Love Is All Around…


One of the more entertaining aspects of the Washington Times is its regular "Culture Briefs" section that pulls pop-cult squibs from a wide range of sources and runs daily on page A2.

Today's section excerpts two interesting-sounding (at least in their short form) articles. The first is from a SF Chronicle column by Keith Thompson, who announces:

I'm leaving the left–more precisely, the American cultural left nd what it has become during our time together. … I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives–people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere–reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode…."[After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks] Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the 'courage' of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of September 11 comparable to 'automobile statistics.'…Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.

And then there's this bit from National Review's John Derbyshire, which speaks to a different sort of contempt for contemporary America than the sort from which Thompson recoils. We tune in to our hero in medias res, where he is "stuck" in a room in which a Friends rerun is on the telescreen and, this being a cultural version of Orwell's 1984, the Derb cannot turn away:

It's thin gruel….In fact, if you remove all the references to the sex act and its immediate penumbra of behaviors and dysfunctions (mating, dating, engagements, weddings, pregnancies, ED, PMS, etc.), it is pretty much clear water. Are you going to tell me that this is more mentally stimulating than the old Mary Tyler Moore show? Not to mention 'Cymbeline,' or 'The Marriage of Figaro.'…"

Let's let the Shaxspere and Mozart references slide for the moment. As someone who remembers semi-fondly the old Mary Tyler Moore Show–the very definition of quality TV–and who was never a Friends fan, I'm more than willing to suggest that, in fact, the latter show is just as good as the former. Or, more important, the cultural moment we live in is better because you can still enjoy Mary Tyler Moore in reruns and catch Friends too (along with a bunch of other culture, etc., in ever more user- and maker-friendly circumstances).

Which is to say: Refugees from the "cultural left" and the cultural right are welcome at Reason. Here, they will find more, er, nuanced observations on politics and culture, such as Jesse Walker's reading of the current Corporation for Public Broadcasting brouhaha, which is excerpted in the Times next to the above authors:

The range of views on PBS is broader than both left and right usually prefer to acknowledge. (There's a reason why conservative critics of public TV focus on its documentaries, which are more likely to emerge from the left, while leftist critics cast their eyes on its talking-head shows, which tend to be more open to the right.) But if there's a perspective that dominates the network, it might best be described as "frightened liberal."

Jesse's whole bit is here.

NEXT: Locked, Loaded, and Untrimmed

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  1. It’s odd that they’d single out that passage from the Derb’s column, since his thesis is exactly the opposite – that in many ways, pop culture has vastly improved, intellectually.

  2. I’m leaving the left

    That’s a pretty neurotic way of looking at things. More sensible is to believe what makes the most sense to you to believe and not worry where that makes you seem to belong.

  3. Nick,

    Friends isn’t even in the same ballpark as MTM as far as quality entertainment. This from someone that was 3 when MTM left the airwaves.

  4. “That’s a pretty neurotic way of looking at things”

    belonging is important. it’s probably the most important part of political rhetoric. look at the batshit stupid snowballs flung every time a libertarian forms argument pops up (i.e. neo’s v. reason v. the LP etc etc etc blah blah poo)

  5. We tune in to our hero in medias res, where he is “stuck” in a room in which a Friends rerun is on the telescreen and, this being a cultural version of Orwell’s 1984, the Derb cannot turn away:

    Was this doofus wearing an orange sash at the time?

    [I]Are you going to tell me that this is more mentally stimulating than the old Mary Tyler Moore show? Not to mention ‘Cymbeline,’ or ‘The Marriage of Figaro.’…”[/I]

    Only an adherent to the Abrahamic school of superstition could think that artistic expression suddenly becomes garbage when filthy, wicked, un-Christian sex is involved. I’ll grant that [/I]Friends[/I] is hardly high art, but I blame that on hack TV writers, not sexuality.

  6. Derbyshire is such a pompous ass. I can’t stand reading the Corner because of him.. (and the incessant pro-life crap).

  7. Edit: I’m used to contributing to forums where “[]” are used for HTML tags.

  8. Take the gratuitous sex, the shittyng and fartyng jokes, and the anti-Semitism out of the Canterbury Tales, and there’s basically nothing left. Pop culture has been in decline since the days of Chucer, if not before. And don’t even get me STARTED on the filth in Ovid’s “Art of Love.”

  9. belonging is important.

    But it’s still neurotic! 🙂 There’s a place for belonging. But I think it reflects confused to thinking to respond to people on your own “side” saying things you don’t agree with or relate to by saying you’re going to “leave” that side. If you’re going to reject any POV that is embraced by wackos, you’ll end up having no POV, cause you can find a wacko associated with any POV out there. And that’s setting aside the fact that political affiliations as such often have little to do with specific POV’s anyway….

  10. Jennifer, I’m fairly sure there’s some gratuitous violence in the Canterbury tales, to.

  11. And here I thought the “pop” in “pop culture” stood for “popular,” and not “pompous.”

  12. Seriously, you should go to National Review’s homepage and find Derbyshire’s column it its entirety. It’s largely about video games making kids smarter. The Post cut and pasted the intitial “to be sure” ‘graphs, and ignored the old bigot’s thesis, which is quite libertoid-friendly.

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