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October 16, 2012 6:39 AM   Subscribe


 
Why Camille Paglia is the Greatest Exaggerator of Our Time, by inturnaround
posted by inturnaround at 6:41 AM on October 16, 2012 [50 favorites]


Jar Jar Binks.

That is all.
posted by Wordshore at 6:42 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


This article is a lot more fun if you read it to yourself in a sing-song voice of dripping sarcasm.
posted by saturday_morning at 6:44 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Mustafar duel, which took months of rehearsal, with fencing and saber drills conducted by the sword master Nick Gillard, was executed by Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor at lightning speed. It is virtuosic dance theater, a taut pas de deux between battling brothers, convulsed by attraction and repulsion. Their thrusts, parries, and slashes are like passages of aggressive speech. It is one of the most passionate scenes ever filmed between two men.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:44 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jar Jar actually was brilliant, it became participant theatre, showing how easily masses will turn against, and even wish violence and death on an innocent.
posted by infinite intimation at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


shakes be trolling.
posted by The Whelk at 6:47 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


OMG, she's gotten to infinite intimation. INTERVENTION!
posted by IAmBroom at 6:48 AM on October 16, 2012


This seems like a clever troll. Or the result of a lost bet.
posted by yerfatma at 6:48 AM on October 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


It is one of the most passionate scenes ever filmed between two men.

In that regard, I would place Joe Gage as the greatest artist of our time.

Seriously, though—I don't get Paglia. She just strikes me as a gadfly without much substance. My raging misogynist most recent ex-beau thinks she's wonderful, but he also loved Jack Malebranche enough to buy and give away dozens of copies of his durf-ridden screed, so it just makes me shrug about Paglia. Is there something really amazing she's ever written available out there? So far I'm just not getting the compulsion. Even as effete socratic irony, it's not much fun to read her.
posted by sonascope at 6:49 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.

(And a reminder that Camille was the alpha of that particular epithet, at least in spirit.)
posted by delfin at 6:51 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who is the greatest artist of our time? Normally, we would look to literature and the fine arts to make that judgment. But Pop Art's happy marriage to commercial mass media marked the end of an era. The supreme artists of the half century following Jackson Pollock were not painters but innovators who had embraced technology—such as the film director Ingmar Bergman and the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. During the decades bridging the 20th and 21st centuries, as the fine arts steadily shrank in visibility and importance, only one cultural figure had the pioneering boldness and world impact that we associate with the early masters of avant-garde modernism: George Lucas, an epic filmmaker who turned dazzling new technology into an expressive personal genre.
Time for How Many Times Can You Be Wrong In One Paragraph!

1) "The" greatest artist?

2) "Normally" I wouldn't prejudice the question by choosing only a couple art forms to look at.

3) What does "innovation" and "embracing new technology" have to do with good art? That's a recent fetish that we probably need to start looking beyond in all fields. New ideas aren't necessarily the best ideas.

4) Why does the greatest artist have to be "visible" and "important" who "pioneers boldly" and has "impact"? Again, these smack of descriptions of a "world class" CEO, not art. (Not a "don't get your business in my art" comment but a "more money = better than" one.)

5) I will grant that some of ILM's original manual SF techniques might have been ground-breaking and therefore "new technology" in a sense. But all of Lucas's "new technology" since then (i.e. use of CGI and editing the old films) has been roundly derided.
posted by DU at 6:51 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Armond White is still a better troll
posted by Renoroc at 6:53 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


It seems that someone has a new book to sell!
posted by TedW at 6:53 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sexual Personae is a pretty interesting read. But the first comment here is spot-on. Exaggeration is her stock in trade.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's shocking that someone like Paglia wouldn't know that Steven Spielberg was brought in to consult on that big duel at the end of ROTS, and he even has an Assistant Director credit on the film for his work.
posted by hippybear at 6:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You lost me at 'Camille'.
posted by sutt at 6:56 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Looking forward to digging into this later. I always thought Sith was the strongest of the Star Wars movies, and Lucas seriously underrated as an artist. For all the out-and-out hatred he gets these days, people can't seem to stop talking about Star Wars. It has a huge hold on the culture no matter how much people like to congratulate each other for hating the prequels.
posted by muckster at 7:01 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Paglia were a food critic:

"Why McDonald's is the greatest cuisine of our time"

I used to enjoy her when she wrote for Spy, but while she was writing for Salon it seemed she often wanted to provoke for the sake of provocation. The comments sections on her articles there were more entertaining that the columns often were, with a mix of outrage and belittling snark that will be repeated in this thread, I predict.
posted by TedW at 7:02 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


From a Washington Monthly article about Paglia's recent interview in Salon:

'Here’s a modest sampling of some of her more risible comments in the Salon interview: Mitt Romney is “a moderate — like Nelson Rockefeller” and “an affable, successful businessman whose skills seem well-suited to this particular moment of economic crisis.” Obamacare is ” a massive, totalitarian takeover of the American medical system.” Conservatives are all passionate civil libertarians, and “protest against the surveillance state has, with only a few exceptions, been mainly coming from the Right and not from the Left!”'
posted by Eyebeams at 7:02 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I agree, wabbitwax, Sexual Personae is certainly her high water mark. Her chapters on William Blake and Emily Dickinson are superb and made me re-appreciate their work all the more.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:02 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


TedW: interesting.

NYTimes: Camille Paglia Visits the Met

WSJ, Paglia: How Capitalism Can Save Art

media push!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:03 AM on October 16, 2012


And she totally made Madonna.
posted by chavenet at 7:03 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, just because, Molly Ivins' epic takedown of Paglia and Sexual Personae.
posted by Eyebeams at 7:08 AM on October 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Paglia is a professional contrarian, always has been, always will be and none of her opinions should be taken seriously as anything other than a way to get attention/page hits.

To be fair, a lot of her readers are of course complicit in this, as they welcome such tailor made excuses to start foaming at the mouth, knowing full well the unreliability of her opinions.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:12 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]




I can't believe Jabba the Hutt was just squatting there in plain sight and she missed the opportunity to riff glibly on the Dionysian.

Camille, you're slipping.
posted by gompa at 7:19 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would so buy an art critic snake comic so hard.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:20 AM on October 16, 2012


Camille Paglia, professional troll... she's academia's Ann Coulter.
posted by liza at 7:24 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Considering this and her recent offering on Lady Gaga and Madonna(eternally) she really is nostalgic for the '80's.

I eagerly await her piece on how much more "rad" the Thundercats are to Yo Gabba Gabba.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:27 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would read a dual interview between Paglia and Reddit's ViolentAcrez.

We need a defence of upskirt photos that leans on the Classics.
posted by benzenedream at 7:27 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would read a dual interview between Paglia and Reddit's ViolentAcrez.

Paglia would denounce ViolentAcrez, but she would do it with such rhetorical penetration that it would be the most forcefully passionate Gawker article of all time.
posted by dubusadus at 7:30 AM on October 16, 2012


For those who don't click on Eyebeams' excellent link, here's Molly Ivins nailing it:
Ms. Paglia’s contention is that “the history of western civilization has been a constant struggle between … two impulses, an unending tennis match between cold, Apollonian categorization and Dionysian lust and chaos.” Jeez, me too. I always thought the world was divided into only two kinds of people — those who think the world is divided into only two kinds of people, and those who don’t.

You think perhaps this is a cheap shot, that I have searched her work and caught Ms. Paglia in a rare moment of sweeping generalization, easy to make fun of? Au contraire, as we always say in Amarillo; the sweeping generalization is her signature. In fact, her work consists of damn little else. She is the queen of the categorical statement.
Emphasis mine. I'd make it blink if I could. It's fair to say that Camille Paglia is the greatest sweeping generalizer of our time.
posted by gompa at 7:31 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is an interesting article. Thanks for posting it.
posted by George Lucas at 7:32 AM on October 16, 2012 [21 favorites]


The folks who work for Buzzfeed, et al should pay attention.

Paglia knows how to sell paper... er generate page views.
posted by notyou at 7:33 AM on October 16, 2012


Someone is wrong on the Internet.
posted by tommasz at 7:37 AM on October 16, 2012


I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Yes, sir.
Are you listening?
Yes, I am.
Pageviews.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:40 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


And now after having RTFA'd -- it reads like an intro to a chapter and not actual cultural criticism and analysis.

Too bad. I wanted to see her support that title.
posted by notyou at 7:42 AM on October 16, 2012


I thought for sure that this would be the pullquote from Ivins takedown, since it's what I knew of it:

There is one area in which I think Paglia and I would agree that politically correct feminism has produced a noticeable inequity. Nowadays,when a woman behaves in a hysterical and disagreeable fashion,we say,“Poor dear,it’s probably PMS.” Whereas,if a man behaves in a hysterical and disagreeable fashion,we say,“What an asshole.” Let me leap to correct this unfairness by saying of Paglia: Sheesh, what an asshole.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:44 AM on October 16, 2012


Criticism of the Star Wars series has centered on its limited female roles and avoidance of sex; its paucity of black actors and its caricatured accents perceived as racist; and its sometimes wooden dialogue. Lucas says, "My films are basically in the graphics": "Everything is visual." He views dialogue as merely "a sound effect, a rhythm, a vocal chorus in the overall soundtrack."
And for many of us, this is why he fails. In 2012, movies are not just a visual medium. They tell a story through dialogue and cinematography. Taken as a whole, the Star Wars movies may be an intricate, visual masterpiece. But yes, they are badly hampered by immature dialogue, unsubtle real-world commentary, racist and sexist stereotypes, wooden acting (or overacting), and predictability. All are elements which have become more pronounced over time in his work, and to many of us, increasingly distracting.

These problems cannot and should not be brushed aside. For many of us, they're exceptionally important. We're being asked by Lucas to suspend our belief and immerse ourselves in his work. It's hard to do that when many of your actors seem to have just three modes: thoughtful, intense or anguished. Even his good actors (we know they're talented because we've seen them in other movies) are hampered by the AWFUL DIALOGUE. It's even more difficult or flatly impossible to suspend that disbelief when a Stepinfetchit caricature and racist Asian analogues get so much screen time. These choices are inherent to his movies, not an afterthought.

Of course, Paglia's schtick has always been sweeping, one-sided generalizations, provocation and concern trolling. So this is nothing new.
posted by zarq at 7:45 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is a trap! Camille Paglia has written this to find and collect others who agree with her premise so they can be rounded up and horded off for extermination, thinking no one will care for such cretinous fools.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:47 AM on October 16, 2012


munchingzombie: " I eagerly await her piece on how much more "rad" the Thundercats are to Yo Gabba Gabba."

Yeah, but in her defense, have you seen Yo Gabba Gabba? The show should come packaged with a case of whatever primo shit the producers were smoking, so viewers get the full effect.
posted by zarq at 7:48 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This isn't a perfect fit, but I think of Lucas a bit like Vonnegut's character Rabo Karabekian in reverse. When he is good, he is quite good. But his poorer work, while very skilled in the technical sense, is utterly lacking in soul.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 7:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a trap! Camille Paglia has written this to find and collect others who agree with her premise so they can be rounded up and horded off for extermination, thinking no one will care for such cretinous fools.

The proper formulation is "It's a trap!"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


whelk why are you drawing picturessss of me

hisssss
posted by elizardbits at 7:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best argument I can think of against a just God is that Molly Ivins is not still around and Camille Paglia is.
posted by emjaybee at 8:13 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


"[Palin] uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist" is something Camille Paglia actually wrote.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I actually agree with Paglia but her argument is far too conventional. Lucas is in fact a scathing satirist of consumerism! Her hagiographic response to his work is a kind of anti-satirical satire, or "dark side" if you will.
posted by Hugobaron at 8:26 AM on October 16, 2012


Why George Lucas Is the Greatest Artist of Our Time, by Camille Paglia.

Oh, Madge. To be dumped for George Lucas.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:27 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm less politically or aesthetically chagrined by Camille Paglia than just exasperated with her as a 1990s nostalgia act that just won't go away, like a Color Me Badd reunion tour.
posted by jonp72 at 8:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


She has gone full Orson Scott Card on me.
posted by zzazazz at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2012


Exhibit #125698758 in the ongoing case of a cold and unfeeling universe: The fact that Molly Ivins is dead and Paglia is still seen as relevant by more than her family.
posted by edgeways at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


For me, the the best takedown of Lucas' pedestrian vision is this piece by Anthony Lane, a cultural critic with a wit and wisdom Paglia will never have.
posted by Philofacts at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good lord, in what alternate universe is Camille Paglia still relevant?
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


You lost me at 'Camille'.

I generally disapprove of this kind of thing but no other response seems possible.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


And apparently she hasnt heard of stunt doubles either.
posted by Billiken at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2012


From the Anthony Lane review of Episode III (linked by Philofacts):

What can you say about a civilization where people zip from one solar system to the next as if they were changing their socks but where a woman fails to register for an ultrasound, and thus to realize that she is carrying twins until she is about to give birth?
posted by Eyebeams at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2012


Good lord, in what alternate universe is Camille Paglia still relevant?

the universe in which she still gets published, people still recognize her name, and people are willing to talk about her writing even if it is a dismissive fashion.
posted by edgeways at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thought for sure this was an Onion op-ed.
posted by fungible at 9:01 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or, the universe where Ann Coulter and Eric Erickson regularly appear on CNN.
posted by Eyebeams at 9:06 AM on October 16, 2012


Hi! I've had Camille Paglia as a professor for the past two years, think she's a combination of brilliant and ludicrous, and might be able to offer some context for people here wondering what the fuck she's smoking when she writes things like this.

Paglia's technique, both as a writer and as a professor, is to examine a subject from as many angles as she can possibly think to examine it from. A class on the femme fatale in early cinema will branch out to the evolution of the newspaper headline over a hundred years, a quick survey of Led Zeppelin's discography, and a discourse about news coverage in the Middle East. All in about five minutes. She's unbelievably quick, incredibly well-read, and can make intuitive leaps that are pretty staggering to witness.

However, and here's where she gets uber-lost in the translation, she feels that her job as a critic isn't to be correct so much as simply provocative. If she were to slow down and fact-check herself, she'd miss out on about fifty billion possible tangents and connections, so instead she plows ahead and tries to make as many interesting points as possible, trusting that even if people ultimately disagree with her, or especially if they do, they'll find enough to think about in the process that it'll be better for them than if they just read a well-rehearsed argument, said "Oh, that's smart," and moved on.

This is in keeping with that Apollonian/Dionysian dynamic she's so fond of. Her view is that while civilization and order is what grows our species, it's the wilderness and chaos and passion that fuels it, and that much of the art world/liberal society tries to set aside all the messiness of human life and advocate a neat, easy view of how things are that's too simple to really do anything with. So she feels that her job is to shake things up, to provide complex and weird opinions on things that are too well-reasoned to just snark away and dismiss. (She criticizes computers and the Internet, incidentally, for making snarky dismissal too easy, and for making it too easy to delude yourself into having those neat little opinions that never get you anywhere. She's not entirely wrong.)

She issues her every opinion as if she is the Most Correct Person Ever, but don't let the arrogance of her rhetoric make you think that she is an arrogant person. She's a tremendous reader and listener, and willing to engage nearly any tangent, no matter how poorly-formed, as if there might be a kernel of truth buried somewhere within.

But the problem, the frustrating back-and-forth she's had with critics for just about as long as she's written, is that critics will go after her tone, her theses, her snappy opening-and-closing remarks, when these are about the least important parts of her arguments. What matters are the arguments she makes to justify her bold silly ideas – the assorted concepts and worldviews and details which add up to a work of art, or a historical movement, being far too complex to summarize in a single remark or duality. For bravura's sake, she'll make these provocative statements to get people enraged, to engage them more fully in her thoughts, and she assumes that her critics will ignore the provocation and focus on the content – but they rarely do.

This Molly Ivins piece that's being linked here is a prime example. Ivins summarizes Sexual Personae, a massive and comprehensive text, by focusing on her opening statement, making a pithy remark, and then skipping ahead to some similar sweeping statement Paglia's made elsewhere, pithing, and concluding that Paglia is entirely overgeneralization and no meat. That's usually the critical approach to Paglia, except for the people who like and agree with her. So Camille has made the (incorrect) assumption that her opponents are stupider than she is, that they latch onto her bravura because they can't find ways to disagree with her real ideas, and that this is proof that what she's doing is flawless and wonderful and unparalleled.

This has led her to some stupid conclusions. And the problem is that her critics rarely step up to debate the faulty logic that leads to those conclusions: they point at the ending mark and laugh. Zarq's comment above about film not being a visual medium is a key point: it gets to one of Paglia's real weaknesses, which is that she's got a real focus on sensual art, on pure sheer sound and light. By those standards, Revenge of the Sith is a kind of remarkable film; by any other standards, it's a pile of sith. Same as how her criticism of Lady Gaga is basically that Gaga's being compared to Madonna when she doesn't do the interesting things that Madonna once did. Gaga's interesting in other dimensions entirely, dimensions that didn't (and couldn't) exist back in the 80s, but Paglia's still looking through about the same lens as she did when she started writing, in part because she's very rarely addressed by critics who point out the incorrectnesses in her worldview.

It's entirely understandable that y'all feel scorn for her, but it's a mistake to dismiss her as merely an uninformed troll. Ignore the provocative nonsense, ignore even her grand sweeping WRONGness. Focus instead on the specifics of the argument she constructs, and even though some of those are wrong too, there'll be enough interesting points made to keep you occupied for a while. I find that in the ideas I most disagree with her on – her remarks here about Lucas, or about Sarah Palin, or way back when about date rape – are the ones in which I find the most remarkable and engaging ideas, mixed in with some ideas that miss the point entirely. Though her books are much more worthwhile than her essays – basically, the more space you give her, the better she is, because then the ratio of grandiose to brilliant is way better.

Or, you know, ignore her as too much of an effort. That's fine too. Her approach isn't for everybody. But personally I've found her to be one of the most interesting and engaging critics writing today – not because she's right, but because her approach virtually guarantees some amount of wrongness, by virtue of its constantly seeking new perspectives, new understandings, new ways of de-pithing and de-neating and de-simplifying the world. She seeks the wilderness and the illogical, in the hopes that civilization and logic will be enriched by the struggle. And she's fantastically good at doing it, if you can get yourself to approach her works with that sort of perspective.

I'll take her over a dozen Anthony Lanes, no matter how enjoyable and agreeable I find Lane. I think Paglia's more properly matched with Pauline Kael, a similarly brilliant critic who had similarly batshit opinions – though I think Paglia's even a little more extreme than Kael was.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:13 AM on October 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


Philofacts: "the best takedown of Lucas' pedestrian vision is this piece by Anthony Lane,"

Hilarious. The entire thing is quotable.
"...General Grievous, who is best described as a slaying mantis....

...

The general opinion of “Revenge of the Sith” seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones.” True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion. So much here is guaranteed to cause either offense or pain, starting with the nineteen-twenties leather football helmet that Natalie Portman suddenly dons for no reason, and rising to the continual horror of Ewan McGregor’s accent. “Another happy landing”—or, to be precise, “anothah heppy lending”—he remarks, as Anakin parks the front half of a burning starcruiser on a convenient airstrip. The young Obi-Wan Kenobi is not, I hasten to add, the most nauseating figure onscreen; nor is R2-D2 or even C-3PO, although I still fail to understand why I should have been expected to waste twenty-five years of my life following the progress of a beeping trash can and a gay, gold-plated Jeeves.

No, the one who gets me is Yoda. May I take the opportunity to enter a brief plea in favor of his extermination? Any educated moviegoer would know what to do, having watched that helpful sequence in “Gremlins” when a small, sage-colored beastie is fed into an electric blender. A fittingly frantic end, I feel, for the faux-pensive stillness on which the Yoda legend has hung."
:D
posted by zarq at 9:21 AM on October 16, 2012


Well it was between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, but the race was neck-and-neck, so obviously Lucas won.
posted by xedrik at 9:32 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll take her over a dozen Anthony Lanes, no matter how enjoyable and agreeable I find Lane. I think Paglia's more properly matched with Pauline Kael, a similarly brilliant critic who had similarly batshit opinions – though I think Paglia's even a little more extreme than Kael was.

I once saw Pauline Kael at Brown University in the early 1990s, and she even acknowledged her similarity to Pauline Kael in the Q&A session. On the other hand, maybe the encounter with Paglia is what makes me think of her as a 1990s nostalgia act. She did occasionally sound refreshing back then when juxtaposed with the excesses of the academic left at the time. (Remember all the Newsweek and Time articles about "political correctness"?) But after 9/11, after YouTube, after Dubya and Obama, I just find her old hat right now. I mean, she wants to promote populist pop art that emotionally reaches the masses, but it sounds like she's tuned out of anything Top 40 since Madonna. In a way, it's almost as tired as listening to the guy at the classic rock station who thinks everything went downhill after Crosby, Stills, & Nash's first album.

In a way, you could view the decline of Paglia's career after the Nineties as similar to the decline in Kael's career after the Seventies. For both critics, they just couldn't write as convincingly or passionately when they stopped feeling buzzed and jazzed by the pop culture that surrounded them.
posted by jonp72 at 9:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Paglia's more properly matched with Pauline Kael

This is also known as "doubling down", as described in Jon Favreau's epic cinematic masterpiece Swingers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 AM on October 16, 2012


I'm four paragraphs in and Paglia has already defined Bob Dylan (singer-songwriter) and hot rods (brightly painted customized cars with souped-up engines) for the reader. Are these things not common enough knowledge so as to escape defining on first use? Did anyone else find that obnoxious?
posted by ben242 at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2012


MetaFilter: Ignore the provocative nonsense
posted by Egg Shen at 10:10 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


her criticism of Lady Gaga is basically that Gaga's being compared to Madonna when she doesn't do the interesting things that Madonna once did

With no criticism intended of either performer, I can't imagine what the professor might have in mind.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:17 AM on October 16, 2012


But the problem, the frustrating back-and-forth she's had with critics for just about as long as she's written, is that critics will go after her tone, her theses, her snappy opening-and-closing remarks, when these are about the least important parts of her arguments.

so . . . her theses are the least important part of her arguments? i don't even
posted by gorbichov at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paging Darth George Lucas. Darth George Lucas, please pick up the red courtesy lightsaber.
posted by etc. at 10:37 AM on October 16, 2012


Oh Camille, you so transgressive!
posted by benito.strauss at 10:53 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Paging Darth George Lucas. Darth George Lucas, please pick up the red courtesy lightsaber.

What is thy bidding?
posted by Darth George Lucas at 11:01 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do you like Phil Collins? I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where, uh, Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums.

Christy, take off your robe.

Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument.

Sabrina, remove your dress.

In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism.

Sabrina, why don't you, uh, dance a little.

Take the lyrics to "Land of Confusion". In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. "In Too Deep" is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as, uh, anything I've heard in rock.

Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole.

Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like "In the Air Tonight" and, uh, "Against All Odds".

Sabrina, don't just stare at it, eat it.

But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is "Sussudio", a great, great song, a personal favorite.
posted by Muddler at 11:06 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


However, and here's where she gets uber-lost in the translation, she feels that her job as a critic isn't to be correct so much as simply provocative. If she were to slow down and fact-check herself, she'd miss out on about fifty billion possible tangents and connections, so instead she plows ahead and tries to make as many interesting points as possible, trusting that even if people ultimately disagree with her, or especially if they do, they'll find enough to think about in the process that it'll be better for them than if they just read a well-rehearsed argument, said "Oh, that's smart," and moved on.

When I was 15, I realized the idiocy of the person who spouts a lot of bullshit and then responds to the replies that rip it apart with, "Well, I believe my original argument served its point, which was to provoke thought."

it's a mistake to dismiss her as merely an uninformed troll. Ignore the provocative nonsense, ignore even her grand sweeping WRONGness.

Provocative nonsense and grand sweeping wrongness is exactly what you would see in someone that would cause you to describe him or her as an "uninformed troll," don't you think?

You yourself admit that she has a facile and basic misunderstanding of what films are by thinking that they're exclusively an artistic visual medium rather than a vehicle to tell stories to a mass audience.
posted by deanc at 11:34 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do you like Phil Collins?

It's a bit of a shame that Paglia only likes women (Is Paglia still a lesbian? Find out—ed.) because any child out of a union with Bret Easton Ellis would be either terrifying or awesome.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:44 AM on October 16, 2012


Points to Muddler for his cogent argument on why Phil Collins is the greatest living musician of our times.
posted by klangklangston at 11:47 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


He'd be, like, the Franklin Richards of contrarianism.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:48 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Muddler's comment reminds me of Littlefinger's soliloquy in GoT. Great fun, if you read it in Mayor Carcetti's voice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on October 16, 2012


A little surprised that I haven't seen them yet, but here's David Brin's well-known "Star Wars vs. Star Trek" article, and a little bit latterday more.
posted by dr. zoom at 12:06 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lucas says, "My films are basically in the graphics": "Everything is visual."
Which explains why silent movies have dominated world cinema for most of the last century.

Sheesh.
posted by Gelatin at 12:15 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I once took a college course in art history with the specific personal goal of finally understanding why Mondrian is revered as an artist. The style he's probably most famous for is something that I could easily dismiss as being relative to that of the work a child might produce with fingerpaints. Pollock's work is probably a better target of that remark, but I find Mondrian's work more calming and ordered and therefore more appealing to me so that I'm willing to invest the energy in to learning what makes his work important.

What I was lead to conclude in this course was that artists like Mondrian and Pollock are important because they were the first to either deconstruct art or to present art in a way unlike anything that came before. And because of this people were shown new perspectives or new methods with which to interpret art and, through this, new ways to interpret reality.

They changed how people could look at the world.

Has George Lucas changed how people look at the world?

What I think Lucas did and which Paglia is, I think, correct in pointing out is that he instigated the development of many important tools and materials used in modern cinematography for both sight and sound.

So I would argue George Lucas was instrumental in expanding what is possible in cinema; he invented many of the most popular tools of modern cinema.

But Mondrian and Pollock did not invent the brushes or the canvas or the paint, they used the tools to express new forms of interpretation. Their creations were more than the sum of its parts, and that is what makes them great.

Is Lucas' contribution more than the sum of its parts or is it just the parts?

I don't know. I can't easily quantify my feeling in this space, but my gut feeling is no, he's just the parts. His (early) movies were very entertaining and all of his movies are, at least, visually entertaining, but when evaluated as art and not as entertainment I find his movies, with the exception of THX-1138, unimaginative and uninspiring as art.

Which then leads to the most subjective question there is: what is art? To which I can only answer that art is whatever you want it to be. So, to Paglia, Lucas is the greatest artist of our time while I feel he's less of an artist and more of a tool maker, and maybe both views are valid.

And as Rory Marinich said, Paglia is great for generating thought-provoking discussion and she certainly generated the most thought-provoking discussion I'll have today and to that end I'd say she's a success.

Completely wrong.

But a success.

For my money, I would say NASA as a whole is the greatest artist of our time. They certainly made the tools, but then they used those tools to give the world a truly new perspective on reality, and continue to do exactly that 50 years on. Be it the Pale Blue Dot or the Hubble Extreme Deep Field, I find their works life-changing.
posted by ruthsarian at 12:33 PM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I enjoyed the hell of of Sexual Personae, but I tend to agree that Paglia's still too hung up on the 90s. Combine this with her obvious attempts to play public contrarian and I can see why she annoys people. However, others have already noted that she enjoys being provocative, and I think her take on culture is at least interesting, even if you reject her conclusions. I have always liked how forcefully she gives her opinions, though. She's not afraid to stand by her ideas.

Seriously, though, Madonna is done. Get over it.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:51 PM on October 16, 2012


I enjoyed the hell of of Sexual Personae, but I tend to agree that Paglia's still too hung up on the 90s. Combine this with her obvious attempts to play public contrarian and I can see why she annoys people. However, others have already noted that she enjoys being provocative

I should note that being a "provocative contrarian" is, itself, a very 90s-era thing to engage in. It's kind of why Paglia feels so tired: she's rehashing a shtick that is 20 years past its prime. Maybe she, Mickey Kaus, and the staff of Andrew Sullivan-era New Republic can get together and form an online magazine where such stuff can be quarantined instead of leaking into mainstream online forums.
posted by deanc at 1:01 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I first saw Star Wars it was the greatest ever. And when I first read Sexual Personae it was the greatest ever. These two items are at the very top of a short list of most essential components of my schooling.

My current library does not have room for Ms. Paglia and my current DVD collection does not have room for George Lucas but I love them both very much anyway. Rory's comment I flagged as fantastic.
posted by bukvich at 1:02 PM on October 16, 2012


If nothing else, Sexual Personae led me to A LOT of art history-self-educating reading in High School. So there is that.
posted by The Whelk at 1:08 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a steaming crock of Shit Sandwich.
posted by dbiedny at 1:10 PM on October 16, 2012


I think you are very right, deanc, about the position of "public contrarian." Where is Dennis Miller these days?

I read the article by Molly Ivins linked above, and hoo boy, I'd forgotten just how committed Paglia's always been to opposing some sexless 70s straw feminist. Maybe that's why she hasn't yet emerged from the comfortable confines of the "politically correct" 90s, because she'd have a lot more to reckon with from current feminist thought than anti-porn crusades.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:36 PM on October 16, 2012


an online magazine where such stuff can be quarantined instead of leaking into mainstream online forums.


Isn't this what Slate is for?
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:44 PM on October 16, 2012


Sabrina, don't just stare at it, eat it.

I would like to see this scene recast with Patton Oswalt as Patrick Bateman, George Lucas as Christy and Camille Paglia as Sabrina. Then Oswalt and Lucas can redo this scene (both nsfw).
posted by homunculus at 2:40 PM on October 16, 2012


i am much smarter than this big name in cultural criticism, plus they're old
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:14 PM on October 16, 2012


Don't you mean Sith Sandwich, dbiedny?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 3:15 PM on October 16, 2012


Focus instead on the specifics of the argument she constructs, and even though some of those are wrong too, there'll be enough interesting points made to keep you occupied for a while.

Couldn't I just read internet forums instead? Being wrong on the internet is a very common pasttime these days. Granted maybe she's wrong about more interesting stuff than Vdroop and its relevance to overclocking on LGA1155, the quality of EK's nickel plating or GTs vs. AP121s.

But if we look at the essay at hand, we start with a lot of Horribly Wrong, take-the-safety-off-my-Glock-level (she probably cocks the hammer, too) pronouncements. And maybe in accumulation they may be impressive, and they might have been more impressive before Wikipedia was accessible. But to me they sound like the kind of crap I wrote when I was 17 and spreading my culture way too thin, like I was scraping the bottom of the Nutella jar and still didn't have enough to make a decent Nutella toast.

And then she heaps praise on movies as Impressive Feats of Engineering, but misses the point. It doesn't matter how hard Lucas & co. worked on the that scene in Sith, because visually, it's just Not That Good. It's sort of interesting because it's the first fight scene I've seen in a volcano environment, but it's not very interesting because it's not really better than the fights we've seen in foundries and other industrial places.

And "brotherhood" between the two combatants? You would have to establish that at some point during the first trilogy, because it is not apparent during the fight. The entire first trilogy serves only to prove that at the time of the second one, Obi-Wan likely has early-onset dementia, since he says Luke's father was a "good friend".

So, in conclusion. Sub-BHL nonsense, but without the open shirts and TV shows, but plus a thing for dudes with silly facial hair.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:45 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


the best takedown of Lucas' pedestrian vision is this piece by Anthony Lane

That was terrible. It's another bashing of the prequel trilogy, but all the points the author makes apply equally to the original trilogy. Why can't he just come out and say that he hates Star Wars?
posted by WhackyparseThis at 4:53 PM on October 16, 2012


I love Paglia for the same reason I love Terence McKenna - they're wiling to analyze the world from alternate frameworks. That's actually radical in today's world - intellectually we're in a place where you can challenge the dominant paradigm as long as you use this other paradigm, and if you stray from that binary consensus you're off message in a world that will certainly be doomed if so by giving "aid and comfort to our enemies" or slaying our sacred cows.

The copious amounts of BS out of both of them are entertaining at worst.
posted by MillMan at 5:21 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you watch the prequels with care, ignoring any but certain key scenes, it's great art and holds together. Ignore the stuff that bothers you. Now if he had an editor that could actual edit, that could've been great art.
posted by sammyo at 5:40 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh Camille, you silly goose.
posted by New England Cultist at 6:02 PM on October 16, 2012


I don't need to read this. Star Wars was good, but many things are good. Some things are bad.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:10 PM on October 16, 2012


...but all the points the author makes apply equally to the original trilogy

Which is exactly the point Lane wants to make. That the whole franchise stinks. That Lucas' entire Weltanschauung is not only cheesy (terrible dialogue, generally ham-handed storytelling, etc.), not to mention oddly obsessed with presenting a very antiseptic environment, to a degree that seems anti-body, for his characters, but also, as he alludes, borderline fascist (as Brin's piece points out in much greater detail):

"After all, the Lucasian universe is drained of all reference to bodily functions. Nobody ingests or excretes. Language remains unblue. Smoking and cursing are out of bounds, as is drunkenness, although personally I wouldn’t go near the place without a hip flask. Did Lucas learn nothing from “Alien” and “Blade Runner”—from the suggestion that other times and places might be no less rusted and septic than ours, and that the creation of a disinfected galaxy, where even the storm troopers wear bright-white outfits, looks not so much fantastical as dated?"

"All of the interiors in Lucasworld are anthems to clean living, with molded furniture, the tranquillity of a morgue, and none of the clutter and quirkiness that signify the process known as existence. Illumination is provided not by daylight but by a dispiriting plastic sheen, as if Lucas were coating all private affairs—those tricky little threats to his near-fascistic rage for order—in a protective glaze."

I think it says something rather disturbing about Paglia that she (apparently) admires Lucas' vision of an ideal social order.
posted by Philofacts at 8:03 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


the Lucasian universe is drained of all reference to bodily functions. Nobody ingests or excretes.

You're going to make me mention it, aren't you?

...sigh...

Jar Jar Binks stepping in a pile of poop. There. I said it.

But why can't he come out and say he hates all of Star Wars? Why must he pick on the slower of the Star Wars siblings? Because that's what all the cool kids are doing, and he wouldn't get nearly as much cred for picking on the popular Big Brother.

I think the biggest problem with modern Lucas productions is that he seems to be making his characters fit Campbellian archetypes, rather than be living intelligent beings.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 9:07 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


HAN SHOOTS FIRST.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:46 PM on October 16, 2012


but all the points the author makes apply equally to the original trilogy

And he's not wrong. All the Star Wars movies are objectively not very good; it's okay to like the first three nonetheless.

the Lucasian universe is drained of all reference to bodily functions. Nobody ingests or excretes.

Thrash compactor?

I think Paglia's more properly matched with Pauline Kael,

somebody is being insulted here and it's not Paglia. Kael always argued her opinions, not just flung them at a wall.

I love Paglia for the same reason I love Terence McKenna - they're wiling to analyze the world from alternate frameworks.

No idea about McKenna, but that just isn't true at all of Paglia, now is it? Her whole sthick is to find some provocative to straw liberals idea then overapply it.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:56 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Smoking ... [is] out of bounds, as is drunkenness"

Two words. The Cantina.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:58 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you watch the prequels with care, ignoring any but certain key scenes, it's great art and holds together. Ignore the stuff that bothers you. Now if he had an editor that could actual edit, that could've been great art.

I think it works in the inverse: there are a few key scenes in the prequels that are amazing, but it doesn't hold together. In particular, trailer #2 of Episode 1 promised an great movie, because it selects the best scenes and many of those scenes, ripped out of their context, are impressive works of art.
posted by deanc at 8:29 AM on October 17, 2012


"What I was lead to conclude in this course was that artists like Mondrian and Pollock are important because they were the first to either deconstruct art or to present art in a way unlike anything that came before. And because of this people were shown new perspectives or new methods with which to interpret art and, through this, new ways to interpret reality."

Sort of. They're also both masters of pretty sophisticated compositions, something that always looks easier than it is. So yeah, groundbreaking conceptually and executed skillfully does kind of add up to Important Artist.
posted by klangklangston at 9:34 AM on October 17, 2012


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