Not long ago, I was greeted with a certain amount of surprise to reveal to a pair of ladies that, back in college, I had enjoyed the first season and change of Gossip Girl– the surprise was for all the reasons you might imagine. I have a pretty long list of shows like this- shows that, for whatever reason, people think aren’t my cup of tea, but that I unapologetically enjoy.
Most recent of them is Riverdale, but The O.C. is another famous example. I like Riverdale enough that I considered putting a review of it up in the wake of enjoying my two posts on The End of the F***ing World, or tying a review of it into a general manifesto I hold true which is: like what you like (just be honest about what it is).
I think that manifesto need not be a full post. It’s okay to like schlock. Desperate Housewives, The Bachelor, Jersey Shore– whatever, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying these things. Acknowledge that they’re not “art” or height of culture, and make sure you get a balanced media diet around those things and it’s all good.
Yes, it’s easy to disparage “low art”- it’s a debate as old as art itself. I think the point people have a hard time admitting is that low art is valuable. For one thing, human beings throughout history are terrible at telling what art will truly define an age, or stand the test of time. Just look at the Oscars (there’s no shortage of stories where truly timeless classics lost out to “high art” accomplishments no one can remember), or even further back to the Salon De Refuses.
F. Scott Fitzgerald himself once said that a writer should write for the “youth of their generation, the critics of the next, and schoolteachers of every generation after.” Kurt Vonnegut was not highly regarded until later in his life, and didn’t achieve the kind of renown he currently occupies until close to his death (and it’s been increasing ever since even).
I’m getting a bit afield here, Riverdale is not Fitzgerald, but “critics” are also terrible about recognizing a Fitzgerald at the date of publication. The reason for this, I think is simple: a lot of intellectuals want art that they can put into their favorite prism and deconstruct through paradigms from their favorites like Derridas, or Heidegger. However, as a favorite art teacher told me once: “all those guys were doing is trying to explain why art makes a person feel a certain way, but that will never be anywhere near as important as art that makes you feel.”
So, if Riverdale, Gossip Girl, or even Arrow makes you feel something, then that’s an accomplishment you should rest easy enjoying. Someday the critics will catch up and be able to explain why and how it did that, but in the meantime: like what you like and keep up a balanced diet.