The Question of the Return of Peasant Literature

I've covered this topic before, but I'd like to mention it again as a refresher.

When one looks at the current landscape of media, specifically television and film, it's easy to see the appeal to the common man is rather... lacking. With a nation touting the return of the middle class, its art certainly does not reflect it. All of the major networks feature programming that focus on the exceptional. ABC has its exceptional doctors, its exceptional lawyers, and its nimble celebrities. NBC and CBS are more grounded with their legions of police procedurals. NBC even has a show that focuses on what happens when the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Still, this week, the box office reflected that it appeals to when the extraordinary is more ordinary.

Our cultural landscape is seriously coming into question. Some time ago, I wondered if peasant literature had run its course. Yet we see now an intermingling of these notions. In doing so, we come back to the universal question of the purpose of art. If the everyday person retreats to fiction, does he do so to see a mimetic reality? Would this explain the surge in reality television (which thankfully seems to be incrementally going by the wayside)? Is he looking for the grandiose? Is this why we retreat to the superdoctors and supercops and supernatural? Is he just looking for that something other? It could be why people will watch a show about a fashion magazine or Texas high school football.

If art is a reflection of a people, what does our television say about America? Are our stoners getting smarter? (I went back deep for that hyperlink. If you don't click on any other link, click on that one. I was really happy about that paper.) Are we realizing there's humanity in the opulent? Are we more willing to probe our past for timeless qualities?

Our art is still focused in a marketing sense to those who will buy the products in the commercials. Maybe this is why so much of our art features high powered people in their high powered jobs. But not all of us are like that and perhaps the pendulum is swinging the other way. I may have been wrong some time ago when I decried the phasing out of peasant literature. It could have just been hibernating. Time and television will tell.


Unknown said…
You know what I think is funny about the celeb reality shows and the super doc shows like House? The more human and flawed these characters and shows are the higher the ratings.

We like our superhumans broken, please.

Peace - Rene

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