Last week I decided to watch “Black Adam” in theaters. Upon entering an AMC near campus, I was flabbergasted when the auditorium was absolutely empty on opening night, three minutes before the movie was set to begin. The reviews of the film weren’t amazing, but I’m never one to judge a piece of media until I consume it myself. And guess what. Despite watching it in an empty theater, I had fun with the movie. For as ready as I was to be unimpressed by the film, I found myself really enjoying it for the same reason why “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” was my favorite film of the summer — the fight scenes enthralled me. The plot was stupid and the jokes were unfunny, and it’s weird to say that I enjoyed the movie as a whole when the only positive was the action sequences, but sometimes you have to turn your brain off.
We can apply this principle to music. Kendrick Lamar is undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of all time. His conscious lyricism is unrivaled, and “To Pimp a Butterfly” is one of the most cohesive statements ever put forth by a musical artist. I can say without a doubt that Lamar’s music has made me think more than any other artist and has therefore made me a more complete person. On another hand, Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert will end up being my most listened-to artists in 2022. When I first listened to Playboi Carti’s “Whole Lotta Red” in 2020, I didn’t get it. It sounded like pure noises to me. I listened to the first song on the album, “Rockstar Made,” with pure confusion. Between the distorted instrumentals and Carti repeating “Never too much,” I was simply overwhelmed. Over time though, I dove into Carti’s sound. After spending time in the universe created by Carti’s first album, “Die Lit,” I finally understood his appeal. There’s music for many different moods, and for me, Carti’s music covers the mood for when I want to turn my brain off and have fun.
This is all to say that there’s a place for all different types of media. There’s media that challenges you and media that doesn’t. It’s okay to enjoy both. Ironic enjoyment of media is still enjoyment after all. I watch “Regular Show” with the same passion as I watch “The Social Network,” and I’m sure I’ll enjoy the upcoming “Super Mario Brothers” movie the same amount as I genuinely enjoyed the 1993 live-action “Super Mario Brothers” movie train-wreck.
I’ve grown a dislike toward the distinction between high art and low art. As far as I’m concerned, the only distinction that should exist is art that I enjoy and art that I do not enjoy. Media for me, and media that is not for me. Creating such a divide between so-called “high art” and “low art” allows people to make assumptions about movies they’ve never seen, music they’ve never listened to, shows they’ve never got to experience. It allows people to stay comfortable in the lanes they already exist in while disincentivizing exploration. If consumers were more apt to explore different lanes, then perhaps we wouldn’t constantly get creatively bankrupt film productions, such as the live-action remakes of animated Disney films we seem to get every year. If I looked down on music without strong and cohesive lyrical storytelling, I never would have dived into Lil Uzi Vert’s “Luv is Rage,” or Playboi Carti’s “Die Lit.” If voters for the Academy Awards saw animation as a medium of filmmaking and not just a genre of film for children, then perhaps the Academy Award’s only attempt to recognize the entire medium of animation wouldn’t be purely dominated by Disney since its inception. Put simply, when we unfairly look down on low art or unfairly find high art pretentious, then we’re simply limiting what we can enjoy.
However, I do also believe that it would benefit consumers more to think critically about the media they consume. The outcome of an audience not engaging with popular media results in franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe growing stale due to oversaturation, and musical artists like Drake not reaching their full potential on an album in years. I reconcile this with my firm belief that audiences should take the media they consume less seriously. I do believe that these two desires can coexist. If audiences demand more from what they consume, yet take it less seriously, then maybe I’ll be able to watch a fun yet dumb action movie in a packed theater next time.—Rhys Banerjee, beat writer
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.