As an avid consumer of media, editor of Arts & Entertainment, and current contemporary literary theory and criticism student, as well as any other clout-granting labels you can find, I have my opinions. I am also decently-versed in aesthetics and the difference between the concepts of “taste” and “preference,” I like to think. So when I see people making subjective judgements and perpetuating the divide between “high art” and “low art,” I have to chime in and make the case that those arguments lack merit and sound utterly snooty.
Now, I’m not going to say anything ludicrous like fanfiction is on the same level as Jane Austen novels; I’m not saying all efforts in the arts are to be regarded in the same value, but there is a threshold of skill, technique, and qualities that go into a lot more crafts than we give credit for.
Take the Academy Awards for example, which is what actually inspired me to write this piece. The debate that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has no place at the Oscars is not only baseless, but elitist in every respect. I saw a tweet that said Endgame and its actors should not be considered for an Oscar, but more for a Teen Choice Award at that. Sure, the Marvel movies are based off of comics (now this is a whole other debate within itself), they’re completely fictional (as most movies are), and they’re part of a huge franchise, which the Oscars seem to avoid for some reason, but that is really it. You can’t even say that the majority of the Marvel audience are children because that is not true. The only basis for an argument that these snooty critics have is that the MCU is huge in popular culture.
And why shouldn’t popular culture be considered when determining how remarkable a piece of art is? To be able to engage a large audience is not only applause-worthy, but a goal for many creatives; it’s what puts them on the map. One of the many weird facets in our society is this disdain toward popular culture, as if it’s for the numb-brained masses. Nobody wants to admit when they like a pop song, or that they listen to the radio at all. Everyone boasts about liking bands and artists before they made it big, if they do at all, as if it’s a competition and as if that’s not their favorite artists’ goals. There is this unspoken infatuation with the idea of a counterculture and a significant way it peeks through is with Hollywood.
The Oscars are one of the biggest classist, controlled apparatuses of inaccessible art. While I understand that it is an exceptional award to even be considered for and there is a team of many qualified individuals with taste who deliberate long and hard, but what about the hundreds, maybe thousands, of hard working crew members who are part of production on these giant blockbusters? The genre of a film has nothing to do with the skills of these professionals. It is almost a practice of erasure to deny the work that went in to a movie that grossed over $850 million in the U.S. and Canada alone.
So, I guess my unpopular opinion is that the popular is not so bad. Huh.