3 dic. 2010

After yesterday's post, something not quite so controversial:

(Well, I hope it's a little bit controversial so I can get 15 or 20 comments.)

We like our sprinters fast, our professors erudite and distracted, our poets self-involved and tragic, our movie stars glamorous. We like our violinists to be virtuosi, our sopranos to be divas.

We like for people and things to conform to our expectations of them, and usually they do. If they don't, we hardly notice, or we assign them to other categories. We kind of get the reality we deserve: a reality that conforms exactly to ideology.

I don't know quite what to call this effect. Ideology? On one level, it is a taste for the loud, the bombastic, and the stereotypical or larger-than-life. This taste cuts across any sort of cultural divide, in that we want our MMA fighters to be fierce but our violinists to be show-offs too. People, even the most sophisticated people, are attracted both by extremes and by things that are true-to-type. It is hard to argue with this, because--shouldn't the sprinters be the fastest runners, by definition? The race actually is to the swift.

Paradox is the anti-ideological move. Barthes used to define it as something "against the doxa." In other words, not just something inherently contradictory, but a direct challenge to conventional beliefs or Flaubertian idées reçues.

I myself feel the pull of that old sweet ideological strain, of the doxa. It is tiring to be against what other people think all the time. Sometimes I just like some bombast or football.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't be me if I always embraced all that to the full extent. I like to hold back or to explore other models, like the music of Morton Feldman, which is quiet and non-dramatic.

9 comentarios:

Clarissa dijo...

"We like our sprinters fast, our professors erudite and distracted, our poets self-involved and tragic, our movie stars glamorous. We like our violinists to be virtuosi, our sopranos to be divas."

-Here you are conducting one of the most basic ideological manipulations: attributing your own preferences to an undefined "we" and then constructing an argument on the basis of this unproven and highly manipulative assertion. This ideological trick might turn out to be very successful because you are relying on people's perennial and illogical need for a collective identity. That's how most ideologues work: promise people a "we" and an "our", and you can do whatever you want with them.

Clarissa dijo...

Just wanted to clarify that my comment was meant to be facetious.

Jonathan dijo...

Glad to know. I wouldn't have guessed!

(That was facetious too.)

Vance Maverick dijo...

I'm confused by your opening. Some attributes are in the job description (fast, erudite, virtuosi), and some are associated inessentials (distracted, self-involved, tragic, divas). Are you making the explicit claim that these two categories can't be distinguished? That wanting a professor to be erudite is just like wanting her to be distracted?

(Well, "virtuoso" can mean "plays well" but also "shows off" -- one entry in each column.)

Jonathan dijo...

If I have to explain it, it means I didn't achieve the effect I wanted, but here goes...

Well, that slippage you correctly have noticed was what I was after. To say that we want a wide-out to be able to catch the ball is trivial, but we also want him to be somewhat arrogant and egotistical. The way we want Frida Kahlo to be a tortured artist has to do with the personality type of the tragic artist. We don't want to see the film about the non-tragic female creator.

What you call non-essential traits are parts of the stereotype (shorter answer.)

Vance Maverick dijo...

There may also be a slippage, as Clarissa says facetiously, in your use of "we". And thst seems like it's your real point.

I try to keep my love of music and admiration of flashy stage presence (bzw. love of painting and sympathy for tragic lives) in different containers, but I acknowledge that's neither fully possible nor self-evidently important.

Clarissa dijo...

"The way we want Frida Kahlo to be a tortured artist"

-I don't.

"We don't want to see the film about the non-tragic female creator. "

-I'm actually dying to.

Feeling very excluded from your group of "we" and wondering how one gains access to it. I mean, are these some actual people that you surveyed?

Jonathan dijo...

You should feel excluded! That's good company not to keep. I thought "we" agreed that we were being facetious? I hate the tragic artist bullshit more than (almost) anyone. Maybe you hate it even more.

When I say "we," I mean the fact that those are the movies that in fact get made and seen. Kahlo, Plath, etc... I certainly am not part of the we at all, except insofar as I confess some tendency to ideology, the same as the next guy. When I recognize myself falling for it I step back from it. That was the point of my post. The "we" was a provocative gesture, because it I said "Most people..." that would be kind of a dull way of making the point. That 1st person plural pronoun forces the reader to either associate or dissociate from this list of preferences. I thought with your second comment that you were aware that those aren't my preferences at all? Sorry for the confusion.

Clarissa dijo...

"I hate the tragic artist bullshit more than (almost) anyone."

-Oh, I thought you were a tragic artist. Or at least a tragic academic. No? What a disappointment! :-)

Of course, I am aware of the point you were trying to make. I was just hoping that you'd end up taking to its "ultimas consecuencias" (I'm too tired to look for the English equivalent.) It's obvious that you wanted to make this a very suggestive post, and there are so many things to say about the workings of ideology.

Also, if I could make a general suggestion about this blog: it would be very helpful if you could enter the titles of the posts into the title box. This would make it easier to access the blog and notice interesting posts when they come up in one's blogroll. This is one of the most fascinating blogs I have discovered recently. The weird thing is that it's been in my blogroll for a while, and I never paid attention simply because the titles were not distinctly visible in the blogroll.

Mucho gusto, colega!