Thursday, May 17, 2012

Downward Mobility

Trumwill wrote a couple of posts on political tribalism that are worth reading in their entirety.  The context was the issue of “artistic integrity” as applied to (or rather, against) CleanFlicks, a company that issued family-friendly versions of movies until sued into submission.

I commented:

The references to “artistic integrity” brought to mind something I thought about a lot at the time, but lately not so much. When I was a HS Junior, our school produced the play You Can’t Take It With You, by George Kaufman. It was a small school, so everyone had a part. I played Tony Kirby (ironically, the romantic male lead - I didn’t say we performed it well).

The play is devastatingly funny, and while nowadays I recognize it to be an anti-WASP screed, we certainly had a good time with it. But the school required us to purge it of all “objectionable” material, i.e. any references, however oblique, to sex, alcohol, dancing, non-Christian religion, etc. You might not think a play from 1937 would have anything bad in it, but you underestimate our censoriousness.

Pretty central to the play is its open advocacy of a drop-out-kick-back-enjoy-life attitude. At the time, I thought this advice to be, at best, a little silly. I also thought that some of the “objectionable content” left on the cutting room floor might be organically related to it, and I was peeved at school officials for being so obtuse as to embrace the attitude but then squelch an understanding of where it might take you.

Looking back on it, I guess I was kind of invested in the idea of “artistic integrity”, though from the negative perspective in this case.

Since I didn’t want to offend Trumwill’s commenting standards, I reserved elaboration on the bolded section for this post.

This was my climatic soliloquy:

"No, I want to talk about it now.  I think Mr. Vanderhof is right- dead right!  And tomorrow I won't be coming to the office.  I've always hated it and I'm not going on with it.  And I'll tell you something else. I didn't make a mistake last night. I knew it was the wrong night. I brought you here on purpose, because I wanted you to wake up!  I wanted you to see a real family; as they really were.  A family that loved and understood each other.  You don't understand me. You've never had the time!  Well I'm not going to make your mistake. I'm clearing out!...  I'm not going to be pushed into the business just because I'm your son.  I'm getting out while there's still time...  I don't know, maybe I'll be a swing dancer, but at least I'll do something I want to do!"

This pretty much sums up the play’s message to its 1930s audience:  leave the commanding heights of industry, built by your fathers, to others in favor of . . . swing dancing.  Or something.

Whatever its merits, it never seems to occur to anyone that this advice, issued by people with names like Kaufman to the sons of men with names like Kirby, might have been, you know, a little self-interested.

Steve Sailer quotes from the movie Metropolitan:

Take those of our fathers who grew up very well-off. I mean, maybe their careers started out well enough, but just as their contemporaries really began accomplishing things, they started quitting—'I’m rising above office politics,' or refusing to compete and risk open failure . . . or gradually spending more and more time on . . . conservation or the arts, where even if they were total failures no one would know it.”

How’s that working out for you lately?


Justin said...

Well, there is only one top rung on a ladder. The status-competition games has a lot more losers than winners.

Anonymous said...

I remember the discussion over CleanFlix/ClearPlay and was "surprised" how those who would normally celebrate the remix/reuse culture suddenly found an interest in copyright and artistic integrity.

I think this is similar to those who celebrate "edgy" stuff that "challenges our assumptions". . . unless you are talking about, say, sex or race differences. Then, all of a sudden, challenging assumptions and being "edgy" is no longer entertaining.

I have some sympathy for the artistic integrity argument, but not a lot. These companies, producers, and directors are perfectly willing to allow altered versions of their movies for TV and airline use. Indeed TV generally involves gross altering of artistic content both because the pan-and-scan re-framing of shots, and editing of length to fit the schedule (and for content – television being more restrictive than video).

I think the fight against the technology was as much cultural as economic as it sounds exactly the kind of "mass customization" often celebrated by the same people.

Dr. Φ said...

Yeah, that was my reaction: how is this any different from what TV does? And if that's okay, why not this?

It really did come down to who/whom.

Joseph said...

It looks like Kaufmann was re-emitting earlier propaganda from people with relatives named Kirby.