Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Isn't Fantasia a porn-star?

Boingboing has an interesting discussion of Walt Disney's "letter to the future". They point out that Disney missed narrowcasting, favoring a vision of the future with truly mass media, with millions in massive amphitheatres watching mind-boggling spectacles. Disneyblog ironically highlights Disney's utopianism, and his hope that "the world will have outlawed war".

But these two failed predictions are linked. If we accept the Platonic good, then there are some things that all clear-headed people will accept as transcendentally wonderful (think Mozart, Bach, Shakespeare, or, regrettably, Michael Jackson's "Thriller"). In our civilization, clear-headed people form a minority niche market along with the organic progressive left and the BDSM community. Transcendent experiences that open up and liberate you are just one consuming option; experiences that shut you down and reinforce your basic understanding the world are another.

In a healthy society, people strive for increasing growth and freedom, rather than wanting to stay forever young and bind themselves with newer and more effective chains. Hearkening back etymologically, I would say pornography panders, while art challenges. Whatever helps a person grow by expanding their universe and their appreciation of truth and beauty is art, but whatever shrinks them down by limiting their world and dulling their senses is pornography. So, most narrow-cast media is definitionally a form of pornography, while most broad-cast media just happens to be pornography. A news-source ceases to be "art" and becomes "pornography" at the moment when it limits editorial diversity. At its moment of inception, a creative product may bind people to their current conditions (pornography), but, at a later date, it might liberate people from the conditionality of their current circumstances (art). Disney certainly theoretically understood the appeal of pornography, but he expected mankind to rise above it. He hoped for a world in which everyone would truly enjoy hearing Andras Schiff play Bach while watching cosmic phenomena in near-perfect resolution, what we have was a place where people trawl the internet for intellectual, soft-core, and hard-core pornography. He is wrong, but it is our failure, and not his.

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