What Is “Bad"?

   There is particular sort of hubris that comes from anyone bold enough to decide they are qualified to tell people the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but it grows ever more vast when it becomes more than just a sort of sign-post opinion and is presented as a firm entitlement to tell people their tastes are lacking.

Oh, criticism.

As someone who has reviewed movie for ages I have walked the line for a long time when it came to telling people about the movies I was watching. I have always tried to make it know that the movies I am reviewing are playing to my tastes and that I am reviewing it from that standpoint. I mean, people like different things and for different reasons and that’s what makes us all interesting. Even horror nerds can never agree on what it is we all like, but, again, those differences build the bedrock for what molds interesting discussions and impassioned arguments.

Everything has validity.

It’s not fair to look at the work of one person or a hundred and to dismiss it out of hand, even if the work is clearly awful. As a reviewer you just see some things that blow your mind that they were made. For me, it’s the level of passion that salvages a work though. Some things are not good, are bad, but at least they were made with passion but then there are things that are made to cash in on a trend and that just drives you crazy. But just because I think that the work is silly and derivative doesn’t mean everyone will. There is a customer, a consumer, an appreciator of everything.

But what is there a ‘bad’?

There is a bad but bad is subjective. As is good. The same person that loves Mozart may hate Whistler. The person that loves GWAR may love ballet. And at the core of things, at the center, who the heck said that anything is inherently ‘good’? There is a classism and snobbishness to the idea of dubbing things good and bad with the notion that things that were enjoyed initially by the wealthy are inherently good. The love of classical music does not make one any more cultured than a love of gangster rap makes one a deviant. The idea that there is a base of goodness from which to draw from, to use as the measuring sick is a farce and people need to understand that.

Because…there’s nothing, nothing that is by its nature universally good. Nor universally bad.

  I get very frustrated when people have the gall to go on a crusade to save others from ‘bad art’, as if a degree in art history and an appreciation of obscure artists makes one cultured and enlightened. Any time someone wants to tell me what is ‘bad’ and what is ‘good’ I immediately smell pretension and self service and want to get far far away because there’s always a pitch and the pitch is always their opinion on what is ‘good’.

Oh dear.

The wrongheadedness of such enlightenment is mind numbing. It’s like calling someone fat and telling them to put down the pie instead of helping them see how delicious the food that is better for them is. At its base, any time you tell someone what their opinion should be is presumptuous. If someone chooses to like this or that or whatever it’s their choice to make and it isn’t really our business to tell them otherwise.

Unless…

There is always wiggle room.

I think what bothers me more than anything about the idea of ‘bad’ art is that people are taking a chance to truly enlighten and are using as a way to grandstand. You go in to broaden your horizon and get a lecture on art styles that do little to piqué your interest. Art is such a subjective thing that it’s a little silly to think there’s a one size fits all sort of taste meter.

So where do we start?

Why don’t we go about things with a new focus with less shaming on someone’s taste and more horizon growing of that taste. Not because what we like is better but because what we like is different and may be something THEY also like. I look at it this way – there are a lot of people who love the artwork of Thomas Kincaid. Mr. Kincaid’s work reached a level of pop fame and crossover appeal that made the general public fall in love and the art major cringe. So here’s the thing, instead of shaming someone for liking his art and mass-marketed art why not show how that art is similar to another artist, or other artists, and help to expand that person’s artistic palate. THAT needs to be the thrust of this conversation, not to shame or to speak ill of ANY sort of art. The hope of anyone that is well versed in something should be to help teach people some of the things they have learned. Education baby, not degree flaunting.

I think people forget that as a nation, as a people we are not the most educated in the arts. People would rather spend money too see a movie more than they to read a book. They’d rather buy a poster of a celebrity than they would a print of classic art. We need to not shame people for their tastes and their interests and work to help broaden those tastes. There’s room for the profane and the divine. There is room to like modern pop music and to love roots music. People don’t need to be shamed, to be lectured to about how bad what they like, or what they love is. Instead we should see if there’s room to teach them about what we love to see if they’ll love it also. We need to treat one another more like friends because a friend influences without judging, inspires without forcing, and accepts that sometimes our tastes are not always going to be compatible.

Bad Art?

I suppose but that’s a little subjective, isn’t it, despite what degree gives you the self determination that your understanding and grasp of art is so rounded as to tell people their own appreciation is lacking. Perhaps we should focus less on how ‘bad’ things are and instead focus on how inspiring art in general is because every art, every artist goes through phases, and grows in skill, talent, and vision and to dismiss art, and its artists out of hand is unfair to the artist and those that may hold their art dear.

Hey, what do I know, I’m just someone who makes art. I sure as hell ain’t no artist.

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