Ninth Article

Whether it rightly employs metaphors and similes?

We thus proceed to the ninth article:--

Objection 1. It seems that kitsch employs metaphors and similes incorrectly, frequently mixing them, confusing tenor and vehicle, metaphier and metaphrand. In that same issue of Parade Magazine, for example, we find an advertisement for a "fine porcelain music box," the "first issue in a musical menagerie entitled Kitten Concert Music Box Collection." Playing, "for the first time ever, Zez Confrey's irresistible masterpiece for piano, Kitten on the Keys, is combined with artwork by award-winning artist Coby Carlson." It continues by entreating the unwary consumer (whose mind is numbed by kitschy Parade articles) to "[w]elcome this feline friend into your home . . ." Don't. All that's happening is that you, the unwary reader, have been sucked in by the tag line (in about 48-point type): "Display an Ear for Music." Now I ask you, what could they possibly mean by "displaying" an "ear"? The only kind of ear that could be literally displayed would be a real one, and thus horrifically unkitsch; can a metaphorical ear (for music) be "displayed"?

Reply to objection 1. Ahah! If a horrific representation of an ear is unkitsch, by your logic I guess that would make horror movies high art? Or even, say, Van Gogh's ear--say, a porcelain replica of Van Gogh's ear, with disgusting representations of dripping blood, of course. Cause if it's horrific, it's not kitsch.

Reply to reply to objection 1. The deciding factor is the metaphoricity of the representation: the more metaphorical the horror, the more associations with nonhorrific things, the more kitschy. In true art, horror rises to the sublime; it is overpowering; it will not tolerate calm appreciation.

Reply to reply to objection 1. Oh, so it's not either/or? It's a sliding scale?

Reply to reply to reply to objection 1. Well, now, I didn't say that--

Reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. But you implied it, bud. Which would further imply that, say, Frankenstein slides across that scale depending not only on whether you're reading Mary Shelley's book or watching one of the movie renditions (a fortiori Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein), but on how you feel about it.

Reply to reply to reply to reply to reply to objection 1. But look . . .

Inquisition into the Intrinsic Kitschiness of Young Frankenstein

By Official Request of Dr. Thomas Aquinas

Inquisitor: You were the arresting officer in this case, were you not?

Arresting Officer: I was.

Inquisitor: Can you tell the inquisition what you say on the night of April 14, 1975, under the spooky tree?

AO: I can. I saw the Frankenstein monster and Madeleine Kahn lying under that tree, smoking a cigarette. They had obviously just had sex.

Counsel for the defense: Objection, Your Holiness! He did not witness the sex act.

I: He's a good upright Christian man, Your Holiness! He is competent to draw such conclusions.

Holiness: I'll allow it. There is a logical progression from sex to cigarette; therefore the smoking of a cigarette implies the prior sex act, especially, as the Inquisitor notes, when witnessed by a Christian. Proceed.

I: And did you, as an upright Christian man, find the scene you witnessed kitschy?

AO: I did.

I: Absolutely no redemptive value?

AO: That is correct.

I: Your witness.

CD: Now is it not true that you are a tight-assed repressed little fink who just loves kicking butt on a Saturday night, especially at the full moon, huh?

AO: No, it is not.

CD: Oh it is too! I know your type, you little Nazi. And do you not have one of the largest clandestine pornography collections in Western Christendom?

AO: I do not.

CD: You little liar! You were beating off under that tree, weren't you! Admit it!

I: Your Holiness, I object! Counsel is badgering the witness.

CD: Am not.

I: Are so.

H: I'm going to have to ask the defense counsel to refrain from any further outbursts of such an inflammatory nature.

CD: Very well, defense enters into evidence this video clip from Young Frankenstein, and begs the inquisition's permission to show it to the witness.

I: Your Holiness, this is utterly irrelevant to the proceedings at hand . . .

H: No, this time I'll have to agree with defense counsel. Run it.

CD: Now, members of the jury, please observe the clothing about the witness's groin as we approach the scene under the spooky tree. Defense claims that the witness's appraisal of the movie's kitchiness is seriously impaired by his own prurient interest in it as a pornographical representation. Watch, now--there! There! See, it's a-risin! Wow, what a--

H: Defense counsel will curb further expressions of admiration for the witness's endowment.

CD: But Your Holiness! The man is obviously thinking with his dick!

AO: But I'm not enjoying it. It's a purely reflexive response. Gut level. No intellect. It has nothing to do with my Christian appraisal of the movie.

CD: Your Hole, I ask that the witness be flogged forthwith!

AO: O please!

H: Address the pulpit with proper respect or be cited in contempt, you dickweed. Acolyte, take this witness out onto the dungheap, wrest off his shorts, and snuff his peepee. And wipe that slobber off your chin. Avast, begone with you. Amen.

(516 cracked folio pages follow, documenting the cross-examination of Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn, Marty Feldman, Boris Karloff, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dr. Polidori, and George Gordon, Lord Byron. The Shelleys attest to their determination to write kitschy ghost stories, but are shouted down by the inquisitor, who venerates the romantic poets above all belief that they could ever have really intended to write kitsch, even in jest. By logical implication, after all, the texts created by poets are poetry, whatever their superficial remarks as to intended genre might have been. It transpires that representations of Frankenstein, even the same ones at different times or by different audiences, have been tugged toward both kitsch and high art: Mary Shelley wrote a ghost story at the behest of Lord Byron and under the inspired guidance of her brilliant husband; the Boris Karloff movie adapts Shelley's novel for kitsch, but the black-and-white rendition is now a classic revered by serious film scholars [whose judgment is a somewhat dubious criterion for artistic value]. In the end, after the defense counsel had been drawn and quartered for taking the name of Art in vain [Art being short for Arthur, the Inquisitor's cognomen], the jury found Frankenstein guilty of kitschiness on the grounds that at least one representation of the Frankenstein monster, Herman Munster [played by Fred Gwynne] in the TV show The Munsters, was beyond all question of a doubt unredeemable kitsch, and will never become a classic. [Oh, and all those Japanese ripoffs, too; nor should we forget Abbott and Costello meeting Frankenstein, etc. etc.] In the Inquisition's judgment, Kitsch is Sin, Art is Redemption, and Education is Penance, So Help Me Godzilla. The trial was concluded with a hymn. The jury was dismissed with strict orders to go home and say 15 Hail Marys and 25 Our Percys, while flagellating their bared arses with the Norton edition of Promethus Unbound. Amen.)

Okay, okay, so that wasn't much better. But you only have one to go, the Tenth.

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