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Sunday, October 4, 2015

A. O. Scott's Ode to Snobbery

"Urban Dictionary helpfully cites Paris Hilton and the Olsen twins as examples" of snobs, but I have no idea who those people are.

Before I dart off to hear some music from the Spanish Renaissance, let me direct you (although surely you've already read it) to New York Times film critic A. O. Scott's defense of snobbery, at least in the arts world. Scott, who was once accused by TV's most popular movie critic 1 of being too lightweight for the Times job, defends his tastes and attitudes admirably.

I look up in admiration at models of artistic perfection, sound judgment and noble achievement, and I look down on what I take to be the stupid, cheap and cynical aspects of public discourse.
A pretty straight-forward attitude, until you're talking with someone who admires what you find stupid, cheap and cynical. Then you're a snob, who, as Scott summarizes Pauline Kael's description, "like[s] the right movies for the wrong reasons, seeking affirmation of [your] prejudices and assumptions rather than real challenges or true pleasures." The Kael essay Scott references (of course I've read it, hasn't everyone) is devastating to one who considers him- or herself a connoisseur or aficionado (no English words will suffice, and I misspelled them both on the first try). The trap door is that Kael uses as a primary example the director Michelangelo Antonioni and his audience, a director in my opinion vastly overrated, someone only a snob would love (for the wrong reasons).

As for me, I'm with Scott (you're welcome). My tastes just don't align with the popular. I think a lot of popular things are terrible. I don't, as the snob would, think things are terrible because they're popular. I don't think this makes me special, I just poke around for interesting things, and if I find something, I see what else is there. I once heard something from the Spanish Renaissance that I liked and the tried to find some more. I'm no expert or scholar. Sure I have a degree in composition, but that really doesn't account for much (ask my boss at the insurance company). I can't even spell "renaissance" without using a spellchecker (and I copied and pasted it after the first use). But when your interests diverge from those around you, one always feels the sting of being called the s word coming. These days telling someone I'm not on Facebook gets the same reaction as saying I don't own a television (which I feel I have to follow-up with "but I do watch a lot of crap online", which is true by the way (see, there you are)). It's not that I think I'm better than you, I'm really just not interested.

P. S. - I swear I did not anticipate writing another post invoking Roger Ebert and snobbery when I wrote yesterday's post.

1I actually am a fan of Roger Ebert, although I sometimes find him too impressed by snobbery's cousin - pretentiousness. Only a snob would think Ebert's status as a TV star discredits his status as a critic. His memoir Life Itself is a good read, in case you haven't read it (but of course you have).

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