Sixth Article

Whether it is addictive?

We proceed thus to the sixth article:--

Objection 1. It seems that kitsch, because it is a carefully packaged and therefore unthreatening representation of "reality," generates a craving for it that keeps the viewer/reader coming back for more.

Objection 1.1. But it seems that all art does the same.

Objection 1.1.1. But it seems that kitsch, because it seeks to assuage away all fears, all anxieties, and thus to bathe the viewer/reader in a milky and easily digestible pap, is more addictive than other art. It's like the prehistoric forest people, who "came out of their caves and built summer camps by the shores of lakes. They tamed the dog, but they did not know what a tremendous idea was wagging its tail at their very feet. They even forgot their beautiful [cave] art" (Donald Barr, The How and Why Wonder Book of Primitive Man).

Objection But it seems that, to demystify that, kitsch is no more or less addictive than high art, only that it's less usefully addictive. That is, it may be fairly asserted that, sure--kitsch is addictive and so is high art (can't get enough/keep going back for more/can't stop consuming it)--but kitsch is like a gambling addiction which only serves bookies and casinos by offering opiates to the consumer, while high art is uplifting, a positive addiction which makes life better for the addict and for society. This would be true because everybody is addicted to something(s)--whether or not something is addictive not being the question, everything potentially is--but whether the addiction is good and uplifting or bad and degrading.

Objection 2. In objection 1.1.1.(1.), we address the question of whether or not it is important to discuss the question as a yes/no problem. We grant the addictive status of kitsch and high art, but presume good and bad addictions. In objection 2 we would therefore want to discuss whether or not kitsch addiction is treatable, and, if so, by what.

Objection 2.2. By doses of high art, say. Substitution of addictions, as it were--a bad one for a good one, like methadone for heroin. "Heroin gets you high; methadone don't" (William Burroughs).

Objection 2.2.2. Still, methadone only postpones the withdrawal symtoms--it doesn't cure the addiction. How can you subsitute medicines if the only thing you're really switching is the labels on the bottles? Here, have some high art. Hmmm--tastes just like kitsch (depending on where, and in whose company, and with what intentions/pretensions you drink it).

Objection Whoaaaa, Nelly! Of course they'd taste different! It's like Wagner at the Mötley Crüe concert. Would that music taste the same to him as to the teenager? Wagner: "Yechhh! This medicine tastes awful! Terrible! It's nasty!" (it's kitsch). Or Teenager: "Yummm, yum. Great-tasting medicine! It must be art!" (If it tastes good, it must be art, especially if I can convince you that it tastes good too. If it tastes bad, it must be kitsch.

Objection Unless of course, you're a rebel against high art--then high art tastes terrible, too. And you don't even know what in the hell kitsch is, unless it's something you scratch.) So what's the treatment for this addiction?

Objection It's like saying that if you don't like the lifestyle of the person who listens to (watches, reads, etc.) X, then X must be either high art or kitsch (depending on which you think is a "bad" addiction). And it must be treated by doses of the opposite. Out of the same bottle.

Objection Or by education: a solidly researched and pedagogically forceful assault on ingrained kitschified prejudices, which topple like ninepins.

Objection Or else the professor's authoritarian rhetoric (especially scorn and ridicule for the student's likes and dislikes) and institutional position simply drive the kitsch underground.

Objection Not to mention the fact that professorial rhetoric is a kind of professional kitsch, steeped in the formaldehyde of self-protective scholastic euphemism; professors talk about art so as not to experience it.

Objection Not that there is an originary experience of art that is wonderful and intense and somehow avoided by fearful and anxious professors. Ultimately everything is kitsch.

Objection Only in a crappy little dialogue like this, which would give the Angelic Doctor bowel cramps.

Objection If he were to read it.

Objection Which he won't. Too kitschy.

Objection Too sick. Could be kitsching.

Reply to objections. OK, ya got me. I didn't think you could be that honest. We're all addicts. But since we refuse to discuss a separate status for kitsch--apart from anything--except as a heuristic tool (sheeee-it), then why bother to discuss "good" or "bad" addictions?



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