Smart stuff

Diane,

For once, instead of being all verbose and rational, and gently unearthing an argument like an archaeologist with a brush and pick, I’m going to go with my gut.  Today, we’re working with a jackhammer.  This is just a smear of feeling.  Because the people I want to hear this don’t seem to understand anything else.

When the hell did so many of us become so afraid of our brains?

Why do we have this stupid fucking knee-jerk reaction against things that are smart?  Why does Rex Reed not just dislike, but seem to actively loathe, Charlie Kaufman?  Why does Stephanie Zacharek, movie reviwer for Salon.com, use adjectives like “self-conscious” and “clever” as perjoratives?  Why would an Amazon.com reader describe David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” as “too smart for [its] own good,” and expect a casual shopper to understand without further explanation what that implies?

Why is it that anyone would be resentful of movies or television shows or books that aspire to be more than mere entertainment?  I use the word “resentful” purposely, because it’s not mere distaste, or even good ol’ honest hatred.  RESENT is exactly what it is.  Resent against ambition.  Resent against perceived acclaim, perceived artiness, perceived hipness.  Resent against jokes that aren’t about fat people falling down.  Resent against the idea that someone else – some nattering little group of Others – might hypothetically be part of a Secret Club that thinks they’re better than The Rest Of Us.

Resent got our last president elected… twice.  It runs very deep in this country. 

To all of you harboring this dark, monstrous resent: smarten up.  I mean that literally and otherwise.  Don’t be afraid to use your brain when you engage with art or entertainment.  For that matter, don’t be afraid that the two might cavort and frolic and fornicate with each other – might make little mutant art/entertainment babies with the head of Shakespeare and the heart of John Grisham.  It’s not all a diabolical conspiracy between liberal college-educated elites to pat each other on the back for how damn smart they all are; it’s just that those people aren’t fearful of getting smart in their art (like getting chocolate in your peanut butter, if you ask me). 

But you are.  Why?

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