Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Invisible Hand of the Market Continues to Dominate You

In previous entries I have suggested that if we do not determine aesthetic standards and apply them to art works diligently, if we do not assert values the market will do it for us, or rather, to us and our culture. I said this in relation to watching and reading Žižek , because I think his aesthetics lack evaluative terminology, or rather, since the whole of his thought is aesthetical, as one of my philosophy professors once told me speaking of Nietzsche, he does not develop specific terms of aesthetic judgment. I argue with friends and colleagues about Žižek's writing on film, and they continue to remind me that he does not do film criticism; he uses popular film to illustrate Lacanian ideas. I continue to assert that this does not excuse him. Žižek is one of the most prominent intellectuals alive who writes about film. He has a lot of influence in other words. I am certain that he could put together a course in Lacan that would elucidate some of the most sophisticated aspects of his theory entirely through a study of Hitchcock. This is well and good, but I still wonder at what point does it become yet another class devoted to the single most studied and most overrated filmmaker in the history of the medium at the expense of a chance for students to see Ozu, Akerman, Dreyer or Bresson?

Last night I was talking to a colleague about his summer course on the Vampire Film. He tells me its a theory course. He tells me that vampires are the hottest thing going these days, and it is a good way to introduce students to various ideas. Again, it is well and good to introduce students to “important” ideas, by which I'm sure he means the ideologies popular throughout academia – feminism, Marxism, identity politics etc. At some point, however, film departments teach nothing but these courses. The ideas of individuals such as the filmmakers listed above no longer matter. More importantly, we no longer teach how to relate to art properly. And if you don't think this is a case of the market determining cultural values, consider that my colleague told me, “Look, I don't want to teach Vampire Film, but I have to offer something that will put butts in seats. The difference between six and twelve students taking my class is two thousand dollars in my pocket.” Yes, the university pays its instructors per student. Do I have to explain why that is fucking obscene?

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