gwalla (gwalla) wrote,

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Why I still read the paper

Dear Mick: What is it with these people who write to you, in effect, "I haven't seen the film, but how dare you trash it?" Have people's perceptions sunk so low that they are unaware that Hollywood has become better than ever in the brainless rubbish department? I see a great difference between the simply dumb, innocuous, generic movies of the past and the proudly, transcendently stupid products on the screen nowadays.

James Pendergast, Sonoma
Dear James: Stupidity used to be something to be embarrassed about. But we're going through a phase of stupid pride right now, and it pervades many aspects of our cultural life. People in power, with access to the media, have stumbled onto a great truth: Stupid people long to feel good about themselves. They want to be told that what they secretly suspect is true: that they're the ones who apprehend the big picture, while the supposedly intelligent folks are just nitpickers bogged down in meaningless detail. Since the stupid can't see the nuances, they prefer to believe those nuances just aren't there. That's why, for example, every stupid critic's favorite reference is "The Emperor's New Clothes." For the complacently stupid, that's the height of aspiration, to see and think like a child, a state they sentimentalize as clarity and virtue.

We see this in movies. We also see this in politics and religion. Appeals to reason are distrusted and discounted. Appeals to emotion and invitations not to think rule the day. Fifty years ago, the most famous television preacher was Bishop Fulton Sheen, a highly orthodox Catholic who, nonetheless, offered complicated Aristotelian proofs of God's existence and who insisted that thought, study and rationality were intrinsic parts of a religious life. Today, TV preachers say what politicians say: "Don't think, just listen to me, and you'll be saved. You'll be virtuous." The good news, sort of, is that eventually stupid pride produces situations so untenable that reality becomes undeniable. In the movie business, reality presents itself at the box office, and in a democracy, it's usually at the ballot box. But in Berlin, 1945, it didn't quite sink in until people were knee-deep in rubble. In any case, this delightful phase we're in will end, sooner or later, one way or the other.

— Mick LaSalle, "Ask Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic", San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 27 2006
Tags: essays & commentary

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