January 26, 2009

A New Age Approaches

The ever-brilliant John Kricfalusi (or John K., if you prefer) has just posted a very thoughtful essay on the conservatism that has pervaded in America for, oh geez, SO LONG NOW. While I couldn't agree more with his observations, I am one of those who believes that everything he is noting represents a chapter that is closing, and fast.
Our new President, Barack Obama, is setting the tone for a new era, a post-ideological era. He has promised to hear both conservative and liberal ideas, as he is primarily interested in "what works" regardless of what side the ideas come from.
I believe this is good news for culture. The ideological divisions that were previously in place created a division in the fabric of our culture. That's why Americans have had to choose between very safe and bland music, movies, cartoons, and tv shows and extremely edgy, dark, over-the-top music, movies, cartoons, and tv shows. One thing successful creators do is consider their audiences. When propaganda affects how we view each other and ourselves, it can muddle the artist's message, subconsciously or consciously.
The best art is deceptively simple. It is a pure expression of a desire to entertain and/or enlighten. Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" is not a song for conservatives, and it is not a song for liberals. It is a song for human beings, period. The main function of John K.'s own Ren and Stimpy cartoons was to make people laugh, and that is why they were so popular. When others took over the show, it went downhill because an artist's vision cannot be co-opted, only duplicated and degraded in the process. The later cartoons had plenty of gross close-ups and ridiculous situations, but it was all produced by rote, never a good replacement for genius.
In a conservative time such as the one we have been living in, the keyword is repression, the artists' enemy. That's why everything is a copy, and then a copy of a copy, and then a copy of a copy of a copy. A true artistic genius knows how to fold his influences together to create something wholly original. Led Zeppelin was influenced by Muddy Waters but they were not a copy of Muddy Waters, as they incorporated many other elements into their sound. The 80's band Living Colour had a great sound, but unfortunately that sound largely belonged to Led Zeppelin and is readily identifiable as such.
I detect a new wave of originality in the American ether. Visionaries that have not been given their proper respect will once again be celebrated and new talents will emerge. Just as conservatism and liberalism will fade and wither, so will art that is not really art, only copies of copies. Only great art remains with us ultimately. Somewhere tonight, the melodies of Bach are filling rooms around the globe. Someone is watching A Night At The Opera. Someone is teaching their child a Beatles song. Someone is reciting a line from a Dickens novel. Someone is not caring that the great song they are listening to was written by an African American, or a woman, or 50 years ago. Barriers have fallen. The declining economy will separate art and commerce in a much needed way. Greatness endures and this is the dawn of a new American Renaissance, perhaps the first Global Renaissance.. Now all that need matter is "what works", what makes us laugh, hum, cry, think, dance, and dream beautiful dreams.

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