The title is to be pronounced in the voice of John Cleese as Basil Fawlty.
I spotted a bunch of intelligent folk bashing 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight and some other books whose titles won’t say anything to most people. It was old stuff but it annoyed me enough to inspire. There are moments recently when I feel I have to watch that I don’t become contrary for the sake of it. That I don’t suggest a different take on something because I CAN, not because I believed in it. I do believe in what I’m about to write though, so it’s not an exercise in thinking outside the box.
So, what’s the deal?
Snobs irritate me. Reading how some fifty people were bashing the same book, most of whom had not read it, and were just carried along by the tide of collective hatred and contempt for it, I felt like going “Snobs, you arrogant wannabe middle-class wannabe intellectuals you snobs!” as Basil Fawlty would have done if he had intellectual interests beyond Brahms’s third racket. What was even more striking in these discussions and reviews was that the readers were – more frequently than the law of averages would permit – mentioning how they had just read Houellebecq and needed a break, or suggesting they will get back to their Houellebecq now, after the excruciating experience of having read *insert title of some bestseller of dubious quality*. LOL. There’s comedy in this.
I have a feeling that the success of that book might have partially been based on everyone considering it so bad you gotta read how bad it is to be able to say “This is very bad indeed”. It unites people, hating the same thing.
I have not read either E. L. James or Houellebecq, but both are well-known status symbols in a certain segment of society: absolute trash and contemporary masterpiece. So those intelligent people, who are sadly still lacking in the ability for independent thought and are frequently interchangeable with each other, as they read, watch and enjoy the same stuff, suppressing whatever their individual taste may drive them towards, well, that bunch decorates themselves with the name of Houellebecq and defines their taste by being against the trashy bestsellers.
Now, I’m a mighty insecure person too and I used to do that in my late teens and very early 20s. I read critically acclaimed authors because they were critically acclaimed and watched many a critically acclaimed movie for the same reasons, but that was mostly because I was a newcomer to the world of literature and film and did not know how to find my way yet. I defined my taste against modern literature and people like T.S. Eliot more than any bestseller authors, though. Why would I do that? They were simply not relevant. But that was a long time ago, and I digress.
What I’m trying to say is kicking downwards collectively is a bit wannabe intellectual and suggests lack of independent thought and backbone. I’d find it refreshing if one intelligent person admitted to liking something bad instead of parroting how horrible it is.
Point is, the world does not consist of intellectuals or people with excellent artistic intuitions, but enjoying different forms of art is pretty universal and human. I don’t think one should appeal to the lowest common denominator, but it is natural that, for example the third generation intellectuals and artists have their own art and culture with their own standards for quality, and the people who are different – I failed to find a good general term for them – so let’s just say different – they have their art, their favourite books and music, and their own standards for what is good.
This sort of kicking downwards is just annoying when it is done collectively. Individually I wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow if someone had bashed trash novels, that’s normal, but collectively, it just struck me as one of those moments when it begins to work against the accusers, making them appear quite silly and brainwashed and in need of someone interfering and holding up a mirror.
Kicking upwards is much more interesting, if sincere. I think that is why I enjoyed that John Clare story about the man who thought Shakespeare was the title of a play. He kicked upwards and he was sincere. Stupid, yes, but we can’t help our own stupidity, can we? That too the wannabe elite fails to realise. We can’t all be intelligent, beautiful, artistically gifted, assertive and socially extroverted because we aren’t born that way. And the things people enjoy, are able to enjoy, and how they enjoy, are just so very different as a result of who they are, and they can’t do much about it. So enjoy and let enjoy, I suppose. Read your Houellebecq and leave the rest to its target readers.
My arrogant opinion is that if you are truly intelligent and confident, and not masochistically curious, you don’t need to lift your status at the expense of lower league competitors. They are just not relevant. Champions League teams do not need to trash local fourth league players for how they play like shit.
In conclusion: SNOBS!
(said in the voice of Mr. Fawlty once more)