culture

Clever Pretense

I’ve never been a fan of pretension. I’ve never been someone who followed trends or got into stuff because that’s what the cool kids were into (wherever in the global pantheon of “coolness” you were trying to fit in – whether that’s mainstream or music snob or blogger mommy or whatever).

That’s not to say I’ve never been into a trend or got into a scene that someone or some group got me interested in. Obviously, that’s how most of us find out what we’re into.

I just never stayed because it was the “cool” thing to do. I’ve always found those who bounced from one trend to the next to be ultimately boring.

Culture is like sex; you’re into what you’re into and as long as it’s consensual and not hurting anyone, do your thing. Best wishes to you.

I always found it a bit ironic that most hipsters and “cool” kids seemed to be almost determined entirely by the culture they were in rather than what they brought to the culture. People are more than geeks or goths or jocks or weirdo hipster indie music scenesters.

At least, interesting people are, and among them, there’s a genuine nature that tends to reveal itself. And you don’t have to be an expert in your chosen culture who can dictate minutaie about the scene to see it. You certainly don’t need to be a full scale art critic or need a university degree.

I don’t relate to art that’s trying to be clever. Lots of good art has elements of cleverness in it; see Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, for example, though it doesn’t need to be humourous by necessity. Chuck Palahniuk can also be considered clever or even pretentious at times, but there’s usually a point behind it that’s more important than being clever.

Artists more interested in being clever than in being honest hold no interest for me. Moulin Rouge, most modern art, Ween, The OA… all lacking in actual heart in the interest of being “clever”.

To me, being honest and being clever is the difference between being an artist and being an art critic.

An artist puts their soul into their work. Whether simple or comlex, whether layered or obvious, whether individual or collaborative, the message comes through. The heart comes through. The intelligence comes through.

Art critics are more interested in overanalyzing every detail to come up with a clever take. They’re more interested in looking smart than being smart.

I always wonder what’s beneath the cleverness. What’s beneath the pretension.

Is there a person there? A personality, begging to come out, to be given air to breathe outside of all the posturing? Is there someone who just wants to be loved for who they are, to jump up and down excitedly about the things and people they love, to go and create something they feel passionate about, instead of being all bundled and pent up, playing gatekeeper for themselves and others?

How would these people behave if they didn’t have to read the “right” books or listen to the “right” music or wear the “right” clothes?

Who would they be? Could they open up and be something?

Or is it just void, learning trends by rote to avoid anyone realizing they’re little more than a shadow, a floating mass of air in a faux ghost bedsheet, hoping we won’t notice it’s not for real?

It’s not too late, I suppose. I’ve seen it in some. Kieron Gillen in the Phonogram era is one of the most egregious examples I’ve seen, but as of The Wicked + The Divine, he’s evolved enough to see people behind the constructs. It’s not just about being clever. It’s about the relationships.

And it makes for a much better story. There’s more depth to the characters and our emotions toward them are deeper. He still uses cleverness, still seethes with pretension, but there’s something more there.

It’s not just some wanker whining about how there’s not enough Pulp and naming off as many obscure Britpop bands as he can work into the script.

After all, how else would anyone know how cool you were? How into the scene?

How utterly… exclusive?

And that’s what pretension is. That’s what being clever for its own sake is.

It’s exclusion of everyone who isn’t like you. It’s the pettiest kind of bigotry – bigotry based solely on a random sampling of utterly subjective and usually hive-minded opinions posing as individual preference.

I prefer my culture inclusive.

My culture says, here I am, I’m a thing. You might be into me, you might be not. If you are, yay! Come on in and join us. If not, that’s cool too. I hope you find something that feeds your soul.

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