(Please note: I am the worst kind of elitist. The type that doesn’t like elitism)
I have to admit that I’m somewhat jaded about the idea of “art“.
It isn’t that Hidoshi did a poor job of explaining it. I think he came up with some of the best criteria that I’ve seen. In the end, they’re concrete, reasonable and understandable.
But still… I just can’t go down that road.
Let me give you a little background. In my other life (the one where I’m not watching anime to do really long pretentious analyses of them) I write stories. Now I’m not going to say that they’re good stories, but they’re stories. And I try really hard to do all the things that stories should do: have a theme, solid characters, a strong voice, a good plot, so on and so forth. But I refuse to call myself an artist. Not because I think that storytelling is any less of a form of creative work than say painting or poetry or theater or anime. But because I think being an artist is one letter away from being an artiste.
And being an artiste reminds me of James Joyce. (Yes, I pick on Joyce a lot. But that’s because I hate his writing.)
In all fairness, it’s not just Joyce. But all the other artistes who run around screaming, “No one understands me. Woe is me. I can’t become a commercial hit in this world of Philistines.” These are usually the same people who can’t manage to string a thought together coherently, or say things like, “Well that’s just plot-driven crap.” They’re also the people who say things like, “Anime isn’t art.”
What’s worse is that they’re backed up by a bunch of gray-bearded academics who are busy proving their life is worthwhile by declaring that all pop culture is trash. Those wonderful people who sit on their thrones deciding that “this” is art, while “that” is juvenile rubbish without any merit whatsoever.
This is why I’ve decided that art doesn’t exist.
Okay, before you go flying off the handle to race down to the comments section, let me explain what I mean. Art as a concept is dubious at best. I mean they have an entire branch of philosophy that deals with art (okay, it’s the study of beauty, but nonetheless). Even with Hidoshi’s criteria, I could run around in circles trying to prove X isn’t art, while Y is. While I’m a fan of picking apart stuff to see how it ticks (as this blog proves) it just seems like an exercise in futility. In the end, does it really matter whether I think Lain is art? Or Gundam? Or Speed Grapher? I mean sure, it might have all of those points that Hidoshi mentioned and it might not. But in the end, art is just a label and not a particularly useful one at that.
What matters is that it’s a good story. And a good story has all of those things that I mentioned at the beginning: solid characters, a strong voice, a good plot, and a theme that isn’t clear cut, etc, etc. Perhaps it’ll say something about the human condition or about society or about gender or about any of the other dozens of things a good story should do. Perhaps it’ll enlighten me.
But what it will do most is entertain me. And that’s what I think is important.
And it doesn’t need to be called art to do that.
Some Related Posts (because this is an old subject)
The other half of Anime Diet’s analysis on whether anime is deep or not.