If you don't like a television show, just don't watch it.
The inanity at the heart of the "do we need this" criticism.
What specific works of art are “necessary”? Let’s agree that art, as a whole endeavor, is necessary but what specific instances are? None, obviously. Right?
If there was any specific work of art that I zapped away from the timeline, we’d still all be here. There might be consequences but not huge ones. The world would have continued spinning on its axis and we would still have walked out of caves and created aqueducts and agriculture and the industrial revolution and blah blah blah.
What specific films do we need? None. I mean, at least not with regards to fiction. With nonfiction, I’ll grant some leeway. We needed a film about the holocaust and a biopic of Gandhi. And a few others but that’s about it.
No one needed Beverly Hills Cop or Close Encounters or Vertigo or Elf or The Godfather or Debbie Does Dallas. They are just good things that were made and people liked for various reasons. That’s great! But no one needed them. Humans lived for thousands of years in fields. We have a great capacity to survive.
Individual works of art justify their own existence in various different ways. Some shock your senses, others bear witness to eternal truths; some remind us of our own humanity, others remind us that our pain is not unique; some make us laugh, others make us cry; some are good, and some are bad; some have car chases, some are pastels.
But if you are a person walking and talking and reading on this earth in the Lord’s year 2021, you no doubt have seen the line of aesthetic criticism that reduces the existence of films and television shows to their “necessity,” as though being simply entertaining to some people weren’t enough.
In general, the “what do we need” construct is really about what people think we as a society value—and it’s where representation comes in. We don’t need a specific show about a specific thing but it’s true that as a culture we need more shows and films that honestly portray the people that comprise our culture. It is a good thing that Hollywood is less white and straight and male.
Take but one example: The new Sex and the City reboot (which is infuriatingly not called Sex and the City). Slate published last week a very interesting conversation piece about the reboot/sequel’s diversity, with the eye-rolly headline “We Didn’t Need a Racially Diverse Sex and the City” and, ok, agreed! I don’t need to read the post to know I agree with this headline because, again, we don’t need any television shows or their takes on anything! But the post itself has some interesting points:
“They announce ‘we’re going to tackle race now,’ and it’s like…I actually don’t necessarily care what Sex and the City has to say about race,” says Danielle Hewitt. “I think the problem is, you don’t get to call a mulligan on the first round of your show and be like, yeah we didn’t do this the first time so we’re going to do it again. I’m not itching for them to get this “right” because it was just a show about four white women. I fully believe that these four women don’t know any Black people. It is a show about these four women, it doesn’t have to be the representation of everyone’s experience of living in the city and dating.”
This is an incredibly reasonable take that I agree with in full. It’s a show about some dumb rich white women in their 30s in New York. It mainly appealed to cosmopolitan rich white women. No one should be forced to watch it in school.
The immediate next paragraph though goes off the rails.
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