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The Forum > Article Comments > Philistines of relativism at the gates > Comments

Philistines of relativism at the gates : Comments

By John Hookham and Gary MacLennan, published 16/4/2007

Shakespeare v 'Big Brother': the radical philistines have taken the high culture v low culture distinction and inverted it.

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Nice piece.

It's important to distinguish this issue from that as censorship - I've no doubt there's plenty of people who'd like to see programs such as big brother yanked from the networks because it offends their sensibilities.
The difficulty is, when we do start to rate the cultural importance of certain texts, we need to be aware that there are those that will use this as a tool for encouraging censorship of that which doesn't fit in with their idealised world.

That however, doesn't mean we can't rubbish the rubbish for what it is, and if there's a general consensus as to what constitutes a worthwhile pursuit as opposed to what is trash, then hopefully, more will study what is worthwhile.
Unfortunately, plenty will pick an easier subject, like studying things such as big brother, and I'm not sure I'd countenance removing a subject if there is demand for it.

I guess my solution, would be to somehow make studying big brother just as difficult as studying shakespeare.
Posted by TurnRightThenLeft, Monday, 16 April 2007 11:06:40 AM
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Thank you so much for raising your voices against the appalling dumbing down of our mass media. You are so right! Please keep up the fight; commercial television is 'educating' a whole generation of youngsters into absolute cultural and moral emptiness. The only 'values' worthy of pursuit on commercial television these days are money, fame (if appearing 2 minutes on TV can be called fame) and immediate self-gratification. Voyeurism has become the ultimate entertainment for some. I wish I was clever enough to understand how we got to this point, and to foresee where it will lead us.
I ain't, so please, keep up this fight. For me and my children's sake.
Posted by CitizenK, Monday, 16 April 2007 11:13:52 AM
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Anyone can cite examples where something is done in the name of this or that "ism". The overwhelming majority of Muslims would disavow acts of terrorism committeed in their name as would the overwhelming majority of catholics and protestants. I suspect that most postmodern and post structuralist advocates would disavow what is cited in this article on the face of it. But don't forget we only have the authors' take on this and we all know where they're coming from. As to Big Brother and TOTS, comparisons of these kinds don't necessarily put them on the same qualitative level (not that there's anything wrong with that :) )
The actions of the critical theorists in opposition to postmodernism causes me to ask whether the barbarians at the gate are outside clamouring to get in or indeed are inside doing all they can to protect their privileged position. Like notions of postmodernism where you stand on this issue depends on where you sit.
Posted by barney25, Monday, 16 April 2007 11:30:24 AM
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Any notion from post-modern or post-structural theory is subjective, and while there is merit in philosophy, at the end of the day, we are interested in what do we do about our kids.

This was a long piece of jargon to read from language that was, in its complexity, elitism, as it was barely pitched in plain English: accessible to all.

I can, however, consider Guy De Bord and the Situationists International in pointing out that Big Brother, in televisual apparatus, is located at Dreamworld. Now what does that say about the target audience. Big Brother is pitched at children. It is meant to penetrate their imagination, itís all in "Dreamworld".

With the bad language, the turkey slapping, nudity, and Grettel choosing other fashion designers to show even more bust, as wrinkled as it is, what do our children make of this? The excuses are glossed over in such a casual way, you are sneered at as "uncool" and the circus goes on without question. Premier Peter Beattie assists this to prop up tourism for Queensland and we wonder what lengths Queensland would go to just to earn a few bucks.

Sure, we can turn off the television. But you need eyes at the back of your head. It is marketed so much to kids; they automatically turn it back on behind your back. Its hell for parents.

Then some real bogan families take their kids to Dreamworld to watch all this stuff. They wonder why the kids lose their innocence so early.

This is not Shakespeare; real life television is limited in depth, symbolism, or any enlightenment in spirit. How could you possibly relate this with Shakespeare? Academics at QUT need to revise their ivory tower.
Posted by saintfletcher, Monday, 16 April 2007 12:32:11 PM
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I struggled to follow the point of this piece.

There is no doubt that many of us - the vast majority, I trust - would find a comedy based on intellectual disabilities nauseating.

But, as was explained to me by an advertising executive when I queried the nature of a television commercial, it probably wasn't aimed at me. I wonder what sort of audience this little gem would attract?

After all, we have already tolerated, nay consumed in large quantities, reality TV that only ten years ago we would have scoffed at. Remember those Japanese shows where kids went through near-torture to win prizes? Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public, as H.L.Mencken so presciently wrote, and we are not immune either.

So fair enough, it is a distasteful concept. But to use this as evidence of a general trend, that the whole world must be going to hell in a handbasket is a little rich.

Here's the proof offered:

>>Lest the reader think we exaggerate, let us turn to the views of McKee, the enfant terrible of the post-structuralist radical philistines<<

Obviously, we are talking not about the man on the Clapham omnibus, but an academic who no doubt makes a tidy living simply be being controversial. These people represent no-one but themselves. Steven Berkoff, Barrie Kosky, John Cage have had similar careers in the arts, believing themselves to be misunderstood artists, when in fact they are merely self-indulgent iconoclasts.

Generalising from the particular is always a dangerous pastime.

>>There are dangers and difficulties here, but the present situation is one where educational institutions are beset with wilful ignorance and culturally the ruling slogan appears to be "the grosser the better". This is nothing less than an offence to the human spirit.<<

Yawn.
Posted by Pericles, Monday, 16 April 2007 12:34:30 PM
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A great article. Well written and engaging. I had similiar views about the performer Borat. He was extremely popular with the mainstream - his shows did big business - the media was almost drolling over him. But when anyone attempted to question the politics of what he was doing he chose to ignore them. Cruelty has once again become acceptable as a form of 'entertainment'. I think this is in keeping with the systematic attempt to undermine the achievements of modernism, to undermine our belief in tolerance, inclusion, multiculturalism and so on. There has never been a more powerful and (vacuous) term of abuse than 'politically correct'. Its the abuse people use when they have no justification for their own positions.
Posted by matilda, Monday, 16 April 2007 1:15:53 PM
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