Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Aesthetic "value" in Pop Culture

In a post on Reading Experience, responding to a piece on TV adaptations of literary classics HERE

I wrote as comment:

Just what is it that becomes "part of pop culture?"

Something stripped of its source--or any source. Neither film nor book. And this, evidently, is its real meaning--that it become common coin.

A cultural equivalent of money.

"Not something sacred," the reviewer said.

What does that mean? --but creating an abstract artifact, cut loose from the gold standard, leaving its value measurable only in terms of its currency of exchange.

But unlike money, exchange can be made only with other equally empty cultural artifacts. Value is assigned when the artifact is given some temporary utility as a function for selling a real commodity, political or commercial.

Jane Austen's novels are not degraded by the films that draw from them, but by our according them value because they have demonstrated such success in selling films.

Every reviewer who pumps that bit of wisdom into the septic tank of pop culture, reinforces exactly this transvaluation--or devaluation.

In "pop culture", words don't create or destroy value: they reveal what we choose to value or disvalue.

If there is no escape from ideology, as Žižek demonstrates--what ground to criticize this diminishment?

None, but in the absence we find in the works themselves. In their Lack... In the silence that is their well of meaning--tainted, to be sure, by our very act of drawing it forth, but granting us, in that absence of meaning, a freedom we cannot own or subsume--but only live and respond to, again and again.

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