As an artist I consider my self eclectic and postmodern. One of the tenants of postmodernism is that of recycled culture, and the influence of both “high art” and “low art” (i.e., popular culture) without distinction. John Storey, in his book Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, states that the postmodern approach would “no longer recognize the distinction between high and popular culture.”
Instead of regarding art as either “high” or “low,” the distinction I make is “Is it artistically and intelligently produced, and does the artist have something important to say, or is it just another trite and uninspired waste of my time?” Of course, inspiration, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What I may see as an inspirational work of achievement, such as Transformers (2007), others may see as consumerist garbage.
And thus it is that I may watch Citizen Kane and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, in exactly the say way: analyzing it, picking it apart, searching for meaning, trying to understand why it works from an artistic perspective.
This postmodernist thinking may partly stem from my anime habit. Many anime fall into the category of genre fiction in which the artist takes their work seriously and has something to say. Paprika (which inspired Inception), Death Note, and Evangelion are all prime examples.
I am currently writing a novel, which has cyberpunk influences (and which probably falls more accurately into the “postcyberpunk” classification). For those of you who may not be familiar with the term “cyberpunk,” if you’ve seen The Matrix, you know more about the genre than you think. The Matrix is a pastiche of cyberpunk themes, and basically recycles (the Wachowski brothers are postmodern, like me) concepts from cyberpunk literature, such as William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy, as well as cyberpunk manga and anime such as Megazone 23 and Ghost in the Shell, the latter of which the Wachowskis showed to their producer as proof of concept, saying they wanted to make this in “real life.” (Besides the Wachowskis, James Cameron and Steven Spielberg are also among Ghost in the Shell’s biggest fans.)
Before you get all hot and bothered thinking that I’m saying that The Matrix was a completely unoriginal ripoff, watch this video. It is the best explanation I have seen as of yet of the way the creative process works. This applies to every creative endeavor ever in the history of the world. If you think you are creating something from nothing, or something that has never existed before in one form or another, you’re wrong. Everything is created from existing material. I don’t subscribe to the Ex Nihilo theory. Creating something from nothing is an impossibility.
Therefore, regarding The Matrix, rather than labeling it as a ripoff, I’m saying quite the opposite. The Matrix was a very informed, enlightened work of art. The fact that it references so many other works of fiction and non-fiction shows that the Wachowski Brothers did their research, and are making an educated contribution to the global discussion.
The Matrix is a good example of a work of art created using the same view towards high and low culture that I espouse. The film combines several ideas and tropes from widely varied sources, including Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, René Descartes “evil demon,” Buddhism, anime, John Woo action films, Kung Fu films, and of course, cyberpunk fiction, as previously mentioned. All of these various influences are mixed without the slightest regard to what is considered “high” or “low” art. Everything is fair game in today’s postmodern world. Popular or “genre” fiction is a medium that is just as legitimate and effective for artistic and intellectual exploration, in the right hands, as is painting, sculpture, music, or classic literature.
That’s why as I write my novel, even though it is clearly grounded in the genre literature category, I am still using it as a means to explore and attempt to interpret my life experiences and philosophy, just as I am in the non-fiction memoir I am concurrently writing. (By the way, I will have a short fiction ebook published soon on the iBookstore and Kindle, so keep an eye here on my blog for a link soon!)
As you can see, I use my blog not only as a means of communicating outwards, but also for self-exploration and self-analysis, as I search daily for a clearer picture of the meaning of my life. I hope you enjoy being a part of the journey. If you don’t, then piss off!
Today’s rambling was sparked by finding this amazing web site, TV Tropes, which has little to do with the actual medium of TV (I personally eschew most mainstream television, which is anything but inspired and intellectual) and everything to do with tropes found in fiction. It explores and analyzes popular fiction exactly the way I do, as serious art. As an example, the article on the anime film Vexille lists 25 tropes which are incorporated into that film, including “A God am I,” “America Saves the Day,” and “Cybernetics Eat Your Soul.” Another fun article to check out is Everything is an iPod in the Future.