So I’ve made the actual argument many many times, and you’ll ding me for linking to some random Tumblr, but this is too perfect. At Pyrrhic Comedy, there is this picture of a bunch of tween types in the Rijksmuseum, checking their cell phones instead of looking at The Night Watch. The big reveal is that they shouldn’t be judged because they are actually using the app for the museum. Which, OK, whatever. Great. That’s the kind of lame, fortune cookie “wisdom” that the internet ladles out endlessly. Peep the text:
“That’s what irritates me about this particular strain of elitist dickwankery. Explain how exactly it says anything negative about me if I care more about Dragon Age: Inquisition than whatever that painting is. It’s a pretty painting, sure. Of some guys, I guess. They’ve got hats, and the lighting is nice. But I can think of a dozen vistas in DA:I that were just as pretty. What else is that painting supposed to offer me? How is it relevant to me? Who are those dudes? Why should I care?
Elitist intellectuals keep insisting I should care about things like this painting, and sneering at me when I don’t, but why should I?”
This person, who has the mental faculties necessary to operate a computer, is claiming that “elite intellectuals” are constantly pressuring him to appreciate Rembrandt.
We’re not even talking about, like, you should try a black and white movie sometime. We’re talking about Rembrandt. Let me ask you, denizens of the internet: are you finding it difficult, these days, to get away from that constant pressure to appreciate Rembrandt? Do you find yourselves deluged under all of the Rembrandt coverage online? Do you feel left out by the constant in-depth conversations about Rembrandt on Twitter? Are you getting a little tired of all those Rembrandt-based memes and reference humor? Does your daily browsing experience involve constantly having to click away from heavy-handed Rembrandt coverage, frustrated with the endless stream of bloggers and aggregators, taking advantage of the latest Rembrandt-related fads? That Rembrandt clickbait! So incorrigible! I mean, lord knows, video games are currently a purely niche aspect of our culture, one that you barely hear about in journalism and commentary, which totally aren’t economically dominant or critically ascendant. Rembrandt, on the other hand. That’s the gravy train.
Take it from someone in the actual higher education system: there is way, way more video games in academia now than Rembrandt. I like video games fine, I really do. But if I didn’t, I could not function in the contemporary humanities. To the degree that any subject can be hot in the humanities under current labor conditions, video games are as hot as it gets. They’re getting job lines and conferences and special issues of journals. And in the way this dynamic always goes, there’s still this persistent notion that video game people are disrespected. It’s the same old two step: “my preference for geek art and media puts me at the heart of the culture and the economic engine that exists to serve it, but I still don’t feel respected, so therefore I’m oppressed and you have to put up with all of my bad behavior.” And as this gentleman is once again demonstrating, facts simply have no bearing whatsoever on this dynamic. It doesn’t matter how ignored and marginal the “high culture” you deride is, or how ludicrously praised and popular the “low culture” you celebrate is. You always get to posture as the underdog, and to treat being the underdog as a get-out-of-jail-free card for acting like a jerk.