The Inquirer actually used a blog entry for its headline story today (April 11, 2011). Monique Wilson, in the blog post/Facebook note that was quoted, basically calls on her fellow artists to raise the standards of whatever medium they’re in.
I think it’s great that Monique is challenging people to come up with quality works. But we have to qualify that artists or media persons are not working on some ‘blank slate’ public. It is not so much that media is turning people into degenerates with poor aesthetic understanding, but that the content presented by media reflects pervading sensibilities.
GIVING PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT
It’s easy to blame TV networks, who garner high ratings precisely by producing ‘lowest common denominator’ material, but they are merely giving people what they want. You can go anywhere in the world, and TV is crappy in general. The popularity of Willie Revillame has its many parallels elsewhere.
BOTH RICH AND POOR ARE AESTHETIC IDIOTS
Socioeconomic conditions do influence to some degree one’s aestheticism, if only for the fact that the well-to-do have greater exposure to different forms of art.
Even so, it seems that most rich people are just as devoid of aesthetic breeding as the poor, but are less sincere about it. I much prefer the jeepney driver who listens to Bon Jovi, as opposed to the yuppie who listens to the Black Eyed Peas.
If it isn’t social class that determines aesthetic sensibility, then what?
It could not be denied that certain works of art are appreciated only by an elite group of individuals whose sensitivity towards aesthetic elements is especially pronounced. But this elite group could not be classified under race or social class, just as one could not predict which individual in a group of 10,000 is a genius.
‘Elitism’ has its negative connotations, but I don’t find anything wrong with it. In the vein of Bryan Caplan, anyone hoping to make a difference in the world has to be elitist. Otherwise, one would be conceding that the status quo is fine as it is, when it is not.
CHANGE NATURALLY HAPPENS OVER TIME
We could not expect all artists to suddenly come up with ‘enlightened’ works, just as we could not expect TV viewers to be able to appreciate more aesthetically refined TV shows simply by tuning in. So the burden of change is not simply with the creators, as Monique implies, but with society as a whole. The good news is, society could not help but change over time.
It is through the few exceptions to the status quo, whether as producers or consumers, that all intellectual and aesthetic progress in society occurs. Sustainable change surely happens, but slowly.
GAME CHANGER: THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Neither I nor Monique Wilson nor anyone else can predict how things are going to go for society in general, but we can at least be encouraged that with increased development and application of the internet, diversity of art works will expand. Even if shoddy works continue to persist, as they undoubtedly will, people will at least also have access to alternative channels.
Soon enough, it will not be so much the decisions of network executives that will determine what the masses are fed, when anyone’s channel is only a URL away. In fact, the concept of ‘mass appeal’ will not hold as much meaning, when numerous niche markets correspond to the variety of individuals’ tastes.
Small-time production companies may not have as much marketing muscle as the big guys, but the cost of producing and broadcasting online is cheaper, and the potential of ‘going viral’ is much higher.
TV is still the most important medium in the majority of households, but things will be very different within a decade from now.
GOVERNMENT’S ROLE IN FOSTERING ARTISTIC AWARENESS
Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy was also quoted in the Inquirer story, as she gave her two cents on the Willie Jan-Jan matter. She didn’t propose any legislation or anything, but the fact that a legislator spoke up is quite disturbing.
How could the minority of bureaucrats assist in the process of aesthetic refinement, when they themselves know no better? For them to think that they would know whom to subsidize, or what to promote, is the height of conceit, and legislation in this regard would only produce crony artists.
If one were so convinced that the government should provide assistance, why don’t we extend the government’s role in all other affairs? In news writing, for instance? After all, how pathetic is it when a blog entry on Facebook becomes a headline story (or maybe it has a more ominous significance for print media)? And maybe we should have taxpayers’ funds released to help improve blogs such as this colorful rag! After all, we don’t know to what extent I have ‘dumbed down’ my readers!
But no. There are no shortcuts to improving the lot when it comes to the arts, or in anything for that matter. Leave the government out of it.