The Tragedy of Today's Art

And Why Art Matters

October 22, 2021

So apparently Disney's latest great idea was "What if we made Home Alone but British," and now they are making a movie set in 2021 that does not make any sense in 2021 because cellphones exist, of course I don't actually care about this and neither should any interesting person, I don't pay attention to terrible movies coming out I only learned about this through a rant on a podcast I listened to the other day but it has given me the excuse to talk about something that I have meant to for a while now. Of course I've written about bad movies before and last month I broke down why I believe bad movies keep getting made but what is more important is what the fact that these terrible movies keep getting make says about our culture, but it extends much farther than the film industry.

Of all the bad movies remakes are the worst, they are almost never any better than the originals and I've never understood why someone would want to watch a different version of a movie they've already seen, but remakes and things based on things which are already popular are the ones that end up being the most successful no matter how hard a studio tries. Ten years ago Disney hadn't quite figured this out yet and in 2012 they released John Carter which was based on a quite old series of books. I've never actually seen a single John Carter of Mars book nor have I ever heard anyone other than my dad talk about the books, he was quite excited for the film since he had read them growing up and I remember him taking me to the theater to see it and the movie turned out to be really good, I rewatched it a few years ago and I will still say that it is a good movie, but when we saw it in the theater there was almost nobody there. John Carter flopped, Disney lost a few hundred million dollars on it because it was not a movie based on something that was already popular.

All the movies that people talk about today are either remakes, sequels, or parts of bloated cinematic universes and all of the exceptions to that rule spawn at least one of those three things, the same is even beginning to become true of TV serieses. But what about the books that people talk about these days? And I'm not talking about books book nerds talk about (since film nerds also talk about different things) I'm talking about the books that people reference these days when they are having a typical conversation or they are presenting some sort of information or opinion. George Orwell's 1984 is the book I hear talked about most often these days, of course there is good reason to talk about it these days, but 1984 is over seventy years old, is there not anything more recent than 1949 that compares to it? We can of course look at other books too, Brave New World, which is often discussed in the same way 1984 is, was first published all the way back in 1932. Fahrenheit 451, which I recently recommended to you all, was published in 1953. Why is it that the books we talk most about are this old? Are there no new books being written that are comparably insightful?

Fortunately the answer to that question is yes but sadly few people take the time to realize it. In an earlier post I briefly mentioned the philosophical value of the Hunger Games books. Hiding underneath the teenage drama and the absurd practice of forcing children to fight each other to the death for entertainment are clear political messages that are incredibly relevant to our modern culture, messages everyone should hear. The Hunger Games series is incredibly political especially the third book but it seems that nobody has noticed, this was an incredibly popular series of books just ten years ago I knew several people who read them and yet my dad is the only person I've ever seen point out and discuss the actual message of the series' conclusion and, while I'm not actually talking about that message now, for many of you I am likely the first person to point out the true value of this series. There were several times within the last two years where events from the Hunger Games were directly analogous to current events and nobody brought it up. What use is art if we fail to learn from it?

And what use is making art if all the stuff that gets attention are remakes and sequels? Is it worth the effort to make good art in a time when there is little to distinguish the work of a human and the work of a machine? What is the benefit of creating something that may never gain widespread praise even if it is worthy of it?

We should always remember that making good art is always useful, worth the effort, and beneficial to society. A good indicator of a healthy culture is the quality of its art, if the art sucks then the culture sucks and I hope we can all see that most of today's art simply sucks, a thriving culture produces original and praiseworthy art and we don't have much of that now, we are not a thriving culture.

But we should not loose hope and we should not discourage others either, if we want to live in a culture with good art then we should work to create good art, or at least support people who are, this is a part of the reason I joined a webring, so that I could support others who are doing their small part in, at least trying, to improve our culture through creating their own content, I of course don't 100% agree with everything that everyone there makes and I don't expect they all agree with everything that I post, but such is the nature of the world, the goal of getting everyone to agree on everything is what has given us such terrible art these days, art that is void of new ideas.

And I guess that's what I started this whole rant with, a lack of new ideas in popular culture. (You can probably tell this has taken me a week to write, usually I write everything in one sitting which helps everything stay coherent) Books like 1984 were great, the original Star Wars movies were great, The Lord of the Rings was great, we don't need copies and knock offs of the great art of the past, we need new art, art that is just as great and insightful, art that has the potential to be greater than the great works of art we talk about now, art like the John Carter movie, art like the Hunger Games but instead actually gets discussed for what it is, we don't need to see Home Alone but British and with cell phones.