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← Beholding beauty: How it's been studied

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Cook@Tahiti

Classically educated Oxbridge types will no doubt prefer Shakespeare to superhero movies, but there's an entire culture of ComicCon aficionados that live and breathe comic books and don't respond to Shakespeare at all (even though both genre's protagonists typically wear tights).

To 'Comic Book Man', The Dark Knight may speak to them as a profound meditation on the modern human condition. To Oxbridge Grad, Hamlet's or Lear's soliloquies may do the same thing. One has to be careful how one makes an objective comparison. Number of ideas expressed per unit of time? Dopamine flux? Popularity? Box Office? Longevity? Critical acclaim? Column inches of ink in appraisal?

Just to say one 'is better' than another is too blunt. I don't think it can be justified, no matter how it feels that it must be so in your gut. And if you try to impose arbitrary criteria (e.g. number of ideas) than there are plenty of artworks that aren't about quantity of ideas that are still deemed worthy (e.g. abstract or expressionistic art).

As much as I'm inclined to resist it, I'm forced to accept aesthetic relativism. It doesn't feel right to say that liking Mahler's 9th is just the same as liking the Beach Boys, but if they both induce similar emotional responses in millions of people, then I have to reject the high-brow v low-brow hierarchy.

Sat, 03 Mar 2012 18:11:00 UTC | #924103