Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Your taste in everything is problematic

On the relatively recent phenomena of devaluing someone else's taste, in literature and music especially, as "elitist" and therefore, problematic (gah, can we get rid of this word, please?) Freddie DeBoer asks:
Why is this belief that everyone else is a poseur so endemic to the internet era? Why has the hipster, whose tastes are seen as inherently affected, become a figure of hate on par with serial killers? There’s never been a time when it’s been easier to discover niche interests and to celebrate uncommon tastes, and yet I am amazed by the abundant anxiety that the presence of other points of view have engendered. If the slogan of the internet era is “You’re Doing It Wrong,” we should be honest in admitting that this is a more subtle expression of “I’m doing it right.” This at a time when the sheer abundance of human behaviors and preferences should be expected to undermine the very notion of “doing it right” entirely. Why has a set of technologies that allow for the expression of limitless diversity in tastes become a tool for enforcing aesthetic consensus?
This rise in "populism is good" exists because the predominant narrative on the left says that power gained through race, gender, sexuality, is bad and therefore art made by those who posses that power is inherently flawed or, at least, deserving of intense scrutiny.

Earlier this year, when Beck won the best album grammy over Beyonce, it neatly played into that narrative. And ten or even five years ago, I might have agreed. My generation's class of rock critics labeled music made largely by men with guitars "art" or, at least, possessing an authenticity absent from pop music (dominated by women and people of color). I don't want to get into an argument about what's "real" or true and what isn't, but that kind of criticism is being phased out, due in no small part to the leftist narrative of power-privilege that's become too common in cultural criticism.

It's no secret I'm not a huge fan of pop music. Having to write about it, think about it, critically has made me less jaded, but my playlists are chockablock with white boys with guitars. It's reflective of my age or class background, and probably not likely to change anytime soon. I get it: my taste are problematic. My favorite musician is a chronically insecure middle-aged white guy plagued with anxiety and agoraphobia strong enough to keep him from touring for years at a time. But I've also gotten the opportunity to meet him, and not flanked by hanger-ons and media types, but a small group of die-hards. If that's elitism, I'll take it.