Friday, April 15, 2011

Closed Minds

One of the criticisms I often face as a result of my reluctance to travel abroad anymore is that I'm denying myself the opportunity to expose myself to new experiences and cultures. Possibly true, I'll concede. However, I can't help but notice that most of the people who make this criticism are themselves being somewhat hypocritical. Time and again, in my presence, they have displayed a remarkable reluctance to open their own minds to the possibility of new experiences. Every time I mention anything to do with my love of Italian exploitation cinema, I'm curtly dismissed, with the clear assumption that these films are culturally worthless and not worthy of serious discussion. Frankly, if I tried to initiate a conversation about porn, I'd have more luck. The problem is that these films fall so far outside of the cultural and intellectual experience of these much-travelled and obviously therefore culturally sophisticated individuals, that they simply cannot grasp their virtues.

I daresay that if I tried to talk about more 'acceptable' cultural artifacts, such as the films of Visconti, the paintings of Michelangelo or the music of Beethoven, for instance, that would be OK, as these are all 'high art'. The problem is that 'high art' is frequently inaccessible to most people, both economically and intellectually. When I say that it is intellectually inaccessible, it isn't because I think that most people are too stupid to appreciate it. On the contrary, the problem lies with the artifacts - they are frequently tied up in allusions to other obscure art or texts, available only to a privileged minority. They are also, usually, incredibly pretentious, being primarily a 'statement' by their creators of their own 'brilliance'. The end result is that they are, deliberatly, only accessible to a minority, who can consequently congratulate themselves on their cleverness. Of course, this cognoscenti want to maintain their elite status, so define as 'true art' only that which excludes, on as many levels as possible, as many people as possible.

No, at the end of the day, I'll take my 'popular culture' any day - it's ultimately far more honest, it's 'art' isn't self-conscious and it makes itself accessible to everyone. It' essentially egalitarian. A film like the Italian giallo Strip Nude For Your Killer is ultimately far more informative about the cultural attitudes toward women, sex and even birth control in 1970s Italy than a hundred films by Fellini. It's also far more watchable and entertaining. So, I'd like to say to my friends, open up your minds to a new experience and watch What Have They Done to Your Daughters. But they won't, of course. So I won't waste my breath. Instead, I'll spend part of my upcoming Easter break enjoying a retrospective of Lucio Fulci zombie movies...



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