Thursday, January 31, 2008

ESD #2: celebrity and new criticism

Today at Starbucks, I saw whom I thought was McNulty from "The Wire." [Later, a closer look proved otherwise.] My immediate reaction was, 'What's McNulty doing at Starbucks? He should be at the Capitol Coffee House, or better yet, at The 21st Amendment having a pint. Oh, wait, is he on the wagon again?'

I then recognized the absurdity of equating the attributes of a character with an actor. But I often struggle with separating the two.

I get this trait from my mother. The first time I recognized this was when watching "Apollo 13" with her. Upon seeing Ed Harris on the screen, she reacted, "Ooh, I can't stand this guy." Since he plays a hero in this film, I was taken aback. I then realized that she will never separate Harris from his philandering character in "Places in the Heart". This has since been proven by watching numerous other Harris films with my mother (he's quite prolific). Harris could play God himself, and my mother would respond, "There's just something not right about him."

The website Molly Good posted a hilariously pretentious goth video by Jared Leto's band "30 Seconds to Mars" with a comment something along the lines of, "this will nail the coffin shut on your crush on Jordan Catalano." So, so true. When I was fifteen, like so many 15-year-old girls, I thought I was Angela Chase from "My So-Called Life". And her crush Jordan Catalano was the epitome of every crush I had in high school. But since then, having seen Jared Leto and Claire Daines in various interviews and gossip websites, I can't watch the show without thinking, ' man, those two are a bunch of tools.'

And don't get me started on Kirsten Dunst. The list goes on and on.

Likewise with musicians. Today I heard that Conor Oberst is endorsing Obama, and my immediate reaction was to vote for Clinton. In this case, I know nothing about Oberst's personal life; I simply can't stand his music. I reason that if this man creates music I abhor, there must be something wrong with what he's endorsing.

Much has been written on the cult of celebrity/advertising and celebrity, and I won't attempt to add anything insightful here. This McNulty anecdote simply reinforces my feeling that a new critic approach to art, i.e., viewing the art without its creator, would suit me well--especially with art that's precious to me. If I had the foresight not to watch Leto's shitty video, I could think of Jordan Catalano sweetly singing "I Call Her Red" without picturing Leto in excessive eyeliner earnestly singing about "the battles of our youth."

Perhaps my hope in new criticism is naive, and I should embrace the complexity of art and its interaction with the creator and the consumer. I'll explore this more in a future post about Sufjan Stevens. But for now, if you hear that Sufjan kicks puppies and votes Republican, don't tell me, OK? I'd prefer to remain blissfully ignorant.

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