Is “Bad” a Thing Anymore?

No, seriously that is a question I am posing. Are things just bad anymore? More specifically are entertainment and art, in their various forms, bad anymore or has such a characterization become invalid in the modern cultural landscape?

Post-internet entertainment and art, like everything post-internet, are no longer limited by the restrictions of old/traditional media. In many ways, this is an incredibly positive thing. After all, how many videos, shows, and personalities have you seen on YouTube that would never have worked on television or film? How many artists have you been exposed to through Bandcamp, Spotify, or through simple links sent from friends that probably would have been sucked out of all thought, life, and creativity if forced through the standard production routes of music? Even reading, a favorite personal pastime, has been altered with new avenues of self-publishing and short story outlets like Tumblr and Amazon. Basically, if you want to write Dinosaur erotica (yep, it’s a thing) or start a business revolving around making video game themed tobacco glass pipes, you can do it and have a modicum of success.

Another upside of the new technological advances is location is no longer a limitation. Want to collaborate with that amazing graffiti artist from Japan? Send them an email and just ask. Want to record this amazing album you’ve made but you really want to work a musician on the East Coast? Hit up their Twitter (99% sure they will have one) and see if they are up for it. We are exposed to and consume art from virtually every place on this planet with the only real limitation being our desire to interact with it.

While this offers  unprecedented opportunities, it has also seemingly compartmentalized and fractured audiences across the board. Again, like most things, this has its up and downs. On one hand you will probably be able to find an audience for whatever you create. On the other hand, just because you have an audience does not mean that you have a quality product. I mean a car crash tends to have a pretty decent turnout as well, but we tend to not want to repeat those. Essentially, art has become niche, even more so than before. However, this has also seemingly ended any allowance for negative criticism or discussion to take place. Now, to be clear when I say criticism or discussion, I mean actual criticism and discussion of form, function, merit, intent, execution, usage of structure, space, language, etc. and not the vile cesspool of incoherent bullshit found in comments section of most sites.

Whenever someone criticizes a work now, however minor the critique may be, the immediate response is either they are a ‘hater’ (whatever the hell that means) or they simply do not ‘get it’. This has always stuck me as a nonsensical cop out by artists. Art should be social commentary, entertaining, pleasing, grotesque, difficult, simple, or any combination of the aforementioned and many more possibilities. Nonetheless, art needs an audience otherwise it is merely self-indulgent, intellectual masturbation. Fun but ultimately going nowhere.  So whenever someone utters the flippant excuse of ‘well, you just don’t get it’ to justify their poor execution, they should be slapped across their face; hard. One of the unfortunate aspects of being an artist is the side job of at times having to either explain or defend your work Doing this does not demean your art; instead, it allows for the possibility of expanding your audience and exposure.

Furthermore, (legitimate) discussion of art can lead to improvement of said work, new perspectives, and possible interpretations that could lead to new art and greater discussions. The only way this can happen is that we must admit that art can also be bad. Because if it is bad, it can improve, change, and evolve. Frankly, an artist is supposed to be bad, initially. No one creates great work from the offset. They create crap. For years, they make crap until they find the nugget within the shit and polish and refine it to a presentable and beautiful piece. Then the process begins again and again until the crap becomes less and the nuggets become more. We must be willing, as consumers and creators, to point at something and say “You know what this is not that good. It’s actually kind of bad.” And then back it up with a legitimate, concise, and balanced critique that leads to a nuanced discussion. Easy? Probably not. Worth it? Absolutely.

So, next time you see someone bashing your favorite show, song, picture, or whatever in the comments section, try asking why they dislike it or what they really think concerning said work? If their response is to continue being an ass, screw them. At least you tried to rise above it and be a well informed citizen and person. Fuck those assholes.

TL;DR  Criticism and critique are still good and very necessary. If you are going to have an opinion on something, be prepared to discuss it. Be civil and follow Wheaton’s Law.

3 thoughts on “Is “Bad” a Thing Anymore?

  1. 1. Dino-porn. Fastest way to get a T-Rextion.
    2. I think you just compared bad art to car wrecks. I imagine both occur because of negligence and drinking. Er. Too dark, too quickly.
    3. And no, “bad” is not a thing unto itself. It’s a description or quality that a thing might have. But you’re right. Somehow this world decided it was okay that everyone and their grandma has equally valid opinions about things. Which is just nonsense. Just because an opinion, by its very nature can’t be proven or disproven, doesn’t mean that all opinions are equal. “I think it’s raining outside where I am” is an opinion that either has a basis in fact (look outside ya idiot). And when someone says “this is good or bad art” what they’re really saying is how THEY feel about it. Art can be bad if intelligent parties discussing the matter have a shared understanding of what the art is, what it’s trying to do, and what “good and bad” mean in that context.

    • 1. Pun. Boo.
      2. More that no matter the cause/outcome an audience will always be found.
      3. I agree that it is an opinion of quality which is part of the issue. Art is considered subjective which allows for any opinion to be considered valid. However, even worse now there is no allowance for a negative opinion of a work because there would be a way too defend it. I am just wondering if there is a way to have a negative opinion of art.

  2. I don’t think it is possible to have a negative opinion of art in a general, objective sense anymore. Like Bryan says above, and like you say in your post, art can only be compared to other art in its genre/niche/whatever. Its value is entirely dependent on context and the audience. A specific audience can compare two pieces of art from the same niche and hash it out to determine which has more value based on the guidelines they’ve created for their niche genre within their niche community. The idea that we even can compare post-internet art to pre-internet values of something like, say, structure, doesn’t even work on a conceptual level because of the ways in which the internet has fragmented old generic forms. Plus, the ability to revise and, as you mention in your post, collaborate, is greater than ever before, so we often see an art production at something like an alpha stage that starts as this weird/different/bad thing and dynamically evolves within its niche community and develops over the course of time into stronger work. This kind of creative process didn’t or couldn’t work 30 years ago. I personally don’t mind the fragmented audiences and genres. It lets us link up with people who share our own values, and occasionally those various niches come together in a more interdisciplinary way (I’m thinking of something like Geek and Sundry). Universal notions of what good art is just don’t seem to apply anymore. “Good” and “bad” works of art only exist within the communities that create and consume them in the post-internet world. Or you can go to twitter where everything that has ever been created is considered bad in 140 characters or less.

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