, used her lifetime achievement award to offer up some words of hope/confusion/despair (those emotions are increasingly interchangeable these days) and make comment on his mocking of a reporter with disabilities.

Two things happened almost immediately after. The man in question went straight to his twitter account to state that Streep was ‘overrated’ (his favourite actors, since you’ve asked, are Steven Segal and John Claude VannDamme, and I guess we’ll let the parenthesis close up there). In addition, the Trump elite attempted to demolish the loony left (a fight between the snowflakes and the heil-stones) by sharing footage that proved that the President-elect actually wasn’t mocking anyone with a disability. Their defence largely centred on the fact that the reporter’s disability doesn’t present like that (which, as anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of any kind of mockery or bullying will be able to tell you, is an argument so facile as to be actively stupid), and that the ex-Apprentice star mocks many people that way, so it wasn’t specifically mocking a disability, as such. Again, this is a really curious defence, since it appears to make the man look worse: he just uses a dated act-like-a-disabled-person pantomime to mock anyone he thinks is stupid (which tells you a great deal about what he considers the qualitive nature between disability and intelligence). Some people have even rolled up their sleeves to make the claim that the guy’s act is not a mockery of disability at all, but just a piss-take of someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Which would be fine, except that it’s demonstrably not true. The Man Who You’ll Have Worked Out By Now I’m Not Honouring With A Name is using what’s recognisably the seventies playground mockery of people with disabilities. That’s not just inference; that’s not reading his mind: that’s contained within the actual sounds and movements that he’s doing. I wouldn’t, for instance, be able to rock up onto youtube speaking in a patois accent without at least inviting the accusation of misapportion of culture. He knows what he’s doing. We know what he’s doing. At least 30% of his defenders know what he’s doing. His adviser Kellyanne Conway knows what he’s doing. Her line is that we should ignore what he says, and concentrate on what’s in his heart, which, unless it’s some sort of congenital defect, is probably too nebulous a line to be taken seriously. Ironically, if he just owned it and moved on, it would have (almost) be forgotten about: the so-called hysterical left wouldn’t really be able to keep picking over the bones if he’d already put his hands up (in a nice way, not that mocking way. He really needs to stop that now. He’s got nuclear codes and everything.)

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There’s still no singer confirmed for the inauguration, but the fireworks display is gonna be AWESOME.

All of which isn’t exactly what I intended to talk about. Towards the beginning of her speech, Streep joked that Hollywood is ‘crawling with outsiders and foreigners’, and stated that if you kicked all of them out, there would be nothing left to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which, Streep quipped, ‘are not the arts.’ It’s a neat gag, but as you might expect, it annoyed a few people – you know, the people who are actually involved in football and mixed martial arts. It is indicative of a curious bit of status building that creatives do within their own circles – stage being better than film, the original better than the remake, William Shakespeare better than Ray Cooney, The X Factor being not-as-good-as-anything else. The idea that the popular is inherently .. less. There’s also the implied idea that the less popular (a Chekov season at the South Bank, for instance, as opposed to a variety show with ex-contestants from Strictly Come Dancing) is somehow better for you, presumably by virtue of being more intelligent. If you don’t have to work for it, it’s too easy: a hamburger instead of a freshly homemade pie. All of which ignores that sometimes you want the hamburger.

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At some point, this man will be the curator of a major arts festival. You just wait.

I’m now well past the age when I’m likely ever to watch an episode of The X Factor, or even any soap opera, but I’m not able to comfortably say that any of them – or anything like them – is beneath respect. Sure, our attention span and thirst for learning appears to be badly reduced from what it was even five years ago (it’s disturbing that videos shared on facebook come with the tag ‘please watch til the end’ when they only last about thirty seconds in the first place), but there’s surely enough room for all types of ‘art’ at the party. And, hell, if lefty liberal artists are going to start deciding what’s ‘arty’ enough to get through the gate, then what’s the point?

It would certainly be horrible for me, most of my friends, and the majority of people in my social media echo chamber if the only things on TV were boxing and mixed martial arts (and I’ve recently re-read The Running Man; it’s perfectly possible that that’s how things will be by the time the 45th US President is serving his eighth year). But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an impressive amount of skill, dedication, and – yes – art to these disciplines. I’m old enough to remember people’s first bewildered response to rap: wasn’t it just talking loudly with swear words? Poetry that didn’t rhyme? Now, with a bit of time (OK, thirty to forty years), most of us accept that rap (good rap, anyway) requires a degree of skill. No particular discipline deserves more (or less) respect than another just because it’s seen as requiring more effort(and/or intelligence) from the participant  – and indeed, the audience. The novel is seen as being one of the highest forms of art there is. Take a look at the lower ends of the average kindle collection to see how that theory pans out.  Although it’s notable that the MMA President invited Streep to watch a fight to see how much artistry is involved. Notable because the Daily Mail decided to skew that story to sound like he’d asked her to step outside for a fight. And there will be a time (not so far from now) when the ‘serious’ press that Streep also spoke in defence of, will no longer be read, in favour of whatever gets the highest ratings, whatever demands the least effort.

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Luckily, newspaper magnates are never as egocentric and maniacal as this guy.

Perhaps she’s got a point, after all.

 

 

 

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