Saturday, January 31, 2009

The difference between crap and art? Just ask Aristotle.

When suffering is caused by an essential defect in the characters, the absence of that central defect in our own lives is a cause for joy. Individual suffering in the theater drives us towards Maslovian stasis by motivating us to increase our own happiness -- a tale with a sad ending is two thirds of a story, with the final third to be improvised by the audience in their own lives. However, when a "sad ending" is not rooted in the subjectivity of its creator or its characters -- but is represented as a failure of humanity humanity in a neutral and objective way -- the art work fails its Aristotelain cathartic function. It suspends the audience at the two-thirds mark, telling them that the narrative is insoluble.
Which is to say I liked "Batman returns" but hated "The Dark Knight". "Let the right one in" was unsettling in the way that a violation of narrative convention is unsettling. It is both memorable and unsettling to go to the opera and then have someone dump a bucket of pigshit on you, but does that make it art?

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