Sage Advice 84: Cultural Legitimacy

One of the best parts about culture is judging. You get to say whether something is good or bad just based off the previous things you thought were good or bad. It’s really fun. The interesting part about judging is considering how valid the thing you examine is after you deem it terrible. If something is considered a poorly executed piece of expression, does it even get to be considered part of our culture? Is every expression a legitimate investigation of the social conscious of our times? Is it okay to say Two and a Half Men is the television equivalent of cancer?

Subjectivity. I guess that’s what it comes down to. However, I still question if there’s a chance of a particular expression being universally rejected as sincere art or culture. Certainly, at some point in time, there had to have been something someone did that just about everyone hated. Like maybe when cave-paintings started to get big, there was one Neanderthal who drew a picture of a mammoth that made everyone else in the village think he was just being ridiculous. Maybe the mammoth’s tusks were drawn all crooked and weird and the texture for the fur was just smudged and bland looking. All of his caveman buddies were like, “Dude, seriously? You can’t even get a picture of a mammoth right? How are people supposed to know what they look like generations from now if you’re fucking up the most basic details?” And he was all, “You just have to imagine the mammoth. This piece only gives as much as you’re willing to take.” Then the other cavemen called him a pretentious cunt and threw him into a bonfire.

But that crappy imaginary mammoth situation I made up back there was still representative of some aspect of that particular culture. Sure, when you consider society as a whole, maybe picking the mammoth with stupid tusks and dumb hair isn’t the best choice, but it is still showing someone’s thoughts and ideas at the time even if it was counter to the general understanding of a mammoth.

That’s why it’s difficult to completely brush aside any expression I find poorly constructed. I may not like it, but that’s someone’s expression or understanding of the universe. Isn’t there something to be said of that, even if that person’s understanding of the universe sucks?


-Matthew Fugere

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