Friday, January 13, 2017

Meryl Streep, The Arts, Katie Nolan, Sports, and Leisure as the basis of Culture

I didn't watch the Golden Globe awards.

And not just this year.

I never watch them.

So, as a result, I missed the entire Meryl Streep makes comments alluding to Donald Trump thing.

Now, let me note that given as I have not watched them, I'm not commenting on what she said.  As people who've read my prior comments here know I generally don't grasp why people listen to entertainers or sports figures on any issue.  Their job is entertaining and generally, while there are exceptions, I don't find their commentary particularly illuminating on anything.

That doesn't mean, in my view, that they should simply shut up.  People in a democracy have a right to speak, no matter how ill informed or vapid their comments may be. And, I'd further note, that Donald Trump, about whom she was commenting, came up partially due to the entertainment industry and hence there's a certain peculiar element to this.

What I take to be the case is that Streep, apparently, was condemning a comment Trump made about a crippled person who appeared in opposition to him at one of his rallies. As I didn't follow Trump that closely during the election and never thought he stood a chance, I'm not even prepared to comment on that.  If he said such things, that's terrible and he shouldn't have.

And, going to where I will comment, he ought to stop all this Tweeting.  It's embarrassing and not dignified and he should knock it off or at least be restrained.  Governor Matt Mead has a Twitter account and he's restrained.  Perhaps Trump could take Tweeting lessons from fellow Republican Mead.

Anyhow, that aside, sometimes you find really interesting and illuminating commentary even where it's not really intended to be.  Such as here:

This is commentary, in jest (but I suspect not entirely in jest) by Katie Nolan of Garbage Time.

Now, for those of you who do not know, Garbage Time is a sports, mostly football, commentary program that was designed to run, apparently, in "garbage time."  According to Wikipedia the term means:
Garbage time is a term used to refer to the period toward the end of a timed sporting event that has become a blowout when the outcome of the game has already been decided, and the coaches of one or both teams will decide to replace their best players with substitutes.
Okay, so that's what Garbage Time is and that's what Nolan has named her show.

Now, long time viewers here know that I don't really know much about professional sports and I'm particularly ignorant on football, which I don't like.  How, therefore, would I know about a show even called Garbage Time?

Simple enough.  I fly United.

United Airlines, as viewers here also know, runs a series on its planes, and on the Internet, called The Big Metal Bird.  It's clever and I like it. The host is Katie Nolan.  I wouldn't have known that Katie Nolan hosts and is well known because of Garbage Time, but YouTube does and as a result of having linked in all the Big Metal Bird episodes I did here Garbage Time now shows up in my suggested viewing links on YoutTube.  I rarely view one, as I don't know anything about the topics the show addresses.

But I did view this one because of the title.  And, while I'm not getting into the Streep/Trump flap, there's something here worth nothing.  Go and view the video.

Did you watch it?

Okay, if you did, you heard Streep say:
Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners and if we kick them all out you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts which are not the arts.

That comment is really worth breaking down.

First of all, I'd note, when I heard that "Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners" I immediately thought of the Vanderpumps.  I'm not a football fan and I've never watched a MMA contest but if having television be all football and MMA matches is the price I have to pay to send the Vanderpumps back home, or preferably to Aleppo, bring it on.

My second thought was, well, . . . . Streep may not be over rated, but that sort of comment does come across as something being said by a self impressed pretentious snot.

Let's be honest to start with.  A lot that's put out by Hollywood, or any other moving picture endeavor, isn't art.  So, if football and MMA aren't art, well, probably Friends and The Big Bang Theory, let alone the whole Grownups franchise, certainly aren't either.

Which is an important point, as it Streep's comments, and indeed a lot of the concepts about film as art, misunderstand its relationship to leisure, which is not only significant, but frankly paramount.

Let's start first however, with the concept that film is art.

Some film is clearly art.  Every David Lean film is art in moving pictures.  Some John Ford films, and I'd argue in particular  The Searchers, is art.  But is all film art. . . well. . . . I doubt it.

Is Grownups art?  Are the appriximately 4,000,000,000 tear jerker football movies art?  What about The Hangover?  No, none of these are art.  What they are is entertainment, allegedly, but they aren't art.  And there's a lot more Hangover's filmed than Lawrence of Arabia's.   

Indeed, in recent years there have been so many trash films made that they simply overwhelm those which might be considered as art.  Bad films, low budget films, and the like, have always been made, and there are scads of examples going all the way back, but it's also the case that since external controls on the contents of movies have been largely removed they have tended more and more towards blue films even in allegedly family offerings.  A piece of crap like Grownups would have been a piece of crap if it had been filmed in the 1950s, but it wouldnt' have had a running series of jokes about boobs in it. Even doubtful propositions from the 50s and early 60s that edged on being quasi scandalous don't compare to the regular fare today, much of which is complete and total junk.

The fact that junk, the run of the mill, the bland, and the vapid grossly outnumbers art says something, however, and that needs to be taken into account.  Movies are entertainment. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Which takes us on to sports.  Quite frankly, there is art in sports and while Katie Nolan is joking, anyone who has truly watched sports has seen athletic art in motion.  A person has to be pretty dead to art if they find no art in Pele's soccer playing of old, or Sugar Ray Robinson's boxing, or Jim Brown's football field performance.  Seriously, there's more art in Jim Brown on the field in the 1950s than there is in the entire series of Friends.  But we have no delusions that sports are entertainment.

And entertainment is for leisure.

Josef Peiper, the German philosopher, claimed that leisure was the basis of culture, and there's good reason to believe him correct.  In this context, leisure isn't doing nothing, it's doing something, but what it isn't doing isn't is simply toiling.  If we think about it, cultures that have appreciated arts had the leisure to produce and enjoy them.  And you wont' find one of those culture that didn't also have sports.   Sports have been with us in every society that produced anything cultural and are, frankly, part and parcel of culture.

This doesn't mean that a person has to appreciate or participate in some fashion in every sport.  But it does mean that those people who take shots at sports in their entirety based on their concept of worthwhile cultural endeavors are taking shots at themselves.  People this year who go to see a film like Manchester By The Sea and who believe that its a fine work of art ought to realize that the same culture that produced it produced NASCAR.  Now, I'm not a NASCAR fan, but I also am not so naive to believe that NASCAR fans ought to be dragooned into a viewing of Manchester By The Sea.  Nor am I so naive to believe that there aren't a lot of NASCAR fans who will see Manchester By The Sea as well.

All  of this is perhaps all the more relevant in the era in which we find ourselves.  It wasn't always the case that a wide gulf between "art" and everything else was believed to exist, although that sort of snobbery has been around for a long time.  While I haven't studied it and therefore can't claim expertise on it, a lot of the current snobbish attitude of the type expressed by Streep seems to have had its origins, potentially, in the teens and twenties when the hardcore left was on the rise and its never left since.  One of the real hallmarks of radical leftism is that it had sort of a perverse Puritanical view of a lot of things in its early days, and really debased views on other things.  Suffice it to say the sort of eggheady psuedointelletuals who sat around and pondered Marx in the 1920s wasn't exactly in your sporting set.

In contrast, there was a time not all that long before that, and indeed concurrent with that, that the highly educated, and those with refined educations at that, regarded the appreciation of sports as an aspect of culture.  University students risked their lives playing football in an era when only a small percentage of Americans attended university and those who did were all destined for high paying employment as a rule.  The well to do often participated in the equine sports. Hunting had a broad popularity across classes.  The authors of the agrarian defense I'll Take My Stand based part of their argument on a Southern culture which emphasized leisure and field sports (conveniently ignoring, I'd note, that Southern Blacks weren't participating in that much).

Perhaps this is making much out of Streep's ill advised snobbish comment, but maybe not.  One of the things that sociologist have worried about in regards to modern life is the decline in leisure. This can be argued in more than one way on whether this observation is real or not.  But irrespective of that in the general population, it seems quite true in the Middle Class.  Returning to politics, I suppose, part of this last election was a signal on the part of that class that they've basically had enough of everything and want a not all that long ago past back, if they can.  Being a snot about what those people like is not only arrogant, but incredibly naive.

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